Legendary A-K Valley broadcaster Bob Tatrn dies at 78
He was the first voice many Alle-Kiski Valley residents heard each morning on the former New Kensington radio station, WKPA.
Bob Tatrn, local broadcasting personality for 57 years, died Monday after a fall, according to his son, Rob Jr. He was 78.
For nearly a quarter-century, Tatrn ran the wake-up shift at WKPA 1150AM. In the early 1970s, it was the highest-rated morning block outside the Pittsburgh city limits.
Tatrn, however, was best known for his high school sports broadcasts for more than 50 years.
Forty-one of those 50 years was spent with his broadcast partner, Joe “Pippo” Falsetti, who died in 2006.
Tatrn began announcing high school sports in 1964 when Arnold High School played football against Plum. He and Falsetti also carried scholastic baseball and basketball.
His career went from radio, to the dial-up for remote broadcasts, to closed-circuit TV games to satellite broadcasts.
Tatrn later branched out into other forms of sportscasting, hosting “Terrys Back-to-Back” with then-young Steelers quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty.
He also hosted “Majors in Motion” with then-Pitt head coach Johnny Majors.
“I went from keeping stats for the broadcasts to engineering the games and shows,” Rob Jr. said. “One time we did a show at Johnny Majors’ house. We were coming back along the driveway, and Lee Majors passed us.”
Johnny and Lee, an actor known for his roles in “The Big Valley” and “The Six Million Dollar Man,” are unrelated but are good friends.
When a game was taped for a delayed showing, nothing could get in the way of getting the tapes back to the studio.
“We were doing a Burrell PIAA playoff at Edinboro University in 1979,” the younger Tatrn recalled. “It was snowing, and they were closing the exits along the interstate. But my dad somehow made it back in time.”
Mike Pavlik of Lower Burrell went from being a caller on Tatrn’s talk show to a trivia show prize winner to a producer and on-air co-host.
“I can remember us doing games at Knoch,” Pavlik said. “We’d be caught in traffic but needed to get the tapes back to the studio. Bob would wave the tapes out the window to a cop, and he’d let us through. That’s how much he was thought of. I don’t think he had a cross word for anybody.”
When cable television came on the scene, Tatrn and Falsetti broadcast hundreds of games and hosted the “Sportsline” call-in show until 2001, when AT&T took over the local cable system and jettisoned most local-origination programming. Later, he and Falsetti teamed up to do games produced by the high schools and maintained their video presence, prompting Riverview football public address announcer Patrick Sullivan to say, “Tatrn and Falsetti, together for 41 years, more than most marriages.”
Tatrn recently authored two books, “Bob Tatrn’s Sports Minutes: Vols. I and II.” He also hosted sports nostalgia shows over the past several years on WAVL Radio 910 AM and on Comcast channel 190.
“His family was the most important thing to him,” Pavlik said. “The sun rose and set with his wife and children. I think his biggest thrill was watching his grandchildren play sports.”
Friends will be received at the Rusiewicz Funeral Home, 3124 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Funeral Mass will be at St. Margaret Mary Church, Lower Burrell at 10 a.m. Friday.