Longtime Dana Hills announcer Merritt Grimm has seen it all
By Steve Breazeale
Teacher, public-address announcer, historian, chaperone, mentor, ambassador and coach.
These are just some of the duties performed by Merritt Grimm, 73, who has been a presence on the Dana Hills High School campus since the school opened its doors in 1972.
His place of business is either the classroom or the press box, right behind a microphone.
Odds are if someone has been anywhere near a Dolphins sporting event, they have either met him or heard his trademark baritone voice flowing out of nearby speakers.
Grimm, or “Grimmy”, as he’s been affectionately named by students and co-workers alike, is the longtime PA announcer for the Dana Hills football, basketball and baseball teams.
A former actor turned drama, English and speech teacher, Grimm fell naturally into the role of Dana Hills basketball announcer 40 years ago. Word got around that he announced a few games while teaching at Bolsa Grande High a few years earlier, so when asked, Grimm couldn’t say no.
He thought he would be a fill-in until the program found someone else who could do the job. Turns out, he was the right fit.
“It’s funny, principals come and go but announcers stay,” Grimm said with a laugh.
Two years later, he was asked to do the football games and eventually started announcing baseball.
When talking in person, Grimm’s voice is like any other, but when he sits upright and readies himself, the voice rises and carries in that classic, high school sports announcer’s tone. The countless acting classes he took at Mt. San Antonio College and Cal State Fullerton helped with that.
He modeled his signature voice after none other than Tony the Tiger, the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot. Years ago, while working security for the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts, Grimm heard the booming voice of Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, the man behind the voice, who did the announcing for the festival at the time. While Ravenscroft was speaking, Grimm would always bend an ear, drawing inspiration.
At 73 years old his work ethic still shines through. Even though he’s “retired” from teaching, he helps teach special needs children at Dana Hills and Niguel Hills Middle School five days a week.
Before he gets behind the mic for games, he arrives hours ahead of the scheduled start time. He takes meticulous notes and memorizes uniform numbers and the names linked to them.
For football games, he’ll go down on the field while the opposing team is warming up to check with the visiting coach and make sure he has all his players’ names and that he can pronounce each one correctly. If there’s one thing Grimm hates, it’s getting the names wrong, even if they are not Dana Hills players.
“I’ve made it a ritual, I don’t want to make a mistake on any player’s name,” Grimm said. “They might score and make a big play or make a great block…you don’t want to blow it.”
Balancing the act of being a “homer”, where you root solely for the home team, and being fair is something Grimm does not have a problem with. He routinely gives credit when an opponent makes a nice play. He says he’s been given looks by Dana Hills parents but it doesn’t bother him. He knows they’ll be smiling when he goes just a little bit further in describing the next Dana Hills touchdown.
Grimm’s talents aren’t limited to announcing. He’s been called upon to do just about everything for the sports teams he follows. Just a few weeks ago, when the Dolphins boys basketball team was making a run through the CIF playoffs, Grimm rode the team bus to away games and managed the scorekeeping. When the cheer team’s coach called in sick that week, Grimm made sure the team got where they needed to be on game day.
“If they need fill-ins, I fill in…I don’t have any problem with that,” Grimm said. “If it’s for the kids, I’ll do it.”
He was a freshman baseball coach for a time and even held the clipboard as an assistant to Mark Thornton’s boys basketball team during the 1999-2000 playoffs. The one requirement Thornton set down for Grimm to follow? Don’t get a technical foul.
Grimm has even drawn up a few plays for the football and basketball teams to use. This past football season, Grimm recalled how the Dolphins attempted to pull off a play centered around a pitch to the wide receiver that he had drawn up. But before the ball reached the receiver on the outside, the Dolphins fumbled. Grimm can’t help but chuckle and shake his head when describing the play.
Grimm’s knowledge of the history of Dana Hills sports is vast because, after all, he’s witnessed it all first hand.
He likes this year’s baseball team and thinks that their pitching rotation is deep enough to carry them to a successful season. He was ecstatic over the efforts of the boys basketball team, who made it to the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1A playoffs, then went on to the opening round of state. He took pride in the fact that he was there to witness the Dolphins first football league title and hopes they’ll be there again next year.
If one thing is for certain, Grimm will be there, behind the microphone, doing what he loves.
“I just like being with the kids and helping them out…They keep me around so I just keep having fun doing it,” Grimm said.