Larrivee recalls Irwin's impact on him, engaging 'personality'

Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Larrivee recalls Irwin's impact on him, engaging 'personality'

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Jan 24, 2012

MILWAUKEE - One of the men who 620WTMJ's longtime voice of the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Wisconsin Badgers influenced early in his career was the man who would eventually succeed him as the Packers play-by-play announcer.

Wayne Larrivee talked about the impact Jim Irwin had on his career and his life.  Irwin, 77, passed away over the weekend after a battle with kidney cancer.

"When I was about 23 years old, I was in my first or second year broadcasting Kansas City Chiefs football," said Larrivee on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News." 

"He came into Kansas City when it had an NBA team.  He came in with the Bucks, and I had called him up.  I wanted to have a drink with him or say hi, and we went out to dinner.  He was just great.  We talked about everything, and he was wonderful to be with.  From that point on, I knew Jim.  He got to know me a little better when I broadcasted the Bears, and I got to see him a little more often along the way.  He was very instrumental in helping me make the transition to Green Bay."

Unlike Larrivee, who has called 10 winning teams over his 13 years as voice of the Packers, Irwin called a near-perennial loser for decades with partners Gary Bender, Lionel Aldridge and Max McGee in the 1970's and 1980's.

"They didn't have the best teams to work with in terms of winning, championship, playoff runs.  Yet the tribute to them is their personality, which kept you in the game and kept it interesting week after week.  For all those years with losing teams, they were able to week in, week out, put together a broadcast that people liked, listened to and enjoyed.  That was the true testament to their talent." 

Larrivee expressed his joy that Irwin finally got to call a Super Bowl champion during the 1996 season. 

"I was so happy for them to get that Super Bowl run.  That was a nice payoff for those guys," said Larrivee.

Like Irwin, Larrivee has been through the challenge of calling a college football or basketball game, an NBA basketball game and an NFL game on the same weekend during his tenure as voice of the Packers.  He has a unique understanding of the lifestyle Irwin endured while at 620WTMJ.

"People don't realize how much study goes into it.  Some of those weeks, during the week, it was almost like final exams week at college.  You had so much information you were trying to put together, the preparation you have to go through.  Jim was doing two, three different sports at one time in the middle of it all, and did it well.  That's a testament to him and his ability."