Anytime you tune into a Milwaukee Bucks game, you’re very likely to hear a very familiar voice calling that game. That is the voice of Jim Paschke, the Wisconsin sports broadcasting legend that has been heard calling Brewers and Bucks games. Over the years, Jim has seen the best days of the Bucks/Brewers, and he has seen the worst days. But no matter what, Jim always put out his best work every night and always represented the city in a very good way. Jim was nice enough to take some time to talk with CCC earlier this year and discuss his history in the area, how he got here, and much much more.
Stewart: How did you get your start in sports broadcasting?
Paschke: Well actually, it was just by accident. When I was 14 years old, I started working at the Major League ballpark in Minneapolis, where I grew up. It was the sixth game of the 1965 World Series and I worked as an usher, so I started working out there at that time. I worked there through school and into college.
One of the guys that I met working there was the son of Ray Scott, who at that time was the voice of the Packers on CBS, and he was the number one football telecaster for CBS at the time. So I knew his sons and it’s a long story, but years later he invited me to be a spotter for NFL games when I was in the Navy out in San Francisco. So I got my first exposure to TV sitting in the booth for CBS, the number one broadcast during the conference championship game, next to Ray Scott and Pat Summerall and I thought that was pretty cool. So at that point, I decided to give it a try and I went back to school and got started.
I was a very shy kid, so I was surprised even to this very day that I ended up in this business. But it was something that I liked. I’ve been around pro sports my whole life, so I guess it made a little sense.
Stewart: So then how did you get into the basketball side of broadcasting?
Paschke: It’s interesting, growing up in Minnesota my sports were football, baseball, and hockey. Not a lot of basketball. Then I got into the business, and my first job in radio in Knoxville, Iowa I was doing some high school and college basketball. Then I eventually moved to Madison, and did Badger basketball on the radio network and that’s how I got into basketball. But it probably was my third most familar sport, and here I am 31 years later in the NBA. So you never know how it’s going to turn out. In a way, it was good that it was the most unfamilar sport, because I may have worked harder to learn it along the way.
Stewart: Before that, you had done announcing for the Brewers broadcasts right?
Paschke: Well I had done sports news at TV stations for about 13 years, and then I got the crazy phone call asking if I wanted to do the Bucks and the Brewers games, I said yes. I started both at the same time essentially. I got that job in August of 86, so the first season I had was the 1986/87 Bucks season. The Brewers, I started in 1987, and I did five years there, I was out for three years and then I went back and did two more in 1995 and 1996.
Stewart: Doing some research, I read that you were on the call for the only no hitter in Brewers history. What was that like?
Paschke: That is correct. April 15th of 1987, in Baltimore Memorial Stadium. I think it was the fifth baseball game I had ever done. I had done one or two little league games in Iowa, but the first real baseball I had ever done was at the Major League level. And this was the fifth game I had ever broadcasted. We got to the seventh inning and I’m sitting there with Mike Hagen, who had been a World Series Champion and I said “What do I do?” and he said “Don’t mention it.” So, we went by the baseball “rule” if you will, and sure enough Juan Nieves threw the first and only no hitter in Brewers history. We came back the next day and the media was all upset that we didn’t talk about it, but the fans loved it. I got a lot of mail and appreciation, and Mr. Selig told me “Don’t worry about it, he got it right?” It’s always been kinda funny. I’ve had other close no hitters and perfect games, and after that first one, I was a little more clever in how I talked. But even in those, I don’t know that I said “no hitter” I just came at it a different way. But that first one, we had graphics over the pitcher on the mound, so something had to have been a little off for you to not know what was going on. But people still didn’t understand I guess. I learned a lot that night and it was fun.
Stewart: Over the years, you have obviously traveled to a lot of cities and arenas but what about Milwaukee and the Bucks stands out to you? What makes this city unique?
Paschke: The first thing that popped into my head when you asked me that, is the cleanliness of our buildings. You go out West, and the buildings are well taken care of, but sometimes in the East and parts of the Midwest, the buildings get so much use, they wear out pretty quickly. The BMO Harris Bradley Center, and the old Mecca were as clean as any building in the United States. So that’s the first thing. I think it’s the care we have in this area that makes our buildings and stadiums so special. You know, Lambeau Field, there’s nothing like that. They’re great venues, and the people here care about their sports. So I think that makes it all very special. And I’m looking forward to the same thing in the new Bucks and entertainment arena.
