The voice cracks, going hoarse.
Sometimes lost altogether.
The mind, once sharp day in and day out, strains to hold focus.
Information, so key in the world of the public address announcer, occasionally gets garbled.
Mike Stone’s will is as strong as ever. Health, however, doesn’t always hold out as long as we’d like.
Stone, 66, faced an extremely difficult decision.
Saturday’s Oregon State-Nicholls State football game will be his last as the Beavers’ PA man.
“It’s pretty emotional. It’s tied in with so much going on with my life,” Stone said. “I wish I was stepping aside because I wanted to, but I’m not.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
The game will mark the end of a 42-year career in broadcasting and PA work for Stone.
It started in Seaside, where Stone took on the play-by-play duties covering the Seaside High football, basketball and baseball games.
In 1973, Stone left Seaside to take the play-by-play slot for University of Oregon football and basketball.
After six years it was on to KSFO in San Francisco, where Stone was a sports talk show host and worked the 49ers’ halftime scoreboard show.
Family matters drew Stone back to Portland.
He took a job as a morning personality on a country music station.
Realizing that his sports radio window had probably shut, Stone turned to sports public address work.
He left the radio business in 1986 and worked for a leasing company.
“I Just started picking up things on the side,” he said. “Always as a secondary income.”
He worked for the Timbers, the Portland Beavers, and the Trail Blazers.
“It provided an opportunity for me to do that kind of stuff and keep my hands in it,” Stone said.
“It was wonderful. I could go do the games and go home and I didn’t have to do three-hour pre and postgame shows.”
When former OSU sports information director Hal Cowan called to ask if he’d be interested in taking the football and men’s basketball PA position in Corvallis, Stone jumped at the chance.
He arrived at the same time as football coach Mike Riley.
Stone immediately noticed a positive buzz in the air around the program, that fans were sensing an impending turn of fortune.
“That was the kind of feeling I got with the new atmosphere at Reser,” Stone said.
Sure enough, the Beavers started to win. A bowl game breakthrough in 1999 led to a BCS game after the 2000 season. Suddenly, the Beavers were in the mix for conference championships.
Stone stumbled across what he describes as a “silly” call to the stadium:
“It’s another O-S-U first down!”
Former NFL official Red Cashion was known for his enthusiastic first down call. Stone said he was hamming it up during a game and decided to try something similar.
“I clowned around and did it,” Stone said. “Mike Corwin said, ‘listen to that, the fans are doing it.
“The fans and band are the ones that took it and flew with it.”
In 1999, Stone was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery to remove tumors from his neck and received radiation treatments.
He made it through, but the radiation took a toll on his throat.
Stone was left with little saliva production. Every game since has been a fight to keep his voice strong.
As the years went on, more ground was lost.
Stone showed up to announce the Wisconsin game and his voice went out during the first series.
Brian Brooks, an accomplished PA announcer who will take over next season, was on hand and finished the game. Stone recovered and was able to work the second half.
Stone already knew his throat would not hold out much longer.
“That was the main reason I was walking away,” he said.
Not the only reason.
On Nov. 22, 2011, Stone had a stroke followed by a seizure.
“My son found me laying face down on the bedroom floor,” he said.
Stone had separated both shoulders, fracturing one, during the episode.
He landed in intensive care for a few days and stayed in the hospital for a week.
Stone is sure that if he hadn’t been discovered at that time, he wouldn’t have made it through.
He returned to the games, but it was now a struggle simply to keep up with the action.
“The stroke slowed down my reflexes and thought process,” Stone said.
He misidentified players and mixed up statistics.
Stone has made the best of it, though he has been embarrassed by the errors.
He tries to correct any statistical error. If the mistake is more glaring, he finds it best to just stay quiet.
“It depends on the level of mistake,” he said. “I’ve always been willing to make fun of myself.”
Stone was concerned that he would become too much of a burden to the university.
He hasn’t been able to drive, so friends have stepped up to give him rides down and back from Portland.
Support has been in place everywhere he’s turned.
“In 42 years I can’t think of anybody that has treated me better than Oregon State,” he said.