by Steve Travers
American Reporter Correspondent
San Francisco, Calif.
October 20, 2005
BILL KING WORE A CROWN AMONG SPORTS BROADCASTERS
SAN FRANCISCO -- sports broadcaster Bill King was as much a part of my life as my friends and family. I grew up with him.
Memories of his words describing uterrly, absolutely fantastic sporting events of the most dramatic nature imaginable are seared into my memory and will remain forever. I can recall like yesterday sitting in the garage listening to him proclaim that "George Blanda has just been elected King of the World" after his field goal beat Cleveland in 1970.
New York sports fans of the 1950s think they enjoyed a "Golden Age." They are not even close to California sports fans of the 1960s to early 1980s, whether it be the Bay Area or L.A.: Raiders, A's, Warriors, Rams, Lakers, U.S.C., UCLA, Dodgers.
King was so much a part of that. Half of Kenny Stabler's legend is because of Bill King. His accomplishments would have been diminshed had anybody else described them. Rick Barry and the Warriors? Words cannot describe the poety of King's motor words, the detail of posting, switching, putting the "bigger man on him," looking for a man who he always decsribed by name. Come on!
Better than Chick Hearn. Johnny Most? Don't even think about it!
The Raiders' home games were not on tv even if sold out. King was better than television. If they were on the tube, the sound was down and the radio on. He was the single greatest basketball and football announcer in the history of mankind, and a baseball announcer on a par with anybody. I can only think of two people in the sports media I immediately say had his talent and charisma: Vin Scully and Jim Murray.
I also compare Lon Simmons to him, as much because both men had class, intellect and outgoing friendship above and beyond the call of duty.
My brief professional baseball career was highlighted by one glorious, three-inning, scoreless appearance with the A's in a 1982 big league exhibition game against the Giants at Phoenix Muni on a Saturday. What made it so great was that I later heard from friends who heard my three innings of "glory" on both the A's and Giants broadcasts, described by King and Simmons.
I was a complete unknown, and I seriously doubt the media people had much info on me other than my name, physical dimensions, number and position, yet somehow I'm told King was informing the audience that I had pitched at Redwood High. How did he know that?
When I was with the San Francisco Examiner, one of my first choices was a column about King. I sought him out at the Coliseum and he gave me time as if I was Red Smth. Total class, total help, totally beautiful human being. Absolute intellegence. What a treat to sit in the A's dugout chatting with Bill King.
I told him we were neighbors in Marin, and King was asking about me. When I told him I played at Redwood he expressed good knowledge of Redwood sports over the years (Chad Kreuter, BuddyBiancalana) and MCAL teams in general.
When the column was published I left a copy in the A's booth and Ken Korach was very grateful that somebody had given King his kudos, as he felt King was not getting his just due. One could see in Korach devotion, love and admiration that cannot be described. So many felt that way.
I was in the Bay Area media for one sporadic year. I forget names minutes later. King would recognize me by name and inquire as if my opinion meant something. Apparently it did to him. Everybody's did. Class, man. Pure, unadulterated class.
In all the years the Raiders played in L.A., I lived there. What a treat to be driving the streets and highways of the Southland accompanied by the soothing, friendly voice of my childhood and adolescense. They were never on tv at home so it was King, and I knew Los Angelenos who had never, ever heard him before who fell in love with him. It was like taking somebody to a great restaurant for the first time and watching them fall in love with it as you had for years prior.
If for no other reason God grants Heaven to a human being who brought enormous pleasure to millions of fellow humans, and who treated people as he would have them treat him, who as best I could tell lived by the Golden Rule, well, then, God has just elected Bill the King of Otherworldly Broadcasters."
May God bless and keep Bill King.
AR Correspondent Steve Travers contributes occasionally on sports. He was a professional baseball player and a sports reporter for the San Francisco Examiner.