Tim Carper nearly veered off course.
Kickoff of East Carter’s football opener at Raceland was just hours away, and Go-Radio’s play-by-play announcer had to call an audible on his typical route.
“I drove down Main Street and started to turn down Landsdowne Avenue to get Tom,” Carper said. “I really did.”
Tom is Tom Gemeinhart, an 81-year-old train aficionado, former minister and former history professor at then Kentucky Christian College. To Carper and many others, Gemeinhart is also a spot-on statistician, a press-box perfectionist.
After 43 years covering Carter County sports alongside Carper and Francis Nash, Gemeinhart retired the headset. He was on the air before the inception of East Carter and West Carter in 1971-72. Prior to that, it was Prichard and Olive Hill.
Gemeinhart’s retirement was officially announced on Aug. 19.
“My hearing has gotten so bad, especially when I’m around a lot of noise,” said Gemeinhart, who hoped to make it to 45 years. “I listen to either KJ (Nash’s radio alias) or Tim, and I couldn’t always pick them out among the noise.”
Gemeinhart took stats seriously, but he also made a game out of it. The possible outcomes determining success resembled that of the peg board game one might play at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
“If I can even out the shots with rebounds, I know I’m doing good,” Gemeinhart said. “If I miss it by one, it’s a fine game. If I miss it by two, it’s a good game. If I miss it by three, it’s an OK game. If I miss it by four, I should’ve stayed home. I was having trouble (missing it by fewer than four).”
With a slew of stat sheets and a plethora of pencils scattered in an order that made sense only to him, Gemeinhart was “almost superhuman,” according to longtime radio partner Nash, when it came to keeping statistics.
“He’s constantly on the move,” Nash said. “Every year, he wanted to try to add something. I told him, ‘There’s no more you can do! You’re keeping running score, offense, defense, rebounds … he was always wanting to do the best he could. He was very upset if he got anything wrong.”
“Sometimes watching Tom is more interesting than watching the game” said Carper, Tom’s partner since 2000.
Carper has a new partner with him this football season — his son, Tucker.
“It’s very bittersweet,” Carper said.
Gemeinhart recalled how his radio days started. He said he was keeping stats for his son, Ken, and the Prichard basketball team from the stands. He’d slip some notes to Nash, who was calling games alone, during action.
“Pretty soon I said, ‘Any time they’re playing, come on down,’” Nash said.
Gemeinhart’s first paycheck was $10 for two games. He was giddy.
“I got into the game free, and I got paid!” he said.
Basketball has always been his favorite, but he also did football and some baseball. Gemeinhart was an assistant basketball coach at Kentucky Christian from 1967 to ’72. One of his jobs was to track stats for the team, then coached by Loren Dace, who wanted his Knights to take an uncanny 100 shots a game.
“We scored 169 points, 164, 139 twice,” Gemeinhart remembered. “It was racehorse up and down the floor."
Gemeinhart estimates he worked close to 1,500 basketball games over the years. He’s visited the best playing venues the Bluegrass has to offer — Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, Freedom Hall in Louisville, Diddle Arena in Bowling Green and more.
The best player he ever saw? Fairview’s Jeff Hall.
The best team? The 1999-2000 state champion West Carter Lady Comets, coached by the late John “Hop” Brown.
“The highlight of all my broadcasting was that championship game in 2000,” Gemeinhart said.
Gemeinhart has stored plenty of stories in the memory bank, including almost getting arrested after a comical telephone line mishap in northern Kentucky, being cussed out by an official, interesting driving experiences and broadcasting from hillsides before there were press boxes.
One East Carter-West Carter football game, in particular, stands out for infamous reasons. The rivals stirred up two different brawls, and with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter — Gemeinhart recollects the precise time — the game resulted in a 42-0 East Carter win with police on the field.
Nash, Carper and Gemeinhart are all ministers also involved in missions, helping enhance their chemistry both on and off the air.
Gemeinhart never said too much, but Nash could always sense when his partner wanted to chime in.
“He was too busy doing stats to do a whole lot of color, but if I saw a certain look on his face, I knew to turn on his mic,” Nash said.
Even though he didn’t hit the 45-year mark, Gemeinhart is at peace with turning off his mic for good.
He can spend more time with his wife, Ruth. They have been married for 62 years.
“During basketball season, Tim and I might be out four nights a week," he said. "Every time I would get home on those nights, my wife would have coffee and pie ready for me.”
One of the couple’s favorite hobbies is piecing together large-count puzzles.
“We spent $2 for 31 puzzles at the Route 60 yard sale,” Gemeinhart said with a laugh. “That should get us through the winter.”
WUGO and WGOH had a weeklong tribute to Gemeinhart in August. Former coaches and fellow radio personalities shared their thoughts on Gemeinhart.
“They would say, ‘We’ll miss him,’” Gemeinhart said. “Somebody heard that and thought I had died! This person called one of the members of the church and said, ‘Did you hear that Tom died?’”
But Gemeinhart is alive and well, and the tally is still running.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.