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Gary Suhr, Raiders Broadcaster for 40 Years, Dies

2018 Racine Raiders Yearbook Cover Honoring Gary SuhrLegendary Racine broadcaster Gary Suhr passed away yesterday morning (4/20/2020) after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Suhr broadcast Racine Raiders and Gladiators games for 40 years. He wasn’t just the voice of the Raiders and Gladiators though. He was the voice of Racine sports.

Following a two-year stint in the United States Army, Suhr graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison before working at radio stations in Manitowoc and Wisconsin Rapids. In 1962, he came to Racine and brought the biggest news and sports events to our ears on WRJN for 40 years.

When Suhr arrived, WRJN only broadcast one sporting event a year, the annual Park-Horlick football game. Suhr saw an opportunity and quickly expanded the live sports coverage to include more high school games and sports, University of Wisconsin-Parkside basketball, and the Racine Raiders.

“Once we got started, I said, ‘If we’re doing the Park-Horlick game, why not do other home games?'” Suhr told the Journal Times in 1991. “And since so many people come to see the home games, why not do the out-of-town games that a lot of people don’t get to see but can listen to on the radio?”

It started what is now a 57-year legacy of Racine Raiders games being broadcast on local radio. WRJN carried games until 2015 when new owner, Magnum Media, unceremoniously unraveled Suhr’s legacy by dropping all local live sports broadcasting. The Racine Raiders, forced to find a new outlet, partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to have games carried on WIPZ 101.5 FM. In 2019, the Raiders moved their broadcasts to AM 1050 WLIP.

Suhr was a consummate professional and had to often work in difficult settings, particularly when broadcasting Racine Raiders games. Fans at home wouldn’t know it, however, because Suhr didn’t make it a highlight of the broadcast. There were times when Suhr arranged for a phone line at a stadium, back before cell phones and Internet, but the phone company never bothered to come out and set it up.

Racine Raiders radio broadcasters Tom Christensen, Gary Suhr, and Don Wadewitz at the Racine Raiders 2014 End-of-the-Year BanquetOther times, a press box wasn’t available and Suhr and his commentator, Joe Mooney, would have to sit on the top row of bleachers that stood no taller than the baseball field bleachers at Historic Horlick Athletic Field, with a hot midday sun or a near monsoon beating down on them.

Sometimes a basic amenity like power wasn’t available and Suhr would need to negotiate with a nearby farmer or neighbor to run hundreds of feet of extension cord from their property and borrow their power to broadcast the game.

Through it all, Suhr remained calm and professional, knowing that the fans back in Racine were relying on him and that the show must go on. Shur made true radio magic for the community and may forever be the only true “Voice of the Raiders” and “Voice of Racine Sports.”

The press box at Historic Horlick Athletic Field carries his name. Last year, Suhr was honored by the Racine Sports Hall of Fame with the Deep Roots Award, just about 15 years after he finished his final broadcast, a Racine Raiders playoff loss at Minneapolis’ Anderson Field. Suhr is also a member of the Racine Raiders Hall of Fame and the American Football Association Hall of Fame.

Racine will likely never have another Gary Suhr who, for 40 years, brought us to the edge of our seats or had us jumping out of our seats like we were at a game. He was more than a voice on the radio. He was a friend we invited into our homes and vehicles because we wanted to watch a game with him. He made it special, just as he was special.