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Arundel sports loses a piece of history as announcer Jeff Amdur retires

Longtime Arundel High School scoreboard operator and announcer Jeff Amdur called his final game at the school on March 5. “I think after 43 years, it’s probably time to cut back a little,” Amdur said, “and take it a little easier.”
Longtime Arundel High School scoreboard operator and announcer Jeff Amdur called his final game at the school on March 5. “I think after 43 years, it’s probably time to cut back a little,” Amdur said, “and take it a little easier.”(Paul W. Gillespie/Baltimore Sun Media)

Jeff Amdur had become so intertwined with Arundel athletics that he’d seen 10 boys basketball coaches, seven wrestling coaches, six athletic directors and five scoreboards.

He predated even the walls in which its indoor sports were housed.

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His voice colored Wildcats home games throughout the winter for so long that it’s difficult for those who remember them to separate his words from play, such as his “last minute of the period" call.

Now, after 43 years at the scoreboard system and around three decades behind the microphone, Amdur decided to retire as Arundel’s sports announcer.

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It has nothing to do with coronavirus — just logistics. The biweekly 56-mile trek from Pikesville to Gambrills and back became more overwhelming as beltway traffic grew heavier and heavier. A formerly half-hour drive had stretched to an hour-and-15 minutes.

If that weren’t enough, scheduling increased at Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore County, where Amdur had begun part-time teaching after leaving Arundel. Two games per week increased to four.

Amdur also turned 70 last month.

“So, I think after 43 years, it’s probably time to cut back a little,” Amdur said, “and take it a little easier.”

When Amdur stepped down from teaching at Arundel High 19 years ago, the change struck him a few years later when the last class of students he’d taught no longer walked the halls.

But continuing to announce Wildcats sports, to still be a part of the community, softened the blow. Continuing to announce games at Beth Tfiloh, as he has for the past 20 years, will do the same now.

But bidding farewell to Arundel, where he’d taught for 24 years until 2001, will still sting him deeply.

“It’ll hit me that first Friday in December, most likely,” Amdur said, “when, after my day at (Beth Tfiloh) in the library, I’ll be heading home instead of zipping around the beltway. ... There will be something missing.”

He also hopes to attend some Arundel games a fan, especially as the Crofton High-Arundel rivalry undoubtedly sparks up soon. He couldn’t completely leave Arundel — and all he’s been there for — behind.

“It kind of sticks with you,” Amdur said. “What did I have for breakfast yesterday? I can’t tell you.”

Losing a piece of history

Those for whom Amdur had become such an expected part of the backdrop of Arundel sports don’t know what a Wildcats game without Amdur’s voice looks like.

“He was a staple around here," said former Arundel athletic director Kevin Necessary, who now currently leads the Broadneck athletics department. "Hearing his voice meant that I was at an Arundel game.”

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During his years purely as the scoreboard controller, Amdur had really no prior announcing experience and essentially fell into the job after a student whose voice had been a signature during games for four years graduated in 1981. A slew of short-term announcers came and went until, one day, the student who was meant to call a wrestling meet didn’t show up, and Amdur stepped in.

From his mostly unwavering post at the microphone, Amdur has seen legacies of winter sports rise and fall. Amdur is a link between past coaches, players, staff and parents. He’s been there for them all.

Few can remember an Arundel game before Lee Rogers, who just completed his 31st year coaching the girls basketball team and coached boys before then, but Amdur can. He even knew Rogers before, as the two taught together at Lindale Junior High.

Few can also remember in as much detail all of Rogers’ accomplishments with his girls basketball teams, the four state championships and seven state finals appearances, to name a few.

“Throughout the games, he was always dependable and you could always count on him being there. It really makes this part of the game easy, knowing there is a knowledgeable announcer and score keeper on the table,” Rogers said. “I’m truly grateful and thankful for the years he has been the voice of the home events. I appreciate his time and sacrifices he made to Arundel the winter sports season.”

Of the countless teams and moments that stand out to Amdur, none quite compare to the heyday of the Arundel-Old Mill wrestling rivalry.

It wasn’t just the quality of skill, as Amdur still sees that at the Mount Mat Madness wrestling tournament at Mount St. Joseph every year. It wasn’t just the nature of rivalry, either. Amdur attended Baltimore City College during the height of the City-Poly rivalry, which brings 30,000 attendees to watch the two sides spar.

To Amdur, it was like watching history writing itself every time he picked up the call for the “chess game” between Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer and Old Mill coach Mike Hampe — both members of the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.

There was a tension, Amdur said, that you could cut.

