Thursday, December 08, 2016

Hooray! Bill King is in the Hall of Fame

So thrilled that Bill King was just selected to enter the broadcasting wing of the baseball Hall of Fame. It is a well-deserved honor. Only wish it wasn’t posthumous. He died in 2005 after being a mainstay in the Northern California sports scene. He broadcast for the A’s and Giants, also was the Voice of the Raiders and the Warriors.

King was maybe the most articulate play-by-play man in the business. His use of vocabulary and descriptive terms were extraordinary. And it seemed effortless. He always had just the right word, just the right adjective right there at his fingertips.  At some point he must've swallowed a dictionary.

He also could call an exciting play in a way that was positively electrifying. I know he received this honor for baseball, but for money Bill King was the best radio football announcer of all-time. That’s right. ALL-TIME. His Raider calls were thrilling. Here’s just one example:



Bill King was truly an original. He sported a beard and with deep-set eyes and looked like the devil. But a sweeter, kinder, more generous man you’d never find. I’m honored to say he was one of my mentors. When I was learning to broadcast baseball he critiqued several of my tapes. I learned a lot from him. And I’m sure I’m just one of many.

He was also very eccentric. He lived on a houseboat in Sausalito. He only drove beat up used cars. When one would conk out he’d just buy another. He was a history buff and an opera buff. When he did television sports he wore a suit jacket, tie, and (out of camera range) shorts and flip-flops.

Bay Area sports fans have long cherished Bill King. So glad that the baseball world has finally recognized his contribution as well.

Ken Korach, who was Bill’s partner and is now the Voice of the A’s, wrote a terrific and loving book about Bill. I recommend it for anyone interested in reading about a larger-than-life personality and a time in professional sports when personalities, not generic-sounding interchangeable robots, were valued. Congratulations to Bill King. Only wish he were around to give the acceptance speech.  I'm sure it would be so eloquent you wouldn't think it was a sportscaster.  

18 comments :

VP81955 said...

Being an easterner most of my life, I haven't heard that much of Bill King...but what I have heard makes it evident this choice was a good one. He was excellent in both baseball and football.

kent said...

As a bay area kid I grew up on Bill King and Ken is spot on. He was captivating.

Michael said...

I know Ken Korach and how much he wanted Bill King to get this honor. My wife used to work for the San Francisco Opera and recalls seeing him there often. And I read that he got mad at the Warriors because they wouldn't let him have opera night off!

By the way, this gives the Giants a rarity in broadcasting history: a three-man crew that has all won the Frick Award. Russ Hodges (1980), Lon Simmons (2004), and King. The Cardinals did it (Caray, Buck, and Hamilton in 1954, then Garagiola replacing Hamilton until 1959, when Buck was, amazingly, fired).

ChipO said...

Friday question, inspired by the brilliance of Bill King, thank you for bringing him to our attention:
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, and all the facts are in ... are you noticing a plethora of clich├ęs in lieu of valid commentary?

Sean Robbins said...

Bill King was one of the voices on my childhood. He was one of those rare guys who could call a game in a way that you as the listener could close your eyes and see what was happening. This is a long overdue honor. I'm bummed that Mike Krukow didn't make it, but There wasn't anyone in this group as deserving as Bill King.

Victor Velasco said...

Yes. yes, yes! And what about his game day meals; popcorn, mustard and relish was it? My vote for his best sport was basketball. Bill and Hank Greenwald on those 60's/70's Warriors broadcasts was just so intense for me as a kid I would watch the radio like a TV. Thanks.

Paul Dushkind said...

A friend told me he attended a boring Warriors game, so he left early. In the car he listened to the rest of the game on radio. It seemed like it was a different game. It was exciting! The announcer was Bill King.

He used to do the Oakland A's radio broadcasts. He often got the score or the count wrong, but each time he did, you recognized the mistake, because he had described the action so clearly.

If an umpire made a mistake, he verbally attacked all of the American League umpires in toto.

Cheryl Marks said...

I grew up listening to Bill call Raider and A's games. Didn't realize how fortunate I was to hear a King of broadcasting until I moved away. The way he said Raiders is iconic

AllieG said...

Lived one year in Bay Area (1973). King was fantastic both on the Raiders and Warriors.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I lived in the Bay Area I listened to King many times. I'm not a basketball follower, but when he called a game I'd watch, assuming I had nothing else to do.

