Michael Osacky (left) Chuck Swirsky (right)
The average person switches careers about four times during their lifetime. The voice of the Chicago Bulls, Chuck Swirsky, knew he wanted to be a broadcaster at the age of five, and has never deviated from that path. Swirsky can recall with great detail the summer evening when he was five years old attending his first baseball game. He can go into detail regarding the green and red uniforms and proudly states, “It was the crack of the bat that got me hooked.”
Swirsky was born in Virginia to a schoolteacher mom and a naval officer father. His family was hard-working, but not into sports. Chuck learned how to dribble a basketball in the gym at his mother’s school. But he was cut from every team he tried out for with the exception of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) league.
When Chuck was 12, his father passed away. Chuck describes his father as a man of integrity and character. He remembers his mom working three jobs just to keep a roof overhead and food on the table. There was no entitlement. If you wanted something, you had to work for it.
So that same year, 12-year-old Chuck walked into the radio station KFKF in Bellevue, Washington. He asked the receptionist for a job, and she called the General Manager to assist. The GM put Chuck to work polishing records for the sports director, Bill O’Mara. He told Chuck that when he turned 14, Chuck would go live on air.
O’Mara was true to his word. When he turned 14, Chuck got his big break, and his world turned upside down. He belted out halftime-show broadcasts of basketball and football games with all the enthusiasm he could muster. Persistence will get you as far as you want to go.
Chuck’s uncle knew Vince Bagli, a sports director in Baltimore, Maryland who made the connection for Chuck to learn radio. Every year starting at the age of 12, Chuck would spend the summer in Baltimore learning from Vince. Vince then introduced Chuck to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who was the play-by-play voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years. In high school, Chuck would frequently sleep with a transistor radio tucked underneath his pillow so he could listen to ballgames and memorize statistics.
Chuck’s dream was to be an NBA broadcaster. His ultimate goal came true when the Toronto Raptors hired him away from the University of Michigan in 1998. In 2008, after calling Raptors’ game for ten years, Chuck went on to be the radio announcer for the Chicago Bulls. In 2010 Swirsky was included into the Top 10 list of NBA broadcasters by the Bleacher Report.
Chuck currently mentors young children who also want to pursue the career of broadcasting. “The goal is to inspire people to reach for the stars,” he remarks, “because as a kid, it is tough.”
“If I was twelve years old and my dream was to be the voice of the Chicago Bulls, what advice would you provide?” I ask.
“Give me what you got every day with a great attitude,” Chuck replies. “Bring it in the classroom, at home, and with your peers. You can make it if you work at it.” You better take care of your homework, because if you do not, somebody will.” Blues singer Dick Mackey gave that advice to Chuck once, and it clearly stuck. May 15, 2013 was the final game for the Chicago Bulls during the 2012-2013 season. On May 16, Chuck was back at work getting ready for the 2013-2014 seaso