Husband, father, grandfather and Hall of Fame announcer Nate Hirsch, the original “Voice of the Georgia Southern Eagles,” passed away Sunday morning at his Statesboro residence. He was 68.
A New York native, Hirsch grew up in the Bronx before earning a broadcasting degree from Indiana State University in 1970. He worked briefly in Atlanta before a job opening at the radio station brought him to Statesboro in the fall of 1970. He eventually purchased the stations in 1980 and sold them to Communications Capital in 2004.
Hirsch was a four-time hall of fame announcer: He is in the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame, the Statesboro High Sports Hall of Fame and the Georgia Southern Baseball Hall of Fame.
The funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Connection Church on Cawana Road in Statesboro. Visitation is today from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home.
Hirsch was best known as the ‘Voice of the Eagles,’ which he became when he started his career in Statesboro in the fall of 1970, continuing until 2006.
“When I got to Georgia Southern from Vanderbilt in 1981, I listened to a radio broadcast of a basketball game and I said, ‘What in the world is this?’” said Bucky Wagner, who became athletic director at Georgia Southern in 1981. “I didn’t know Nate, but we had an announcer that was as good as anyone in the SEC or anywhere. Nate gave us a level of talent and enthusiasm that established credibility immediately with our football broadcast.”
Wagner said Hirsch’s business acumen in working with then marketing director John Ratliff helped establish Georgia Southern’s radio network across Georgia.
“All the radio stations knew that if they bought the program, Nate would bring a quality broadcast to their market,” Wagner said. “Almost immediately, we had the biggest 1-AA market in the country, and Nate was primarily responsible for that. And nobody knew more about Georgia Southern sports or cared about Georgia Southern sports than Nate Hirsch. Boy, we will miss him.”
Radio Hall of Fame
During an interview with the Statesboro Herald in 2012 upon his induction into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, Hirsch listed some of his best memories in the radio booth: He called six football national title games, two trips to the baseball College World Series and three trips to the NCAA’s March Madness men’s basketball tournament.
Hirsch called Frankie Johnson’s legendary touchdown catch from Tracy Ham against Furman in the 1985 national championship game, but he believed that two years prior, when the men’s basketball team made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time, is right up there with the greatest moments.
“Everybody always asks me, ‘What’s the biggest call?’ Obviously the Frankie Johnson touchdown,” Hirsch said. “But Eric Hightower’s shot (an 18-foot buzzer beater in the Trans-America Athletic Conference championship game) in Little Rock that beat them was probably as dramatic. It sent us to the NCAA tournament for the first time.”
Hirsch was set to start his third season of calling Statesboro High School football on the Statesboro Herald’s “Friday Night Live” broadcast Friday night at Womack Field.
“It was an honor to get to work with Nate the past few years,” said Jim Healy, operations manager of the Statesboro Herald. “He was a true professional, a gentleman and so gracious in working with us. He was a pioneer in bringing Georgia Southern football and all sports, along with local high school sports, to our area. We will miss him greatly.”