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Humans of the Hilltop: Charley Steiner

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Not many alumni can say they have a college within their alma mater named after them, but Charley Steiner can.

 Steiner is currently the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers and graduated from Bradley in 1971.

 The Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication, established in 2015, is the first and only named school for sports communication in the country.

 Steiner came to Bradley in 1967 with a world of opportunity in front of him.

“Like every other freshman that has arrived [at Bradley], I was an 18-year-old kid not certain of what lay ahead,” Steiner said. “Immediately after graduating high school, I went off to Haight-Ashbury, it was the Summer of Love 1967. So I missed freshman orientation, because I was having such a good time [in San Francisco] … So I arrive on campus … and I was a pimply-faced, long-haired kid who didn’t know what would lay ahead.”

As soon as he came to Bradley, Steiner said he took the initiative to get involved in the university’s community as soon as possible.

“I showed up, dropped my duffle bag off [and] walked across the street to the Student Center where the college radio station was on the second floor,” Steiner said. “As you walked up the stairs, the radio station was on the left side and The Scout was on the right side … and I walked in and said, ‘Hi, folks. Get used to me. I am going to be here for a long time.’”

At the radio station, Steiner said he was given an hour-long radio show at night during which he would play new music he brought with him from his summer in San Francisco.

“Then, I walked across [the hallway] over to The Scout, and I started writing there,” Steiner said. “It was an easy commute from one side of the hallway all the way to the other … I spent all my time writing and announcing.”

Steiner said he remembers exactly when he knew he wanted to work as a baseball play-by-play announcer. He was a seven-year-old kid growing up in Long Island, New York, when he heard a baseball game being broadcasted.

“In ‘56 when I was seven years old, I listened to this baseball game on the radio in my mom’s kitchen … So I knew at seven I wanted to be the Dodgers announcer,” Steiner said. “When I was eight, [the Dodgers] moved away to Los Angeles, and there went my career all to hell. But I knew what I wanted to do, so I would be one of those kids who would turn the sound down on the TV [during a baseball game] and start screaming my fool head off.”

Steiner said he got his first professional job at WIRL radio in Peoria. At the time, the job paid $2 an hour, and he worked 70 to 80 hours a week. Later, Steiner went on to cover news and sports at various other radio and television stations throughout the Midwest and the East coast.

He spent 14 years with ESPN and later worked three years as a play-by-play announcer before Steiner landed his current job with the Dodgers. Steiner is a four-time Emmy winner and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago in 2013.

This week, Steiner returned to the Hilltop for the Second Annual Charley Steiner Symposium on Sports Communication, which brought industry professionals to Bradley. The symposium, which was held Tuesday, was divided into six panels as groups of sports professionals discussed a range of topics.

According to Steiner, Bradley offered only two broadcasting classes when he was a student. He said it is exciting for there to be a whole program related to sports communication and broadcasting as well as an annual sports communication symposium.

“The great faculty that we have [in the communication department] set a foundation from which students begin to learn our business,” Steiner said. “The folks that I bring in [for the symposium] I hope can build upon the foundation that has been created with practical stories [of] this is how it is really done out in the field.”

 Steiner said when he started his career, he never expected something like the first school of sports communication to be named after him, but looking back now, he’s glad he followed the path he did.

“I set out to figure out how to make a living doing what I like to do,” Steiner said. “And then, to have all this stuff happen, I had no idea how [my career] was going to play out from that first day that I showed up at WRBU … So it’s nearly 50 years, and did I expect this? No, not even I am that stupid. It’s crazy.”

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