The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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On-air and off, it’s the same old Norm

It’s hard to believe a man criticized because of his quirky voice and lackluster appearance would go on to become one of the most well-known television and radio sportscasters in the United States. Norm Hitzges has won awards from organizations such as the Radio Hall of Fame, the Dallas Hall of Sports Association and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, among others.

With more than three decades of experience in sports casting, the 63-year-old’s knowledge and insight are tough to match. He started out in television working for CBS, before freelance writing for newspapers and magazines across the country. He’s spent the later portion of his career in radio, and currently hosts “The Norm Hitzges Show” daily on KTCK 1310 “The Ticket.” His annual NFL draft board can only be described as legendary, and horseracing fans from all over the nation seek his coveted “Picks of the Pole.” However, Hitzges is far from being labeled a one-trick pony. He’s a man with humble beginnings – a man who has traveled the world, written four books, raised over half a billion dollars for charity and who undeniably loves his job and the people around him. Norm Hitzges is a man of passion.

“I’ve never met anybody in radio that’s as passionate about what he does as Norm Hitzges,” said Tom Gribble, a producer at The Ticket. “He’s as passionate about the topics ­- everything he talks about on the show – off the air as he is on the air. He lives this stuff.”

Hitzges grew up in Dunkirk, N.Y., a small town 35 miles west of Buffalo. He was an only child and came from a poor family. His father was a bartender and his mother worked in the laundry business. Hitzges said his father never brought home more than $250 a week. To Hitzges, however, it wasn’t about how much money his parents made, but about their attitude toward life and their son. Hitzges attributes his success and motivation to the way he was raised, noting it was his parents’ work ethic that he will always remember.

“If there’s a drive involved, it comes from my mom and dad. They worked hard and saved their money. They had one child and raised him unbelievably well. They sacrificed for him,” Hitzges said.

When on the road covering sports events, Hitzges works from the time he wakes up to the time he falls asleep. He gathers stats, crunches numbers and prepares for his daily radio shows.

“There’s a lot of guys his age…who do not try anywhere near as hard. You know when he’s on the air he’s busting his tail and when he’s off air he’s busting his tail,” said Ticket host Bob Sturm. “Most guys his age don’t have the same energy.”

As a child, Hitzges developed an interest in sports, but didn’t think about pursuing it as a career. He grew up as a radio sports listener, because televised sports were hard to come by. Hitzges said he would listen to Detroit Tiger baseball games and keep track of stats in a scorebook. It was horseracing, though, which struck a lifelong chord with the future radio hall of fame inductee.

Though his family wasn’t able to attend many sporting events, it didn’t cost a dime to go to the racing track to see the horses run. After his first trip with his father, Hitzges was hooked. Going to the track became a habit for the Hitzges family. Although Hitzges may go to Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie alone these days, his love for the sport hasn’t waned a bit.

“Horseracing isn’t about the horses as much as it is [that] you are in opposition to the rest of the crowd,” Hitzges said. “If they make a mistake, it means more money for you – if you can figure out the mistake.”

If there’s one thing Hitzges has developed from the duties of his profession, it’s a yearning for travel. Before he settled down in Dallas, freelance work took Hitzges all over the country. He worked for many news organizations on the east coast, west coast and everywhere in between including: CBS, UPI, Newsweek and ESPN, among others. However, Hitzges grew tired of trekking around the United States and began to experience traveling to exotic locales.

Hitzges has been to New Zealand, Africa, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Chile, Easter Island, Peru, Norway, England, France, Switzerland, Australia – the list goes on. He’s even fished in the Amazon River. To Hitzges, there’s always something to experience while traveling.

“Every day is spectacularly different. Galapagos, Easter Island, those are different places. They’re unusual places. You go there and it is so hard to deny God in those places,” Hitzges said. “You realize if all humans died off, those places would be fine forever.”

Looking up batting averages and fishing in the Amazon do not solely define what Hitzges cares about. He cares about people – whether they listen to him on the radio or not. Every year on the day after Christmas, the sportscaster broadcasts for 18 hours straight in an event called the Normathon. Originally conceived by Mark Friedman, Hitzges’ producer at The Ticket, the Normathon raises money for the Austin Street Centre for the homeless, a charity group that Hitzges is extremely keen on.

“I love this homeless center. They do work none of us would do. I mean, dealing with the bottom level of humanity, just people on the street,” Hitzges said. “It’s a wonderful cause.”

Over the past five years, Hitzges has raised more than $600,000 for the center. One year, however, Hitzges’ Normathon found itself in the middle of the toughest time of the sportscasters’ career.

Four years ago, Hitzges underwent major surgery on his spine. When he left the hospital, Hitzges worked from his home, broadcasting his shows in his kitchen. But before long, it came time for the Normathon, and Hitzges had not yet returned to the station. Rather than cancel the event, Hitzges worked the event, a 24-hour broadcast at the time, in shifts. Some of the other on-air personalities at The Ticket volunteered to fill in for Hitzges, who would rest up until he could go back on the air.

Ticket producer Mark Friedman, who works with Hitzges on a daily basis, has learned a lot from the sports radio guru.

“You’re best at things that you’re passionate about. If you can find something you’re passionate about and you can get paid for it, that’s the perfect life,” Friedman said. “He’s living proof of it.”

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