Stewart: Speaking of that beautiful new arena, how does the excitement for this new one compare to the building of the Bradley Center?
Paschke: That’s a great question, because as I recall at the time, the Bradley Center just sorta dropped out of the sky. Senator Kohl purchased the Bucks, and three days later Mr. and Mrs. Petit announced they were building an 18,000 seat arena. There was no build up or anticipation. There was only discussion on where it should go, not how to pay for it. So it’s a lot different. It was more like “Oh thank you! We have a new arena.” This new one is totally different. It had to be planned, it had to be negotiated and all of that. So there is much more anticipation ahead of the construction with this one, than there was for the Bradley Center. The BC was pretty much a done deal, we just had to wait two years for it to be built.
Stewart: It’s definitely going up very quickly. It’s really fun to watch it.
Paschke: Isn’t it? We have a great view here at the office everyday, and when I travel, I always come back and take a look out of the window. When you’re gone for a week, you notice the differences.
Stewart: Talking about the current team, in your opinion, what does Giannis mean to the franchise and the city of Milwaukee as a whole?
Paschke: Well, I’ve only been here 31 of the 49 years, but I don’t think that the fans have seen an athlete quite like this in a very long time. In the early days of the franchise, you had Kareem, who showed up and won a lot and won a championship. But when it comes to talent, capabilities, skillsets, a player like Giannis is extremely rare. He’s a once in a generation type of guy and we should be very happy that we get to watch him. I know I am. I remember the day he got here and I have enjoyed everyday since.
Stewart: Is there a spot you can rank him in terms of all-time Bucks, or is it too early?
Paschke: I hesitate to do that in any case but his skillset is very unique. He’s doing things that Kareem did. He and Kareem are putting up similar statistics. Is he the same player as Kareem? No. They’re different players with different skillsets. But are they on that level? Yes. They’re elite athletes, and once in a generation athletes that are very very special. There are very few that you can compare to those two in the history of the franchise.
Stewart: Having been around Milwaukee sports for many years, what are some of your favorite memories over the years?
Paschke: That is so hard because there has been so many good ones. In terms of success, the 2001 season was a lot of fun, going to the East Finals against Philadelphia. That team was and that was the George Karl era, which was different than any other era we’ve had in my time here. It was crazy and wild, but it was successful and it was fun so that definitely stands out.
I also always talk about the very first playoff series that took place in the Bradley Center. The Bucks were playing Detroit. They were swept in that series after Larry Krystkowiak got injured in Game 3 which left the Bucks with what I believe was eight players for Game 4. Fred Roberts scored over 30 points in that game, but that team came out with only eight players and battled in a game and series in which at that point, they knew was going to be over very soon. But they fought and put on a great performance of heart, and effort. And they actually got a standing ovation leaving the building after being swept. That was the first time since I joined the Bucks where I understood what the fans expect, what the community expects, and what this state is about. It’s about how you go about your business, and the work ethic that you put forth. I never forgot that night. That’s when I figured out that hard work goes a long way with the people in Milwaukee.
Stewart: Final question for you Jim, it’s one I always love to hear people answer here in Milwaukee. What does this city and area mean to you?
Paschke: That is a good question. I got to Madison in 1977, but I had been to Milwaukee prior to moving here doing some work. I had covered a small college game at Lakeland College, I did a hockey game for a Sioux City team when they played against Milwaukee, so I had been around just a little bit. But when I got to Madison, I started to understand Milwaukee a little bit when I’d come down and cover things. So when I came for good in 1980, I started to really learn about the city. And I liked it right away from the start. But as I’ve been here, I like it enough that I will never leave. My family lives in Minnesota still, but I will always be here whether I’m doing this job still or not. I have grown to appreciate this city, and the people and I like everything about it. The summers are great, and growing up in Minnesota, I can handle the winters. So that’s not a problem.
I just like the feel of the city. I think we have everything here that you could ever want. If you want it on a bigger level, we’re 90 miles from Chicago. Personally, I don’t find myself going down there much, because I can get everything that I need right here. It’s honestly all about the people. I love it here and I will be here for the rest of my life. The best decision I ever made was coming to Milwaukee, and staying here.