Born on Wednesday, September 2, 1942 in Philadelphia, Broadcast Pioneers member Merrill Alan Reese has done play-by-play for the Philadelphia Eagles football team for three decades.
For over a quarter of a century, Merrill has served the community. He’s been the celebrity chairman of the Terri Lynn Lokoff Child Care Foundation. He’s also worked closely with other service groups like the Spina Bifida Foundation, Toys for Tots, Habitat for Humanity, the Eagles Youth Partnership and the Eagles Fly for Leukemia.
Merrill holds a Bachelor’s degree from Temple University in communications. While there, he did play-by-play over the college’s radio station, WRTI-FM.
At WRTI, Merrill Reese also had a music show every Wednesday afternoon where he spun 45-rpm records from his own personal collection. During college, Merrill made many friends. One was Steve Berger (who later became President of the Nationwide Communications group). Steve was jocking at WOND, in Pleasantville, NJ near Ventnor where the Reese family spent their summers. Berger did a remote broadcast nightly from 11 pm to 1 am and originated the program from right in front of the Steer Pier.
Reese spent the afternoons and early evenings writing down the baseball scores and making notes from the Phillies broadcasts. Then, his old buddy Steve Berger would let him do 5 minutes of sports news on WOND. Of course, all this was for free on Reese’s part, but if you love broadcasting, you just wanted to be part of it.
After college and a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, Merrill Reese set out to nail down his first paid broadcasting gig. On a stormy, dark day, Merrill drove to WCOJ in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. There, he met Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Halpern, co-owner of WCOJ. After listening to Merrill’s audition, Bill told Reese that he wasn’t ready for such a big town as Coatesville and to go somewhere smaller.
During the nineties, Merrill Reese was a speaker at a banquet honoring former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (who was our Person of the Year in 1985). After dinner, a man came up to Reese and said, "Merrill, my name is William Halpern, and I just wanted to say I was wrong."
A News Director at KYW Newsradio told Merrill that he would never work in any major market. That News Director is gone and Merrill Reese is a superstar here in Philly.
Next stop was to WPAZ in Pottstown and a meeting with Broadcast Pioneers member Herb Scott, the station’s owner. The AM outlet was looking for someone to do high school football play-by-play on Saturdays. As Merrill tells the story, Herb Scott said: “I'd give you a shot to do the games, but you look like you might have a nervous breakdown.” The next week, Reese received a telephone call from Scott saying that he would put Merrill on the air that weekend. According to Reese, Scott stated: “It’s either you or dead air.”
Rick Friedman, a Temple classmate, was working part-time at WBCB in Levittown, the station that Merrill now co-owns. Friedman, who later would be an Action News producer for Channel 6 and would win an Emmy for KCBS-TV, told Reese that Broadcast Pioneers’ Hall of Famers Billy & Dolly Banks were looking for a newsman for their two stations, WHAT and WWDB. He got the job. Merrill Reese always thought this was a trip because he would do the WWDB news rather conservatively and then from the same location, do the WHAT “Tell it like it is” News with a fast, uptempo delivery.
One day, Al Shrier, the Temple University Sports Director for Information called Merrill and mentioned that Broadcast Pioneers member Dean Tyler (an inductee into our “Hall of Fame”) and WIP were looking for someone to work during the summer filling in for Charlie Swift. Charlie was the play-by-play guy for the Philadelphia Eagles and the station’s Sports Director.
Merrill Reese had an audition and nothing happened. Then, there was a call for a second audition. In early June, he finally found out that he got the job, some 6 months after the first meeting.
While Charlie was vacationing, Tyler asked Merrill to do the pre-game and post-game shows for the Eagles on WIP Radio. In less than a second, Reese said, “Sure.” From there, Merrill did color during the games and when Charlie Swift committed suicide in 1977, Reese got the play-by-play position.
In November of 2004, Broadcast Pioneers member Merrill Reese was their recipient of the Philadelphia March of Dimes AIR (Achievements in Radio) Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
Within days, he was also honored by Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater with the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award, which pays tribute to the accomplishments of alumni who have excelled in the media in their chosen fields. It was named after former Broadcast Pioneers’ President (1975-1976) Lew Klein, a professor at Temple for over half a century.
On Sunday, May 15, 2005, Merrill Reese received the Broadcaster of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and was our “Person of the Year” at the annual Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia banquet on November 18, 2005. At that time, he was also inducted into our "Hall of Fame."
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally by Broadcast Pioneers member Bob Pantano
Written, compiled and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2005, All Rights Reserved
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