John in Toledo said...

Michael:

You could reasonably add Ernie Harwell to that list of Giants Frick Award winners. Ernie did Giants games for four full seasons.

Bill King's signature phrase: "Holy Toledo!" Nice.

Michael said...

John, thanks. I meant a three-member crew, all of whom are Frick winners. In fact, trivially, here are the announcers who broadcast for the Giants and have won the award, and King gives them more than any other team, breaking a tie with the Yankees:

Mel Allen (for two seasons, 1940 and 1942, he did Yankee and Giant home games)
Jack Brickhouse (1946)
Ernie Harwell
Russ Hodges
Bill King
Tim McCarver
Arch McDonald
Jon Miller
Lindsey Nelson
Lon Simmons

One of the categories coming up opens the door for Al Michaels, who also did the Giants for three years.

Doug said...

I first heard Bill King when he broadcast the San Francisco Warriors.The KNBR AM radio skip got all the way up to coastal British Columbia.The Warriors [Attles,Thurmond,Barry,Mullins] lost to the 76ers in the 1967 NBA Finals.I got Bill's autograph at a Mariners vs A's game at The Kingdome in Seattle.A well deserved honour.

James Egan said...

As a kid with a major basketball jones growing up two hours south of S.F., Bill King's calls of Warriors' games served as the soundtrack of my childhood. I can still remember some of his calls when the Warriors won their first championship in 74-75. When I got to college in the early 80s, I think most of the non-fiction pieces I wrote for required writing courses were in some way about Bill King. And he remains, I believe, the only NBA announcer every to be charged with a technical--King was never shy about letting the refs know when he felt the missed a call! So glad King's finally getting his due.

Thanks for the shout out to King, Ken, and for the book recommendation.

James Egan said...

As a kid with a major basketball jones growing up two hours south of S.F., Bill King's calls of Warriors' games served as the soundtrack of my childhood. I can still remember some of his calls when the Warriors won their first championship in 74-75. When I got to college in the early 80s, I think most of the non-fiction pieces I wrote for required writing courses were in some way about Bill King. And he remains, I believe, the only NBA announcer every to be charged with a technical--King was never shy about letting the refs know when he felt the missed a call! So glad King's finally getting his due.

Thanks for the shout out to King, Ken, and for the book recommendation.

Tom Lawrence said...

He does!
Bill King was a genius, an artist at the mic. This is long overdue but very much deserved.

R Baugh said...

Bill King was a great announcer and well deserving of the Ford C. Frick award. Growing up in Northern California, him, Hank Greenwald, Greg Papa, and Gary Gerould, were the voices of my childhood. Your right Bill King is a very deserving award winner.

You are of course wrong on saying that King "just selected to enter the broadcasting wing of the baseball Hall of Fame." this implies that King is now a "Hall of Famer" or that he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. This is something the Hall has been very clear about, but people still have turned this annual award into a de facto induction and treated it as such.

This would be fine but this award is a yearly award with a winner each year, it isn't always about getting deserving broadcasters in and doesn't have the standards that the rest of the Hall tries to live up to. Eric Nadel and Denny Matthews are fine announcers who I pick to listen to all the time but they are not really Hall of Fame caliber.

The reason this is important is that no announcers are really in the Hall of Fame. Executives, and Umpires get official HOF and not de facto HOF status but broadcasters don't. Having the Ford C. Frick award is not a good enough substitute. Is it really fair that Vin Scully is just an award winner and his highest accomplishment is being considered as an equal to Tim McCarver?

As long as people treat the Ford Frick award as equal to the Hall of Fame the real deserving announcers will be left out of the Hall of Fame. Is it really right that Bud Selig will be formally considered a Hall of Famer but Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell are not?

As long as people consider this yearly award an induction into the Hall of Fame the greatest announcers will never get the full recognition they deserve.

Tim said...

Thanks for posting that Ken. I love listening to great plays called by the best announcers. When I was a kid Ernie Harwell would weave great stories in between action every summer. In the fall his polar opposite, over the top Bob Ufer would call Michigan football games. Here is a clip of a play I remember listening to live http://www.ufer.org/sounds/Wrangler_Carter.mp3