Nov. 15, 2011
By Chelsea Einerwold
Former Lobo baseball player and 1955 graduate of the University of New Mexico Connie Alexander knew from a very young age what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"I always loved playing sports and competed in various sports when I was growing up," Alexander said. "Of course, like most little kids, I wanted to be a big league baseball player." But, his interests weren't confined to the field.
Alexander was born in Dallas, Texas, and was raised in the western part of the Lone Star state in ranch country. The grade school Alexander attended offered an annual declamation event, similar to interscholastic speech or forensic competitions.
"It was a contest in which you'd recite a poem," Alexander recalled. "If you won the contest at your school, you'd move on to the county meet. If you won there, you'd move on to the district contest and so forth on to the state level. When I was ten-years-old, I participated in some of those competitions and won a few ribbons."
His love for athletics and knack for public speaking and performing led him to pursue a career in calling sports.
His family moved to Albuquerque when he was 17. That same year, Alexander was completing workouts with the Albuquerque Dukes and landed his first gig as a public announcer for the organization. It was a paid public speaking job--$2 a game--and the official start of a career he had wanted from a very young age.
Alexander entered college at the University of New Mexico in the early 1950s and spent one year as a first baseman for the Lobo baseball team. The spring following his freshman season, he was hired at a small radio station in town. The aspiring sports announcer poured himself into his journalism/communication studies and radio job.
"I asked myself early on in my career, `What am I here for?" Alexander recalled. "It's obvious. I'm here for the listeners."
Alexander quickly learned he had two priorities--to provide listeners with a clear picture of the game and to make his description of the game entertaining.
"I have a library of unique, descriptive terms that I have created and use to form a picture of the game in the listener's mind," he said. "Someone asked me one time if I had a trademark phrase that I use. I told them that I have hundreds."
Alexander says sometimes descriptions or phrases would hit him while he was going about his day and he would quickly document the inspiration.
"If I was having lunch and I thought of a description, I'd write it on a napkin," he said.
At the age of 21, Alexander spent a season as the broadcaster for the Dukes. Back then, announcers didn't travel with the team. Alexander remained in Albuquerque and received statistics of the game via a Western Union ticker--similar to a telegraph system--and would recreate the game from the radio station.
"I would receive the ticker tape reports from a Western Union operator with the name of the batter and the pitches and the result of his at bat. For example, it would read, `S1, B1...' With a crowd noise record, I'd recreate the game as if it were actually happening right in front of me," Alexander said.
He remembers that season fondly and recalls being innovative in creating and recording some of his own sound effects to add to his broadcasts--including recruiting a friend to act as a food vendor and a bucket and a baseball to produce the effect of a foul ball landing on the roof of a dugout.
His career in calling sports was well underway by time he completed his college degree in 1955. Alexander covered Lobo games in the 1950s and 60s and also worked at Albuquerque Federal Savings & Loan. In 1962, he began working for Humble Sports Network calling Southwest Conference games on the radio. His habit of thorough preparation and dedication to being inventive behind the mike served him well, and by 1967 he was "the voice" of the Southwestern Conference and continued calling games for the network into the 1970s.
Highlights of his career--which included both radio and telecasts--are numerous; ten Cotton Bowls as well as a number of Pro Bowls and NFL playoff games, and awards such as being voted Texas Sportscaster of the Year and being inducted into the Albuquerque/New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. However, there are two events that Alexander is quick draw attention to--calling the 100th Anniversary of College Football game on Dec. 6, 1969 that featured the No. 1 Texas Longhorns against the No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks for the national title, and being a telecast partner with legendary coach John Wooden for the 1975 NCAA West Regional at Pauly Pavilion.
In the 1980s his sports casting career slowed down as the network he worked for out of Texas lost its sponsorship. Alexander called some Lobo football and basketball and covered a few high school games.
In February of 2010, Alexander was summoned by New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham to call Lobo baseball for a handful of games on 101.7 FM the TEAM (KQTM) when Scott Galetti, the team's usual play-by-play announcer, was on the road covering Lobo men's basketball. Birmingham had grown up listening to Alexander on the radio.
"When I was a kid I'd listen to the radio and watch TV, and Connie Alexander was a staple," Birmingham said. "He's somebody that this program loves and we're proud that he's a Lobo. He's part of our family and he has a passion for Lobo baseball."
The respect is mutual.
Alexander thinks highly of the current Lobo baseball program and likes the direction New Mexico is headed under Birmingham.
"I'm very optimistic that he will take the Lobos to the College World Series in Omaha," Alexander said. "He is a great coach. One of the things he's really great at is teaching hitting. I've watched him and even commented on the air that I wished he had been teaching me how to bat back when I was playing."
Perhaps Alexander will be asked to fill in for more Lobo baseball games in the future. One thing is certain--he'll be ready.
"It's always been my first love," he said. "When I called games in 2010 it was fantastic and thrilling to be back on the air. I would love to be doing this (regularly). I still have the voice, the vision and the vitality to still be doing it."