Bill York wore a lot of hats for the Indianapolis Colts. As the media liaison in charge of running the press box, his duties included overseeing the stat crew and public address announcer.
And he was in charge of some of the field-level personnel, including people involved in on-field presentations like the national anthem and halftime shows, and people who collect injury reports from the teams. It's a big job involving a lot of people so York wasn't able to know each thing that's going on each second.
That's how his staff pulled a fast one on him on Jan. 3.
That day, York, a Miami County native, was on the field when, without his prior knowledge, he became enveloped in the pregame.
"What are they going to do," York recalled as he watched his people abuzz with activity, "present awards or something? Lo and behold ... I come up there and they presented me with an autographed football. And a Colts shirt with 32 on it for 32 years, and it's got my name on the back."
York, a 1951 Bunker Hill High School graduate, who had worked behind the scenes on game days for the Colts since the franchise's first season in Indianapolis, had told the team it was last season, last game. But he had no idea they'd make a grand gesture for him.
"I was strictly taken aback," York said of the on-field presentation in front of the game day crowd. "I had no idea that it was going to happen so it was a big surprise but Pete [Ward, Colts chief operating officer] and those guys, and [assistant director of communications] Matt Conti and the PR people and [public relations coordinator] Pam Humphrey, they snuck it in on me and they caught me by surprise. It was really a pleasant surprise and I'm very appreciative of it."
York already was established working for the Indiana Pacers and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. So before the team had proper offices, York was drafted into service. He joined the team as they were unpacking office equipment from the Mayflower moving trucks into a school on Kessler Road and has been with the team ever since.
Now at 83 and long retired from his regular job selling material handling equipment for C.H. Ellis and Wiese Engineering in Indianapolis, York is stepping down from his duties with the Colts, Pacers and IMS. He and his wife Joy, a 1954 Kokomo graduate, are preparing to move to Nashville, Tennessee, where their daughter lives.
York will make occasional returns over the coming years to work with the Pacers, but has already stepped back from regular work with the hoops team. He has been with the Pacers since the ABA days and they want to keep him around until he reaches his 50th anniversary with the club in 2017.
Ask York about his time with the Colts and the memories unspool from the people he's worked with, how the job has changed as technology changes, and the players and coaches he's enjoyed watching and spending time with. Amid all that, the top memory is easy to pin down.
"Just like winning three ABA championships with the Pacers, going to the Super Bowl with Peyton [Manning], Jeff Saturday and the whole group, winning against the Bears," York said. "And of course, being from Peru and Northern Indiana up until I got involved with the Colts and everybody in Indianapolis, I had always been a Bears fan.
"I'm kind of the black sheep of the family, but I had a good time and certainly that's top of the good things that's happened, when we won the Super Bowl and went back again two years later."
Just as he's had plenty of moments to enjoy, he's forged friendships with people throughout the organization, from his staff of stat keepers, to people that help run the show, players and coaches. As for his favorite Colt, one stands out.
"Oh, Mr. Dungy," York said of the former Colts coach. "Tony was my real favorite. Every year, him and [former PR executive] Craig Kelley and Pete would have our stat crew up to Henderson or down to Terre Haute during exhibition season and Tony would always come over and have dinner with our stat crew."
Dungy's humanity, including welcoming behind-the-scenes people as part of his circle of friends, made him stand out.
Similarly, York has had a lot of people depend on him, and he's depended on a lot of people to help run their operation smoothly. It's been gratifying to watch the Colts and the city make an impression on the national sports map.
"It really is," York said. "All the people that I've had to depend on — [Kokomo's] Terry Downham is one of them — but there's probably 30 or 40 other people that I could name over the course of the years that I've had to depend on, but [Pacers sports and entertainment president] Rick Fuson at Bankers Life and [Lucas Oil Stadium director] Mike Fox at the stadium and the Indiana Sports Corporation that rely on my people whenever they have a national or international event coming into town, well, we've always provided whatever they needed and as good a situation as we possibly can.
"I'm sure that's helped bring sports up to where they are in the city right now."
The people, the pride and the experiences are hard to leave behind.
"I'll miss every minute of every game and certainly all the people and friends that I've come in contact with all these years," York said. "Sure it's going to be tough, but hey, I'm 83 years old."
Was it worth spending so much of his life in stadiums in Indianapolis?
"Yes," York said. "Every minute."