Readers Speak On Bill King
The passing of Bill King hit me harder than I would have expected. You almost feel like you’ve just lost an uncle. I was six-years-old in 1970 when I saw my first Raiders game. From that point, I was hooked. We listened to Bill and watched on TV. To me, Bill was the Raiders.
No doubt about it: King deserves the Hall of Fame in all three sports. I know he certainly should have already been in the baseball HOF, and I expect he will be. My big regret is not being able to hear what his speech would have been. He and Lon Simmons, the best ever, which we were so fortunate to have enjoyed.
Bill King deserves a Hall of Fame all his own. He was one of a kind, and there will never be another like him. What a loss—but what great memories we have!
My favorite Bill King story took place before the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Four of the 1989 World Series. Lon Simmons spent many, many years announcing 49ers and Giants games, only to be shown the door by both teams when the teams changed radio stations. King, as the lead announcer, was scheduled to call the final inning, but instead, he handed over the mike to Simmons, so that Lon could announce, three batters later, that the A’s had won the World Series. King was a class act—hell, it seemed at times he defined the term!
I met King once, probably more than 25 years ago, at the San Francisco Opera House at intermission of a Beethoven concert. He was sitting at the little bar on the loge level, having a glass of white wine. We talked briefly about Beethoven’s dissipated life style. I liked the fact that a guy who knew baseball, basketball and football also knew so much about Beethoven. I doubt Monte Moore and I would have been discussing Beethoven.
In Los Angeles, they constantly speak of Chick Hearn (but) listening to Bill King on the radio during the great Warriors years of the early ‘70s taught me to really learn and love the game, and marvel at what a really great announcer is about. Hearn couldn’t carry Bill’s jockstrap.
Growing up listening to Bill King announce the Warriors and Raiders games has spoiled me. He was the best basketball announcer I ever heard. I used to spend three days a week in L.A. back in 1978 and 1979, and I’d listen to Chick Hearn announce the Laker games. I would tell my L.A. friends that Chick was good, but Bill King was the best.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and I often would lay in bed at night listening to Vin Scully describing the Dodgers or Chick Hearn describing the Lakers. When I eventually arrived in the Bay Area, the only broadcaster who really seemed of that calibre was Bill King. . . I will miss the gentle repartee he enjoyed with Ken Korach on A’s games.
When I moved here for grad school in ’68 and found the W’s had Hank Greenwald on TV and Bill King on radio, I thought I was in B-ball heaven. . . Then, Bill teamed with the other “Voice of God,” Lon Simmons, on A’s broadcasts. Boy, weren’t they a great team. Bill’s quick, detailed delivery and wonderful vocabulary – who else, besides possibly Vin Scully, would refer to twilight time in an extra-inning Sunday afternoon game as “the gloaming.” He was wonderfully offset by Lon’s avuncular nature and terrific stories.
Bill King was that rarest of breeds – a legend in his own time.
I was always amazed at his attention to detail, even in the midst of chaos. Hearing his call on the legendary “immaculate reception”, you could see King got every step of that play correct, describing the action of the specific players involved.
What I loved about King was that he could convey excitement better than anyone, but I never felt he was yelling, as so many announcers do now.
I followed the Raiders while living in the East Bay as a starving student, listening to his broadcasts on the radio. We didn’t have money for a TV, but with Bill at the mike, you didn’t miss the pictures.
I’ve listened to him for years with the A’s and have loved every minute of it. I’ve especially enjoyed over the last few years the play between Ken Korach and Bill that was at times playful and always, from Ken’s perspective, respectful. You sensed that Ken knew he was in the presence of broadcasting royalty.
I can vividly recall the foggy day here in Fresno in December, 1974, watching the AFC semifinal on TV – the greatest game I have ever seen (“Sea of Hands”) – with the sound down and Bill King on the radio. Suddenly, he’s gone. It’s like losing Coltrane or Mingus. We were so lucky to have him.
His rapid-fire, detailed descriptions of the action made one visualize what was unfolding. It was as good as being there. He made TV unnecessary.
I remember in the ‘70s, having Raider season tickets for a decade, during away games on TV, we’d always turn the sound off and listen to Bill on the radio. Can anyone say the same about today’s announcers, especially the 49ers and Joe Starkey?
My family and I moved to the Bay Area in 1965 and my wife, two sons and I listened to all of Bill King’s broadcasts as often as we could. We stopped listening to Warriors broadcasts when Bill left; The game wasn’t the same. The same with Raider football.
I remember a column you wrote about King many years ago. In praising his ability to do football, you mentioned a time when he announced that Dave Casper was open, moments before Ken Stabler threw to him for a touchdown. Since then, I’ve tried to see the whole field just as King must have – and frankly, I just can’t do it. He was incredible.
I remember those exciting Warriors broadcasts on the radio with Bill King. He made them special, and the games became even more exciting with his rapid fire delivery. His detailed basketball knowledge flowed effortlessly over the air.
Bill King should be in the three Halls of Fame. I was one of those who turned the TV broadcast sound off to listen to him on the radio. I did the same with Lon Simmons. What a great time that was.
Jose Luis Novoa
In an interview I did with Bill King for a 1963 article in The Chronicle, he openly talked of his World War II start in broadcasting, and his nickname, The Golden Voice of Guam. "Isn't that awful," he laughed. He told me his dream was to broadcast for an MLB team and, despite his basketball reputation, the sport he enjoyed most was baseball. He also told me he chose the Bay Area as his big career move because sailing "is an important part of my life." He spoke of his desire to sail to the South Pacific, and I had the impression that, at that time, at least, he intended to go there for good.
The essential Bill King baseball moment, for me, had nothing to do with balls, strikes or home runs. The A's were playing the Detroit Tigers this year and Brandon Inge came to bat. King, in one of his signature Renaiisance-man asides, casually noted another prominent Inge - the playwright, William.
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