I’ll be the first one to admit it. As a born and raised Bay Area sports fan, living in Southern California has its difficulties,
To get Oakland A’s games on television, you have to spend $150 for MLB Extra Innings. If your football team makes the playoffs, you’re looking at a ten-hour roundtrip drive to witness the power of homefield advantage firsthand. After a tough loss, an Angels, Lakers, or Dodgers hat suddenly appears on the head of the kid sitting a row away in lecture.
When the weight of SoCal life gets to be too much, one voice has always been able to bring me back from despair – until now. Bill King, the man who could make any fan believe in miracles, passed away last week.
Arguably the most recognizable and well-loved sports broadcaster in the Bay Area, King was famous for his signature phrase “Holy Toledo!” and his distinctive handlebar mustache. I remember him best for the way he could describe a play so accurately that I could picture the game as if it was right in front of me.
In his 50 years as a Bay Area radio broadcaster, King worked for the Raiders, Giants, Warriors, Athletics and Cal football and basketball. He announced for the Warriors’ only NBA Championship while on the West Coast and the Raiders’ three Super Bowl victories.
For the past 25 years, King has been the voice of the A’s, announcing for the team’s 1989 World Series title and through the “Bash Brothers” era. Growing up, I listened to King’s broadcasts with the television on mute and the radio turned up. His charisma and intelligence oozed through the airwaves, as did the evidence of his disciplined preparation.
King loved living and working in the Bay Area. He easily could have used his talents to negotiate a successful national television career, as many people feel he should have done. But King’s loyalty to the home he grew to love kept him from becoming an extremely wealthy and famous man.
Fans like me are lucky to have experienced King’s work for so many years. As I graduated high school in 2002 and got ready to move to Santa Barbara, the Oakland Athletics were on their way to setting an American League record for most consecutive wins. King’s voice punctuated that 20th win so clearly and completely that I will never forget Scott Hatteberg’s game-winning homerun.
Bill King’s death will make being a Bay Area sports fan a little more difficult this year. At least recordings of his broadcasts have been saved so we can remember the man who gave the games life. For me, his voice will ring out every time I use my A’s bottle-opener to remind me of that 20th consecutive win.
Sometimes the sports world gives us controversy and scandal, and sometimes it gives us genius. I plan to buy a six-pack and remember the genius.