“One thing that always stood out to me at my time at Arundel was that connection to all the past coaches, the past staff members, and Jeff is one of the last historians of Arundel, so to speak, that was still there,” Necessary said. “Losing that means losing that connection, and they’re going to have to do a real good job in focusing on who’s going to do that for him.”

Longtime Arundel High School scoreboard operator and announcer Jeff Amdur called his final game at the school on March 5. “I think after 43 years, it’s probably time to cut back a little,” Amdur said, “and take it a little easier.”
Longtime Arundel High School scoreboard operator and announcer Jeff Amdur called his final game at the school on March 5. “I think after 43 years, it’s probably time to cut back a little,” Amdur said, “and take it a little easier.”(Paul W. Gillespie/Baltimore Sun Media)

Though he never intended to, Amdur’s own voice became a part of history as well. No beloved sports announcer is complete without his own catalogue of catch phrases.

Amdur would exclaim “jump-ball!” before the jump-ball, drawl out the "a" letter of “red baaall," “blue baaaall," and so on. Even his call at Mount Mat Madness — with a little madness in his voice — got the attention of everyone before the final round got going. Amdur would made a clicking sound at the end of his calls, to explicitly let everyone know the call was done.

He’d also call “last minute of the period” until the National Federation of State High School Associations passed a rule forbidding announcers from interrupting play except for play-by-play half a decade ago — not that he totally stopped right away. Referees who also had become accustomed to seeing Amdur at games would approach him and apologize for the rule change.

And yet a line that had become so classic to Amdur and Arundel sports wasn’t Amdur’s own recipe. It was something he’d picked up as a diehard fan and unofficial mascot of the old minor league professional hockey team, the Baltimore Clippers, from its original PA announcer Bob Helmer.

Even the starting lineups had become a signature part of Amdur’s style.

“He made kids feel special while being announced,” former Arundel boys basketball coach Jeff Starr said. “He took it seriously on how to pronounce everybody’s names. It made them feel good.”

It wasn’t accidental. Throughout his time at Arundel, Amdur also called the the state soccer tournaments held at Old Mill and then UMBC in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was there he refined his pronunciation skills.

“You don’t know how much you appreciate your teachers being involved in athletics until you come back and see him in a different light”


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“I knew zero and still know zero about soccer, but being a foreign language teacher, I can pronounce any name that comes before me,” Amdur said, “and that’s a plus when you’re introducing soccer players.”

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The classic lines and sounds of Amdur’s announcing were part of his legend, but did not at all turn Amdur into a character. He didn’t believe in that. Over the last decade, he’d even trimmed down how much he’d hype upcoming games during his call.

It’s always been about the kids first.

“I would say I’ve always tried to add a little bit of humor to it, but you never really lose the fact that the kids are the show, not me," Amdur said. “Kids at Beth Tfiloh have asked me how come I don’t yell out ‘basket by whoever!’ and I said, ‘That makes it more about me than it does about you.’ Outside of announcing a jump-ball and who’s got it, I’m quiet, unless there’s something to say.”

And those former kids felt that care when they’d return.

Starr came back to Arundel first as an opposing coach helming the Annapolis girls basketball team before he’d spend nine years with the Wildcats boys team. And when he did, Amdur would announce Starr as “former Arundel basketball player” so that the people in attendance could recognize him, too.

Even this year Amdur awarded Starr the same attention during the opening lines as an assistant at Broadneck.

“You don’t know how much you appreciate your teachers being involved in athletics until you come back and see him in a different light,” Starr said. “I don’t know that I appreciated him as much during my time as a player, but reflecting back on all those years at Arundel, it was very cool that he was involved."

The passage of time over Amdur’s years behind the scorer’s table can be marked by the wax and wane of size crowds as well. The old, much smaller gym would hit capacity regularly, but filling up a teacup doesn’t hold the same weight as filling up a gallon tank. Amdur did notice that as basketball teams, such as those led by Rogers on the girls’ side, made berths in the state final four, home crowds would swell in accordance.

But nothing, potentially all the way back to Amdur’s start controlling the scoreboard in 1977, could match that of the last home game in his time at Arundel on March 5.

The attendance of the final Wildcats home game between the Arundel boys basketball team and Meade in last month’s 4A East Region I final rivaled that of any modest college. Figures in white and green packed in the bleachers, spilling over the sides and out the door.

The roar of the crowd filled the space like the air of a balloon about to pop. It was even occasionally difficult to hear Amdur’s voice over the sound speakers.

“No matter the outcome, the kids in the crowd, you could feel the energy," he said. "You could feel the tension.”

Amdur loved it. It felt like a parting gift.

“The crowds have really been great the last few games, probably the best we’ve ever had," he said. "... It was great seeing all the people there and all the people into it.”

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