By Kris Leonhardt
As a high school student, Jack Hackman was a skilled athlete in Pittsville with a desire to play professional baseball. A bout with polio would turn his life around and derail his plans for an athletic career.
By taking a position as an engineer with WDLB in 1953, Hackman would seize an opportunity to get into radio and turn his love of athletics into a passion for play-by-play broadcasting.
Hackman had a knack for seeking out great voices and nurturing them into becoming on-the-spot announcers that would bring local sports games into the homes of Marshfield area residents.
“I had a good job at Figi’s in data processing as computers were just coming into play in the middle-late 1960s,” said Denny Goeres. “In 1968 (or) ‘69, Jack asked me to be his color commentator on high school football games, so I did that part-time.
“One night at the Knights of Columbus Hall, we were playing cribbage together. The sports director, Tommy Lee, was being promoted to station manager in Reedsburg, and he asked me if I would want to be sports director at the WDLB radio station.”
Goeres was hired May 1972, and one month later, on June 23, Title IX came into effect.
Title IX was part of a group of amendments meant to end sexual discrimination within federally funded education programs and provide equal athletic opportunities. The new law branched into the area of sports coverage.
“I’m not even there (as sports director) a month, and Jack calls me into his office and says, ‘Denny, what are we going to do about giving the girls equal coverage on the radio?’” recalled Goeres. “He said, ‘The girls basketball coaches at Senior High and Columbus are on my case to broadcast the girls games on the radio.’
“It was a man’s world back then, … so this was a big deal. I said to Jack, ‘Why don’t I talk to some of our advertisers and see what they think?’ I talked to the advertisers and found out that all of the advertisers had daughters that want to play sports too. The advertisers were all for it.”
With the boys and girls basketball games occurring at the same time in the same town, WDLB began breaking away from live boys coverage to do reports on the girls games or covering the girls and airing reports on the boys competition.
“In the meantime, if we had a terrible game where we are getting beat by 30 points, we could switch to the other game,” added Goeres. “What was very interesting is that both Senior High and Columbus (girls) had these tremendous winning basketball programs, and the boys were both terrible. Both went to the state tournament, and the boys hadn’t been there in years.
“I think that we were the first station to actually broadcast girls’ games in Wisconsin. Part of that was our girls’ teams were so good.”
Sports coverage of the boys and girls basketball games continues today with play-by-play commentary provided by Gene Delisio and Mike Warren.
Hackman’s career with Goetz Broadcasting spanned 40 years as he became an instrumental leader in the community.
“(Hackman) really believed in Marshfield and the area and promoting not only sports but everything else too,” said Goeres. “He was really a community guy.”
Marshfield’s Jack Hackman Field serves a reflection of Hackman’s love of baseball and dedication to local sports coverage.
Next week: The changing times