Bob Bartel, 74, broadcaster

June 08, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Bob Bartel, a veteran radio sports broadcaster and former disc jockey who would tell his listeners on WCAO-AM in the 1960s, "Don't be late for your Saturday night date," died of heart disease Saturday at York General Hospital. He was 74.

Mr. Bartel's voice was well-known in the Baltimore area from his nearly 30 years on the air at the station -- from 1962 until its format change to gospel music in 1991.

Fellow broadcasters recalled his breezy, calm style, and the authoritative voice with which he would occasionally announce the time by saying, "It's a quarter of eight and don't be late for your eight o'clock date."

"A lot of people thought it was hokey, but it was real," longtime Baltimore radio personality Johnny Dark said yesterday. "It was Bob on the air."

Born Robert LaSalle Bartl in Washington, he graduated from Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H., and attended what was then Western Maryland College before pitching for a Class-D Pittsburgh Pirates farm team in Deland, Fla. After several seasons, he injured his back and left baseball.

He broke into AM radio at WFMD in Frederick, then worked at WEAM and WPGC in Washington, and at a station in Orlando, Fla.

Baltimore orchestra leader Zim Zimarel recommended him for a job in Baltimore. In 1962, he joined WCAO's staff and broadcast news four days a week from its studio at 1102 N. Charles St. On Saturday nights, he had a Top 40 rock 'n' roll music show.

"News and sports were his first love," said former fellow WCAO personality Jack Edwards, who later worked at WCBM. "He could type a newscast so fast that he could look at you, talk and have perfect copy. He had all kinds of connections with the police and fire departments."

"He was hardworking, dedicated to helping so many people along the way get their start in radio as interns," Mr. Dark said. "People came to him who thought they might get an ego trip. But they never did."

Mr. Bartel occasionally wore Texas-style boots and jeans, prompting friends at the station to name him "Bunkhouse Bob." He also played on the station's WCAO Good Guys basketball and softball teams in charity games.

"He was an honest, sincere person. When I was new to the station, he guided me around," said R.C. Allen III, who joined WCAO in 1969 and is now the morning host at "Oldies 1370" WLG-AM. "He had a dry sense of humor and we loved to tease him."

After several years doing news and the Saturday night show, Mr. Bartel became WCAO's sports director.

"He was a good fit for Baltimore. You could feel his warmth in his presence," said Dave Johnson, sports director of WTOP in Washington and radio voice of the Washington Wizards. "He never had a bad word to say about anyone in a business filled with egos."

Mr. Johnson recalled Mr. Bartel's style as "conversational, but very prepared and thorough."

On Monday nights in the early 1980s, Mr. Bartel was host of a talk show, Inside Football, with former Baltimore Colts Johnny Unitas and Bobby Boyd.

"It was broadcast live from the Golden Arm Restaurant on York Road," said Steve Melewski, his former intern who went on to become WBAL radio's sports director and is now the play-by-play voice of Florida State University football. "Bob took his time for everybody."

After leaving WCAO, Mr. Bartel worked at WTEM-AM, a sports talk station in Washington, and from 1992 to 1995 was on the air at USA Today Sky Radio at Crystal City, Va.

He was a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Bon Air Country Club. A resident of Shrewsbury, Pa., he was active in the Southern York County Boys Club.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at the J.J. Hartenstein Mortuary in New Freedom, Pa.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, the former Elizabeth A. Hoffsommer; two sons, Derek F. Bartl of York and Kyle A. Bartl of Buckingham, Pa.; a daughter, Kara E. Seelye, also of York; and a granddaughter.

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