MUSCATINE, Iowa–Though Muscatine native Joe Hammen only found out he would serve as the Iowa State University Cyclone’s men’s basketball and football public address announcer in July, he has prepared for such a role for most of his life. “It goes way back, probably to when I was in third grade,” he reminisced.
Growing up, Hammen loved listening to Muskies announcer Blean Caukins on KFMH. Following along with the games at home, Hammen would host broadcasts of his own. “I was doing play by play of his play by play,” he chuckled. Really getting into the spirit of announcing, Hammen would use a tape recorder to make his own commercials and kept his own stats. Though Hammen did not have an audience, as his microphone did not connect to anything, he already knew he loved announcing.
In college, Hammen got his first real chance to try announcing. Along with his friends Brad Lemkau and Jeff “Splinter” Miller, Hammen did the commentary for Muscatine Community College sports games rebroadcasted on Muscatine Cable Vision. Doing this show led Hammen to seek out more announcing positions even after he finished college. “Somehow, some way, I knew I wanted to be involved with it,” he asserted.
It did not take long for Hammen to find his way into many different announcing jobs. While serving on the board for Urbandale Little League, Hammen started doing the PA announcing for their games. At that time, the newly appointed Urbandale High School activities director heard him at those games and invited him to announce for the school. Hammen later got the chance to announce at Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union state tournaments, which in turn, gave him the opportunity to do some work for the Iowa High School Sports Network.
Later, while announcing for one of his son’s sophomore baseball games at Dowling Catholic High School, Iowa Cub’s President, Sam Bernabe, whose son Nick also played on the team, heard Hammen and felt impressed by his talent. He invited Hammen to announce for the Iowa Cubs, which he has done for the past several summers. Looking back at scoring that position, Hammen chalked it up to, “being in the right place at the right time.”
Hammen found himself in the right place at the right time again when Jeff Johnson of the Iowa Girls Athletic Union shared with him that the public address announcers for Iowa State Cyclones basketball and football planned to retire. When the university started hiring for those positions, Hammen enthusiastically applied and undertook the intensive selection process. On top of sending in resumes, tapes of past performances, and completing in person interviews, Hammen even had to stage a broadcast in the Hilton Coliseum, complete with scouts seated in strategic places to make sure his commentary came through loud and clear in all parts of the stadium.
In the end, Hammen got both positions and looks forward to moving his announcing career forward this fall. “I have the opportunity to reach a much larger audience,” he beamed. “It’s the thrill of a lifetime.”