LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

Now, most of us who love sports have special moments tucked away in our memory. And often it's an excited voice we're hearing over the radio or on TV, a play-by-play announcer in a stadium full of fans.

A collector in Evansville, Indiana, most likely has your favorite highlights tucked away on tape in his basement. NPR's Noah Adams takes us down those stairs.

NOAH ADAMS: It is John Miley's basement, superbly organized - climate-controlled, fireproof file cabinets, thousands of audio reels, cassettes, videotapes, records, DVDs. For example, October 31, 1959. Some of you listening might say October 31, 1959, that's the Mississippi/LSU game at Baton Rouge, Billy Cannon's touchdown. John Miley found out there was a 45-RPM record of that run. Eventually, he called the right radio station, and they gave him a copy.

JOHN MILEY: I still have the record in here. You want to see it?

ADAMS: Yeah.

MILEY: Yeah, I'll play it.

ADAMS: John Miley has machines that can play back anything, including the wire recordings that he made when he started back in 1947. He finds a turntable for the 45. LSU is losing in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss has to punt, and Billy Cannon is waiting to receive.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING)

ANNOUNCER: Now, going back into punt formation is Jake Gibbs of Ole Miss. He stands on his own 28. He gets a pass from center, he boots it and gets another nice kick-away going way down field. Billy Cannon watches it bounce. He takes it on his own 11. He comes back up field to the 15, stumbles momentarily. He's at the 20. Running hard into 25, gets away from (unintelligible)! Still runs at 25, up to 35, 45! He's gone to 50! (unintelligible)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ANNOUNCER: He scores!

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ADAMS: After the 89-yard touchdown run, the crowd roars on for 45 seconds. The announcer stays quiet, until he says...

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING)

Unidentified Man #1: Let's have a cheer for Billy Cannon as he comes off the field, a great All-American.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ADAMS: When John Miley was 17 years old, his mom and dad bought him that wire recorder - not tape, but copper wire. He recorded games on the radio and thought he might like to be a play-by-play guy but he wasn't really happy with his voice. He got a tape recorder in 1957. And then in '62 it was time, he thought, to become a serious collector. He went into a camera store to buy the best audio tape then available.

MILEY: I told them the following, that I was thinking about saving tape, hopefully would live until I was 70, 80, 90 years old. I was like 30 at the time. So give me the kind of tape that you think will last that long. Still have those tapes and as I go back for ESPN or HBO or CBS, I'll get in that reel-to-reel tape and I will be - every time I do that, I'll be surprised that it comes out just as good a quality as when I first put it in there some 40 years ago.

ADAMS: We talk some about what I would like to hear as a visitor to his basement, and John Miley is ready to go find it. He is poised like a dog waiting for his ball to be thrown. From my growing up days on the Ohio River, I recall listening to Waite Hoyt doing the Cincinnati Reds baseball games. No problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING)

WAITE HOYT: The outfield placed normally with Robinson playing in the normal left field position, Penson(ph) practically on a dead line from the home plate, and Post is playing a rather normal right field. O'Toole's pitch and there's a ball hit in the...

MILEY: I'm not bragging. I'm not saying I'm sure I'm right, but I think I have the most comprehensive sports audio collection in history.

ADAMS: And now his tape logs, his records, are all in the computer. And John Miley sits proudly at the keyboard. You want Notre Dame football? Absolutely.

MILEY: You come to me and you ask me a player, a team, a sport, an announcer - if you want to know what I have of Harry Carry, there's probably a thousand things I have in here of Harry Carry. And I'll put in Notre Dame, N-O-T-R-E-D-A-M-E, I'll put football, because I have a lot of basketball, too. Now let's see what Notre Dame - okay, it came up within five seconds. How many Notre Dame things do I have? Count, 517 I've got on Notre Dame football.

ADAMS: This collection came together season after season from late-night Clear Channel Radio, from helpers way out around the country, John Miley's network of tapers. He'd pay them three or five dollars, provide the tapes and the postage. These days, though, almost all the important games are on the Internet.

MILEY: The beauty of it is, forget about getting them now, it's listening to it tomorrow. Okay, if there wasn't a record set in the National Hockey League, I won't go get it. If there wasn't a triple overtime won on a 70-foot shot in basketball, I won't go get it. I don't waste my time taping something that I don't want. Nineteen out of 20 games that these people taped for me down through the years, I didn't save. Nineteen out of 20.

ADAMS: The Miley collection, John thinks, could end up at a university, one with a good communications department, students who'd like to hear the old games, the great announcers. All of a sudden John Miley has realized he is 75 years old.

MILEY: The main reason I want to find a place for this collection is I don't want to put the burden on my family to have to do it after I pass away. I'm looking for a place right now.

ADAMS: A final moment from the basement. Now that we've learned to listen for a great announcer and an excited crowd, this is Bill Stern, John Miley's all-time favorite. The teams are Illinois and UCLA. It is 1947, the Rose Bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING)

BILL STERN: Not a particularly pretty kick, but a hard one to handle. It is squirming away from two ball players. It goes all the way back to Al Hart(ph), who takes it in his endzone, he's five yards behind his goal (unintelligible) with a big five at the 50, now at the 45, now at the 40, now at the 25, the 20, the 15, it is 105 yards for the touchdown.

I hope you can hear me, 105 yards for the touchdown in the Rose Bowl, 105 yards, the longest run ever made in the Rose Bowl.

ADAMS: There in his basement, as we were listening to Bill Stern's call from 1947, John Miley reached around to my back and ran his finger down my spine. This, his smile said, is what it's all been about.

Noah Adams, NPR News.

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