Paul Page’s only goal in life is to be in broadcasting. He especially wants to be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcasting the Indianapolis 500, working alongside his hero, Sid Collins. It is a long circuitous route to the race day team filled with some self inflicted mistakes.
With the guidance of his uncle, Harry Geisel, a former major league baseball umpire, Page builds a faux broadcast studio in his uncle’s basement. Geisel also takes Page to his 500 mile race in 1960. Page then set his career path to be a part of the race.
Back home in Chicago, Page writes to Eddie Sachs, his favorite driver, and shares his ambition. Sachs replied, telling Page, “You must stick with something if you want it.” Page has lived by those words ever since.
The autobiography, written by Page and J. R. Elrod, is mostly chronological. The narrative alternates between summaries of each 500 mile race since 1960 and Page’s personal life. There are anecdotes about drivers and news stories Page covers as well.
Page intersperses his story with explanations of terms and history of auto racing. Much of these descriptions are geared for the casual or non-racing fan, which broadens the appeal of the work.
While working low paying radio jobs, Page joins the National Guard and learns much of his craft at the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. Page also enrolls in DePauw University’s paramedics course, earning a license.
Page gets a job at WIBC, the flagship station for the 500. He hopes to impress Sid Collins and get a spot on the race day radio team. His first encounter with Collins does not go well. Collins declared page’s interview with the winner of the Soap Box Derby the worst interview he has ever heard. Collins then spends the next three hours instructing Page how to conduct a proper interview.
Page loses his job at WIBC, works at other stations, and finally returns to the station in 1969. He does not get on the race day crew until 1974. His first race nearly becomes his last. Page worked the pits that day. Collins asks him to interview stuntman/daredevil Evel Kneivel. Page has no interest in talking to him, and he tells Collins he can’t find him. Collins had a good view Page’s position from the broadcast booth.
“Isn’t he standing right next to you?” Collins asked.
In 1977 Page becomes the Voice of the 500, but not in the way he hoped. Collins commits suicide on May 2, leaving the station little time to appoint a successor. The broadcast goes well, but in December Page’s tenure at the mike at IMS nearly came to an end. Page does live news reports from a helicopter which crashes on the Speedway High School football field. Page suffers multiple fractures of his left leg.
Page discusses how the Indycar split in 1996 affected not only the sport’s drivers and teams, but also the broadcasters. ABC told him he could only cover CART races, which meant no Indianapolis 500.
Page talks about his time in the broadcast booth with Bobby Unser. Page admires Unser for his knowledge, but wishes he didn’t talk so long. The producers tell Unser that Page has a button that cuts His mike after a couple of minutes. Unser cuts his talking. Later we find that there was no button.
Paul Page witnesses an experiences every aspect of racing from crew man to driver. He takes this knowledge to the broadcast booth. Page’s autobiography is a rich perspective of what happens behind the scenes at a race track both inside and outside the television and radio booths.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year. The Pit Window will be moving to winter headquarters tomorrow. Thanks for reading all year. I hope you will put up with me for another one.