Sportscasting legend Tabner enjoying retirementWritten by Dave Woolford | | firstname.lastname@example.org
He was shopping at a local store recently when a lady approached him and said, ”Weren’t you Orris Tabner?”
He looked at her and, in his methodically calm manner, smiled and said, ”Yes, I was. And I still am.”
How soon they forget.
But that’s OK with the local legendary television sports director. As always, Tabner takes everything in stride, especially since his retirement in 1996 after 45 years in the business, the last 38 at WTOL-TV Channel 11.
His new best friend is the snooze button on his alarm clock.
”I do nothing all day and I’m getting real good at it,” Tabner said with a smile. ”The first few years after my retirement I wondered how I had the time to work because I was into so many things, but I’ve backed off.”
He’s still involved in making occasional television commercials, plays golf, serves as Master of Ceremonies for local sports functions and plays golf, or did we already mention that? Tabner is a member at Heatherdowns Country Club, which borders his property to the west.
The dining room table in Tabner’s South Toledo home is covered with neat piles of names and other pertinent information. He is planning still another Libbey High School class reunion, something the Toledo native has done for many years. Tabner, 72, will be celebrating his 55th Libbey reunion this year.
Among the memorabilia that garnishes the walls of Tabner’s home are not one, but two plaques that pronounce his induction into the Libbey Hall of Fame. The former Cowboy offensive end was inducted in the original Libbey Hall of Fame, along with basketball star Chet Trail and women’s football star Linda Jefferson in 1979 after Tabner had been asked to help get it started. When Ann Keogh, the athletic director at the time, left Libbey shortly thereafter, the Hall of Fame became defunct. It was resurrected in 1994 and Tabner and Trail were again inducted, making them the only Libbey athletes to be installed into the school’s Hall of Fame twice.
Also hanging in the hallway in Tabner’s house is an autographed picture of former Detroit Tigers star Al Kaline with the inscription, ”Congrats on your retirement but you still can’t have that (bleeping) interview.”
Tabner says he was always abruptly turned away when he attempted to interview Kaline and still contends that baseball players are the most difficult athletes to deal with from a media perspective.
He recalls walking up to Mickey Mantle at the batting cage before a spring training game one year in Florida with tape recorder in hand seeking a brief interview. Mantle had already taken a few swings and was at the end of the line behind Elston Howard, Yogi Berra and Roger Maris. When Tabner asked Mantle for a couple of words, that’s what he got, neither of which can be repeated here.
”My favorite athletes were golfers and auto racers,” Tabner said. ”The first time I went to Indy I was awestruck. I really like NASCAR.
”I got to know Jack Nicklaus personally and when he won his last Masters championship at the age of 46 in 1986 I was actually crying over the last four or five holes. When he sank the putt on 18 to win it, I flipped the switch on our alarm system that triggers a horn on the roof. The neighbors must have thought I was crazy.”
Tabner, who has encountered some health issues and harbors a pacemaker, spends three months every winter in Florida. He keeps up with the sports scene, but on a more casual basis. He recently attended the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, ”to look at all the pretty girls.”
Tabner, referred to as ”Captain Casual” by his colleagues when he was the dean of local sportscasters, says he doesn’t miss the business with so much more to cover and so much more available information to sort through. And he especially doesn’t miss the drives to Ohio State where, if he was lucky, he might get a three-minute interview with the late Woody Hayes.
He’s still Orris Tabner, but he’s much more content than he was when he was the ”other” Orris Tabner.