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A VOICE OF INTEGRITY

JIM ARCHER IS STILL PITCHING, BUT NOW IT'S SPONGERS FOOTBALL.

Jim Archer remembers hearing the crack of the bat.

He didn't even look around to see if the ball was heading out of the park. The fastball that Archer had fired across the plate was sent sailing for a home run June 19, 1961, in Kansas City's Municipal Stadium.

It would be New York Yankees star Roger Maris' 25th homer during the magical 1961 season. Maris would go on to hit 61 home runs and set a single-season record that stoodfor 37 years.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Archer, who was a left-handed pitcher for the Kansas City Athletics for two seasons starting in 1961. "It was the sound of the bat. I struck him out the first time with my fastball and I thought I set him up. I made a mistake."

Now, it's the sound of Archer's voice that's being heard.

For the last 10 years, the former professional baseball player and the man who gave up a home run to Maris has been the public address announcer for the Tarpon Springs High School football team.

"It gives me something to do," said Archer, 77. "I've been in sports all my life. I love to see the kids progress and get so excited. Really, they are having the best time of their lives and they just don't realize it."

Archer was standout high school baseball player in 1951, but the next year, he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He played baseball on the Army's team for two years before returning to the civilian world and playing in the minor and major leagues.

"God blessed me with control," Archer recounted during halftime of a recent Tarpon Springs High football game. "I had a good curveball and switched speeds, but I got a lot of mileage out of my fastball."

Archer had a 9-15 career record with a 3.23 ERA. He played baseball all over the world before tendonitis took him out of the game.

Searching for a place to raise a family, he chose Tarpon Springs after visiting the area during spring training with the Athletics. The team trained in West Palm Beach and would travel to St. Petersburg and Tampa for exhibition games.

In Tarpon Springs for about 40 years, Archer and his wife of 39 years, Becky, have raised two sons. He's a semiretired car salesman, having worked for Tarpon Springs Chevrolet for 20 years and Karl Flammer Ford for 21 years. He still works there part time.

Archer also was six-year Tarpon Springs city commissioner and served as vice mayor for three of those years.

"He's one of the most interesting people I've ever known," said Don Davis, 55, who coached football at Tarpon Springs High for 25 years and now serves as the school's golf coach. "He's just one of those people who gives and never asks for anything. He's just wonderful."

And then there are the wonderful stories that Archer tells. The ones about the players he played with or the one about the time he and his brother met President Harry Truman.

But for Todd Archer, 37, he is just dad.

Todd Archer is a 14-year Tarpon Springs firefighter who played defensive end and offensive tackle for the Spongers before graduating in 1991.

"He's just the most honest man I know," Todd Archer said. "Even when he was selling cars, if he felt that you were getting in over your head, he wouldn't sell you the car. He was always honest and that's the thing that I learn most from him. That and his integrity."

Todd Archer said of the one lessons his dad learned playing baseball was instilled in him while he played football. It's a lesson about "attitude" that he says he has taken with him beyond the gridiron.

"He always said a good attitude means more than someone with talent with a bad attitude," Todd Archer said.

Yes, Maris did hit his 25th home run off Jim Archer. But there's one thing Archer reminds folks about that day.

"It was a bad pitch and it was right in his wheelhouse," he said with a smile. "But I won the ball game. Beat the Yankees, 4-3."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

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About the series

This is the second story in the Beyond the Gridiron series, in which Tarpon Springs reporter Demorris A. Lee takes a look at the Spongers football program from different perspectives. This week, we put the spotlight on Jim Archer, the team's public address announcer, who played major league baseball and was part of baseball history in 1961. To see last week's installment, visit tampabay.com/hometeam.

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