DEKALB, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — A lot of great players and great moments have come and gone at NIU in football over that last half century. One man has witnessed almost all of them.
Radio play-by-play man Bill Baker. He’ll soon be calling his last game.

For most of us, Baker’s voice is the only voice of NIU football that we know. Baker has been calling the action for 44 years. He announced in August that this would be his last year at the microphone.

“Nothing is forever,” said Baker. “Nobody does the same thing forever.”

“The question I’ve gotten asked at times from people is, are you being forced out? The answer is yes, I am, but I’m being forced out by a guy named Father Time.”

Baker will turn 76 years old in a couple months. There are places he wants to go, things he wants to do and people who he wants to see.

Boy, has he seen a lot at the microphone for NIU football games. Great players like LeShon Johnson, Garrett Wolfe, Michael “the Burner” Turner, and Jordan Lynch and that amazing 2012  team that played in the Orange Bowl shocking the nation and giving Florida State a battle trailing by only seven early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a milestone for NIU athletics without question,” said Baker. “It was one I’ll never forget.”

Baker grew up in Chicago. He attended Lane Tech High School. He knew at a young age that he wanted to be a play-by-play guy.

“I was a radio junkie as they say when I was a kid. I was one of those kids that would sit with my transistor radio underneath my pillow at night and listen to Bob Elson do the White Sox games or listen to Jack Quinlan, a guy that left us way too soon doing the Cubs games. He’s really the guy I tried to emulate.”

Baker did play-by-play at the high school level for several years before getting the NIU job in 1980. The first play he called was a kick return for a touchdown.

Baker will be in the NIU broadcast booth at Huskie Stadium for the final time Tuesday night when NIU plays its final home game against Western Michigan. His final game could come a week from Saturday in the regular season finale at Kent State depending on whether or not NIU makes it to a bowl game.

I asked Baker if he knows now what he’ll say to NIU fans when he signs off for the final time, or if it will happen naturally at that moment.

“I don’t think I’ll plan for anything. I’ll let the 44 years-worth of experience kind of guide me through that time when it comes.”

NOTE: Baker is the sixth longest-tenured play-by-play man in FBS football. He has also broadcast more than 1,200 men’s and women’s basketball games for NIU.