By Mark Peterson
His voice was first heard over the airwaves on September 13, 1980. It was a day that changed the sound of sports coverage in Beaver County. That was the day when Freedom traveled to Western Beaver for a Saturday afternoon football game and Ambridge radio station, WMBA, was on site to broadcast the action. Up in the press box, a youthful Bob Barrickman joined Mike Shineberg as a color analyst. It was the beginning of a storied broadcasting career for Barrickman that spanned over a thousand games and forty years. Bob’s unique, enthusiastic and very recognizable delivery was heard as recently as part of the WPIAL football championship pre game show broadcasts on WBVP and WMBA. Sadly, the mute button on Bob’s microphone has been permanently pushed. Tuesday morning the beloved sports announcer passed away. He was 67.
Bob Barrickman grew up in Industry, PA and graduated from Beaver Area High school. Afterwards he earned a degree in communications from Slippery Rock University. In addition to his radio announcing, Bob was also a skillful sports writer and contributor for the Beaver County Times. But, it was when he put on a sports headset in the press box or courtside at a high school game that his impact became the greatest. Part of it was Barrickman’s love of broadcasting and his dedication to the craft. Part of it was his devotion to high school sports. The mix of the two qualities proved to be a combination that would touch the lives of nearly everyone in Beaver County over Bob’s career. Fellow broadcaster Chris Shovlin noted: “I don’t know anyone that was more passionate about high school athletics in Beaver County. Nobody had more passion than Bob.” In addition to calling high school games, one of the things Barrickman became most known for was hosting the weekly “Coaches Corner” live broadcast on WBVP and WMBA.
For over thirty years, high school coaches and players were Bob’s guests on the program during sports seasons for lively conversation and great pizza and wings. For a long time, “Coaches Corner” was broadcast live from Robert’s Roadside Inn in Bridgewater. Robert Skerlec, owner of Robert’s Roadside Inn, remembered Bob Barrickman as “A man of Integrity and a super competitive Scrabble player.” Skerlec and Barrickman also played weekly scrabble games prior to the Wednesday evening “Coaches Corner” shows.
The news of Bob’s passing has caused many people in Bob’s extended “radio family” to reflect on his life, his work and what he meant to others. Current WBVP-WMBA program director Frank Sparks said: “I never in my life have met anyone like Bob Barickman. His passion for sports and friendship was like no other. Bob Barrickman is a true legend in Beaver County sports. If You wanna know anything about High School Sports, past and present, Bob was your guy. Bob’s passion for broadcasting was apparent in every broadcast whether it was a touchdown, a sack, or a slam dunk.”
Whether it’s a testament to Bob Barrickman’s long lasting broadcasting career, or the high quality of high school teams that seem to emanate from Beaver County every year isn’t completely clear. Either way, the amazing fact is that Bob called the action of over 60 high school state championship games. One of those earlier state championship broadcasts was when Bob Barrickman Joined Mark Razz in the booth for the 1988 high school football 3A state Championship. That year, the Aliquippa Quips were upset by A Berwick Bulldog team led by future West Virginia quarterback, Jake Kelchner. Luckily, there would be many other memorable game broadcasts along the way. Here is a small sampling of Bob Barrckman audio highlights:
In 2008, Bob Barrickman was inducted into the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame. More ceremonies followed. In 2020 Barrickman was inducted into the Slippery Rock University Communications and Media Department Hall of Fame. Bob was also the voice of Geneva College athletics on WBVP and WMBA for the past three decades. His devotion to the Golden Tornado broadcasts was recognized by Achievement In Radio (AIR). His devotion to Geneva College throughout that time period earned him a “G Award” from Geneva College in 2012.
Outside of the time Bob spent broadcasting games, Bob used his talents in other ways to help the people of Beaver County. He served as the Emcee of the Outstanding Young Woman and Junior Miss programs and helped organize weekly volleyball leagues at Robert’s Roadside Inn. In 2015, Bob was recognized by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce with a Community Service Award.
It’s hard to imagine a big high school football game happening without Bob Barrickman. He had become the voice of Beaver County sports for generations. So, don’t think it strange if on Thursday night during the Aliquippa-Bishop McDevitt state championship football broadcast on WBVP and WMBA, you happen to hear a little thunder that sounds alot like play by play coming down from the great press box in the clouds.