Bob Barry Sr. a legend who worked on both sides of Bedlam

BY JOHN ROHDE Staff Writer jrohde@opubco.com Published: October 30, 2011
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Bob Barry Jr. was driving back from Manhattan, Kan., Saturday night and tried multiple times to reach his legendary father, Bob Barry Sr.

It was a ritual to recount the game they had just witnessed, and Barry Jr. had just seen Oklahoma go on the road and whoop previously unbeaten Kansas State 58-17.

Barry Jr. tried a final phone call around midnight, but didn't want to disturb his father's sleep.

On Sunday morning, concerned neighbors of Barry Sr. noticed the morning newspaper still in the driveway and his mail had yet to be picked up. It was Barry Jr.'s older brother, Frank, who found his father.

“It literally looked like he took a nap, bless his heart,” Barry Jr. said roughly five hours after learning of his father's passing. “I thought it looked peaceful.”

The man who experienced both sides of Bedlam for half a century had passed away at age 80.

Bob Barry Sr. retired last spring after 50 seasons as the voice of the Sooners (1961-72; 1991-2010) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (1973-90), plus a stint with Tulsa basketball.

Known simply as “The Legend,” Barry Sr. began broadcasting sporting events in 1956 as a salesman, disc jockey and sportscaster at KNOR (now KREF). Coaching legend Bud Wilkinson hired him to be OU's new play-by-play-voice in 1961.

A legendary sports figure passing away shortly after retirement seems to happen frequently. Most notably, Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant retired following the 1982 season and four weeks later died of a massive heart attack.

Barry Jr. said he doesn't think such was the case for his father, who called his final OU basketball game last March.

“He was in great spirits. He felt great,” Barry Jr. said. “I always asked him if he missed doing it and he always said, 'Heavens no.' He didn't miss the travel at all. He enjoyed watching games on TV. I think he was genuinely happy and thoroughly enjoyed going to home games. He loved being a guy hanging out in the press box, just being there and not having to work.”

Barry Jr. worked 25 years alongside his father at NewsChannel 4 (KFOR).

“We had our moments,” Barry Jr. said, “but it was always fun to kiss and makeup, so to speak. He was just a kind, gentle guy who enjoyed what he got to do and was blessed to do that for a half-century.”

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