Joe Biddle, a former Nashville Banner and Tennessean sports columnist whose second act made him a beloved sports talk radio personality, died Wednesday at Alive Hospice. He was 78 and had suffered from dementia.
Biddle, who was born on June 13, 1944 and grew up in Johnson City, was an East Tennessee State graduate and Air Force veteran of the Vietnam war and among the most decorated and popular sports writers to ever work in Nashville.
He was a four-time Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sports Writers Association. He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame in 2013, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Alumni Hall of Fame by ETSU’s Communication Department in 2005.
Biddle spent many years as a voter on the Associated Press college football and basketball polls, was an original voter for the Harris Poll, which determined the two teams that would play in the BCS national championship, and served as the state director for Heisman Trophy voters through 2016.
Biddle began his journalism career at the Johnson City Press Chronicle in 1971 and moved to the Daytona Beach News-Journal after one year, covering college football and basketball along with the NFL expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers until 1979.
In November 1979, Biddle became the sports editor and columnist of the Nashville Banner afternoon newspaper until it closed in 1998.
One of the newspaper’s most popular contests was “I Beat Biddle,” where readers would try to pick more college football winners each week. If they were successful, the prize was an “I Beat Biddle” bumper sticker, and for many years the red, white and blue stickers remained on cars around Nashville.
After the Nashville Banner closed in 1998, Biddle moved to The Tennessean as a sports columnist and remained there until 2011. Biddle ended his career writing for the Williamson Herald and WKRN-2.
During his sports writing career, Biddle covered 31 Super Bowls, 31 NCAA Final Fours, 30 Masters tournaments, 12 World Series, a Ryder Cup, two Summer Olympic Games, several college football national championships and several more bowl games.
During the 1989 World Series, Biddle became trapped in the press box at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park when an earthquake postponed Game 3 between the Giants and Oakland A’s.
Biddle had a knack delivering sports news first because of the close and trusting relationships he developed with newsmakers in the community.
Many of his closest personal friends were individuals he had covered, including legendary Belmont basketball coach Rick Byrd; country music star Vince Gill; former college and NFL coach Steve Spurrier, who was a high school classmate; PGA Tour player Brandt Snedeker; longtime college basketball coach Ron Bargatze; Vanderbilt basketball great Charles Davis and others.
As successful and well-known as Biddle became as a sports writer, he also was a popular figure on sports talk radio, starting out on Gerry House’s top-rated House Foundation and later moving to WWTN-FM’s afternoon drive SportsNight, where he served as co-host with George Plaster.
SportsNight was the top-rated sports show in Nashville for many years.
It was during his time on the radio when Biddle’s impersonation of former Tennessee Vols football coach Johnny Majors became a hit. Majors once told Biddle a lot of people said he sounded like the coach, but Majors, with a sly grin, said he didn’t think so.
Biddle is survived by his wife Sharon. They were married 47 years.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.