Sports announcer, UI alum Gene Honda receives Lou Liay Spirit Award


Illini Media File Photo

Gene Honda, WPGU alum and PA announcer, will be receiving the Lou Liay Spirit Award during Homecoming week. Honda announces for the Chicago White Sox, Blackhawks and the Illinois Football games.

By Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor

Gene Honda is a busy guy. One of his main responsibilities, serving as the public address announcer for the Chicago White Sox, just culminated with a stretch of five home games in five days to end the season. After the baseball season finishes, Honda announces for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he’ll be calling the team’s home opener on Oct. 21.
Amid his busy schedule, Honda has penciled in a quick break to stop back at his alma mater, where he will receive the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Lou Liay Spirit Award.
The University Alumni Association established the award in 1997 to honor alumni who have “demonstrated extraordinary spirit and pride in support of the University.” Named after a former executive director of the University’s Alumni Association, the award has gone to 24 different Illini since its inception. Honda will be the award’s 25th recipient.
Honda found out he was awarded in July, and said he was completely caught off guard by the honor.
“My jaw dropped a lot,” Honda said. “I would hope that there are more people more deserving than I am to receive any kind of award. It was a very, very surprising honor. You never expect it, but I was thrilled.”
Honda said the award has an extra element of sentimentality for him, as he is an acquaintance of the award’s namesake.
“This is extra special because I know Lou Liay,” Honda said. “I know what he’s meant to both the University and the Alumni Association. Receiving an honor is always very special, but receiving one with Lou Liay’s name on it is even more special.”
Honda’s Homecoming Week will be far from restful. In addition to being honored with the award, Honda will serve as the Grand Marshall of this year’s Homecoming Parade on Friday. He will also be hard at work announcing the Homecoming game against Minnesota.
Honda has continued to announce home football games at his alma mater, saying he’s grateful to the White Sox and the Blackhawks organizations for allowing him to work University games into his schedule.
“For college football, there’s only seven or so home games, versus an 81-game home season for baseball — it’s a little different that way,” Honda said. “The Blackhawks have always been very gracious about that; they’ve known about my fondness for Homecoming Weekend.”
Honda graduated from the University in 1978 having studied general engineering and real estate finance. He quickly learned he didn’t have as much of an aptitude for math as he thought, although a career in public address announcing didn’t come to him until after graduation.
Honda joined WPGU, Illini Media’s radio station, in 1975, looking to expand his public speaking skills. Before graduating, he served as WPGU’s sports director, assistant news director and production director. In 2008, Honda was inducted into Illini Media’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
Honda began periodically announcing for the Chicago White Sox in 1985 and became their full-time announcer six years later in 1991. He joined the announcing staff for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2001 and has developed an impressive résumé since then — announcing for the DePaul Blue Demons, the Big Ten tournament, the NCAA final four and Illini football.
Due to Honda’s impressive work ethic and the strength of Illinois’ sports teams, he is the only person who has announced the World Series, the Stanley Cup, the final four, the MLB All-Star Game and the NCAA hockey championship’s Frozen Four.
Brett Ballantini is the editor-in-chief of the South Side Sox — an online sports publication centered on the White Sox. Ballantini has been a lifelong White Sox fan and has a long history of attending White Sox home games, including the 2005 playoffs.
Ballantini cites Honda’s voice as a fundamental aspect of attending a White Sox game.
“Hearing Gene call a game is like seeing the green grass in the outfield; it’s like the scoreboard,” Ballantini said. “It’s the type of stuff you take for granted with the White Sox. Hearing Gene has been an important part of being a fan, with the White Sox you’re used to hearing him and his (voice) is a call of familiarity for fans.”


[email protected]