INDIANAPOLIS – Paul Page’s career has literally come full circle at the most famous oval in the world – Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And to the legendary announcer it’s like returning home.
“I was completely surprised and never had even considered the possibility that I would have my old job back,” said Page, who returns as the voice of the Indianapolis 500 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. “I was well treated by the radio network and the speedway and content coming in and doing this quasi-analyst deal I was doing.
“Then when they called me in and told me the play-by-play position was available I was floored. It’s perfect.”
In many ways, Page believes he has the perfect role of any broadcaster at the Indy 500 because radio offers a different style than television.
“I like the artistic aspects of radio,” Page said. “It’s theater of the mind. We can paint a picture to the audience. Television has pictures but you are limited to the size of the screen. When I’m painting for your mind you can dream anything you want out of that.”
Page began as a hard news reporter for Indianapolis Radio Station WIBC in 1970 and his voice first appeared on the IMS Radio Network for the 1974 Indy 500 when he worked the North Pit area on the broadcast that was anchored by the legendary Sid Collins. Page’s dramatic voice impressed Collins and he grew in stature on the network, becoming the heir apparent who would one day become the anchor of the broadcast.
But Page got that assignment under the most tragic of circumstances.
Collins had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Rather than endure the slow, excruciating process of the fatal disease Collins took his own life on May 2, 1977 – just 27 days before Collins would have announced his 30th Indianapolis 500 – his 26th as the anchor of the broadcast.
For the millions of fans worldwide that tuned into the radio on Race Day – May 29, 1977 – the voice they heard was that of Paul Page.
“Sid didn’t have a family so me and two other guys were his family and we had known for some time he was very, very sick with ALS,” Page recalled. “We tried to convince him to do the 1977 race as his last and he could say goodbye after that. We wanted him to see the Taj Mahal and travel the world in his latter days.
“He was facing one of the most horrible deaths any disease can provide. His attorney got to his apartment before me and he found himself in the upstairs bedroom after he had hung himself from the bar in the closet.”