Media icon Tom Williams has two homes in Ocean City.
His primary residence is on 35th Street. But he probably spends more time in the press box at Ocean City High School, where he’s been chronicling and announcing Red Raiders football games for over 60 years.
The 77-year-old will be recognized for his decades of dedication at noon Saturday, when Ocean City will officially name the facility the Tom Williams Press Box in a ceremony before the unbeaten Red Raiders (8-0) take on Williamstown at Carey Stadium.
“It’s really unnecessary, but I’m extremely honored,” Williams said. “And all I have to do in return is pay the electric bill and keep the windows clean.”
It’s a just reward for a career spent following the exploits of the Red Raiders’ sports programs since the early 1960s.
Williams’ love of Ocean City began in the 1950s, when he moved to the shore town at age 10 from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. As a student at Ocean City High School, he played basketball for a few years and was a promising baseball player before an elbow injury ended his pitching career.
“I probably should have had Tommy John surgery,” Williams said. “Except that Tommy John was a sophomore in high school when I hurt my arm.”
Williams, a 1962 Ocean City graduate, got his start in newspapers during his senior year, when he wrote a story about an Ocean City-Middle Township football game. A few years later, he was working as the public address announcer at Ocean City when radio station WSLT (now WIBG) decided to broadcast the football games and hired him and Atlantic City native Tom Lemaine as the announcers in 1965.
“Whenever we did a game, we had to call the phone company to have lines installed,” Williams said. “There was also a special three-pronged jack that we used and the signal didn’t always come through. We told the station that if they lost us during the broadcast they should call the local police and they would let us know.”
Through the years, Williams and partners such as Tony Blum, Jack Miller, Steve Parker, Bud Rinck and Dennis Smith have covered Ocean City home games from the corner of that press box.
They witnessed some of the school’s top coaches, players and teams, including coaches Fred Haack, Andy Prohaska, John Cervino, Mike Slaveski, Ed Woolley, Tony Galante, Wayne Colman, Gary Degenhardt, Mark Impagliazzo, and current head coach Kevin Smith. Williams’ calls featured touchdowns from some of the best running backs in the state in Mike Linahan, Leon Brown and Kevin Sinclair.
Ocean City’s football program has enjoyed outstanding success over the years. The best might have been Degenhardt’s 1996 squad, which went 11-0 and was ranked No. 8 in the East by USA Today behind Sinclair, running back Austin Martin, quarterback Matt LeFever, and wide receiver Scott Lipford.
There have also been some rough times, years when the losses far outnumbered the wins and the most exciting part of attending a game was looking watching the Ferris wheel in the background.
The one constant has been Williams, who has delivered all the calls in a rich baritone that both excites and soothes listeners.
Sixty-plus years later, he has no plans to stop.
“Two of my biggest memories have happened in the last three years,” he said. “I saw a game (between Ocean City and Williamstown) end at halftime (because of a COVID-19 issue) last season, which has never happened before. In 2018, I got to call the longest touchdown in school history when Brandon Lashley returned an interception 105 yards.
“I love what I do,” he said. “The great thing about high school sports is you never know what’s going to happen next.”
The love of the game is what brings him back to the press box on Friday nights.
David Weinberg’s columns can also be found on his Dave Weinberg Extra Points Facebook page and blog, as well as on 973ESPN.com. His podcast, Dave Weinberg’s Tequila and Touchdowns, can be heard on Anchor, Facebook and Twitter. You can also hear him 5:10 p.m. every Monday at Newstalk 1400-AM WOND and WONDRadio.com on Off the Press with Scott Cronick. His Weinberg Wednesday segment airs at 6:15 p.m. weekly on 97.3-FM ESPN.