Didn't have to.
All I had to do was turn the dial on the side of my pocket transistor - through the all static and burps - until I heard that familiar baritone voice delivering words in a distinct staccato rhythm: "Mississippi State has possession at its own 25-yard line ..."
Before I ever knew his name, I knew Jack Cristil's voice.
For me and thousands of others - before these everybody's-on-TV days - Jack Cristil was our only link to Mississippi State athletics. We all listened to him and other radio broadcasters of the '50s and '60s - Stan Torgerson at Ole Miss, Bill Goodrich at Ole Miss and Southern Miss and John Ferguson at LSU - as they painted a vocal portrait of the stadiums, the gyms, the teams, the players and the atmosphere surrounding college football and basketball.
These guys were all at the top of their games, and Cristil was the best of the best.
His voice was, and still is, always clear, sharp and delightfully distinct. Even at age 85, he continues to describe games in vivid, informative detail: "LSU is lined up in the 'I' with two wide," "Auburn is in a 2-3 zone."
He always tells us the complete story and it's never one-sided ... until the end if State wins. Then it's always, "Wrap this one in maroon and white."
He's had his critics in recent years. Some said he's too old to be doing play-by-play, that he's lost his touch. Really? I never thought so. He sounded pretty darn good to me during Wednesday night's basketball game against LSU.
Let's see what those critics say Sept. 3, 2011, when State kicks off football season without him for the first time since 1953.
On a personal note, it's a privilege to call Jack Cristil my friend. He's been nothing but gracious and complimentary about the job we do at the Daily Journal reporting on all sports, not just MSU.
Early in my career in Tupelo, I received an award from the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters as its sportswriter of the year in Mississippi. Cristil, who has won sportscaster of the year a record 21 times, was one of the first to congratulate me. He did so in an eloquent, hand-written note.
It's something I'll treasure forever.
When I learned Wednesday evening that he was retiring for health reasons following this Saturday's basketball game at Tennessee, I was covering the state community college basketball tournament in Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson.
After writing my story for Thursday's paper on Itawamba's women losing to host Co-Lin in the semifinals, I drove back to Jackson where I will be covering the start of the high school state basketball tournament.
When I got into the car, I turned on the radio to find the Mississippi State-LSU basketball game. Of course, I didn't know what stations carried the Bulldogs in South Mississippi, but it didn't matter.
I just hit the scan button and waited until I heard that familiar voice ... sadly, it appears, for the next-to-last time.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593