Who Can Follow Bill King?
by Glenn Dickey
Oct 28, 2005

THE DEATH of Bill King and the retirement of Lon Simmons leaves a huge void in Bay Area broadcasting. King was the best I’ve heard in my nearly 50 years in the Bay Area on basketball and football. Simmons was the best on baseball, and very good on football, too.

Who’s the best among those left behind? My nomination for the best play-by-play announcer would be Greg Papa.

Like King, Papa has done three sports. Unlike King, he has also done TV, but his best work is done on radio. The really good announcers usually prefer radio, anyway, because they’re able to tell the story. On television, an announcer has to make sure to get all the commercials in, to talk about the cute kids in the stands that the camera has found, etc. That’s why Hank Greenwald, who was superb doing the Giants on radio, has been absolutely lost doing the A’s on television.

Papa followed King on the Warriors broadcast, which is like trying to follow Herb Caen in the newspaper, an impossible task. Nonetheless, he did an impressive job of capturing the flow of the game, though he couldn’t match King’s acid analysis of the referees. (I seldom listen to Warriors broadcasts now, but I’ve liked Tim Roye when I’ve heard him, though I don’t think he’s in the King/Papa class.)

Now, Papa is the play-by-play man on the Raiders broadcasts and, again, is almost King-like in his vivid descriptions of plays, and in conveying the excitement of the games – when there is some, anyway. He also has a problem listeners aren’t aware of. Tom Flores, in the booth only because of his loyalty to Al Davis, has no feel for broadcasting, so Papa has to feed him lines to elicit even the most obvious comments. He also has to make sure Flores’ microphone is off when Tom reverts to being a fan and making cheering comments about the team.

Of course, the less said the better about the other pro football announcer, who also does Cal football. At least, on the Cal broadcasts, Troy Taylor eases the pain with his excellent analysis.

Ted Robinson also does an excellent job on football, though in virtual anonymity because he’s broadcasting Stanford games. The already small Stanford audience was almost driven away entirely in the dismal Buddy Teevens era, though it may be coming back some now that Walt Harris has brought respectability back to the program. Robinson has the ability to bring excitement to his broadcasts without being a homer.

That’s a quality I admire, too, in Ken Korach, who had teamed with King for the past 10 years on A’s broadcasts. When I tuned in to A’s broadcasts, I could tell from the tone of King’s and Korach’s voices whether the game was close or lopsided, but never which team was leading. Korach can convey excitement for big moments for the other team as well as for the A’s, and he has a wealth of information, both about the current teams and the history of the game

The Giants broadcasts are not as impartial, because KNBR has too big an emotional investment, and a small financial one, too, in the team. Working within that framework, I think Duane Kuiper does an excellent job. Kuiper’s improvement as an announcer since he started is a testimonial to the effort he’s put into the job. I much prefer him to the more celebrated Jon Miller, who is best on TV, where he can be more of an entertainer. His theatrical radio calls annoy me.

Both teams have analysts who once played for their teams, Mike Krukow and Ray Fosse, so you can’t expect objectivity out of them – and, you don’t get it. With that understanding, the criterion has to be how much you can learn from them, and Krukow is miles ahead in that department. His analysis of pitching is especially good. Fosse has the knowledge, too, but is unable to get it to listeners.

When you listen to announcers from other areas, you have more appreciation of the local announcers; there are some truly terrible announcers operating in the midwest and southeast. But as for following King, Ken Pries, the A’s vice-president of broadcasting and communications, said it best in an interview with The Chronicle’s Steve Kroner: “There’s no way to replace Bill King.”

Amen.

NAME CHANGE: I’ve continued to call the Giants park PacBell because that’s how people usually refer to it. Now, I’m more inclined than ever to stick with the original name, with AT&T being added to the park’s name. I still refer to the 49ers stadium as Candlestick, too, though I admit that Monster Park is appropriate, considering the product being put on the field.

MONEY TALKS: In exercising his player option for another year, Ray Durham said, “I like the guys here, I like the organization and I like everything about San Francisco.” Including the $7 million the Giants will pay him next year. Durham wouldn’t get close to that from another team if he were a free agent.

A’S MOVE:I’ve been assuming that Erubiel Durazo would be gone, but Susan Slusser, a reliable reporter, wrote today in The Chronicle that the A’s will bring him back. If they do, it will be at a reduced salary. Durazo wouldn't fill the A's need for a right-handed power hitter, but he hit .321 with 22 homers in 2004. Those numbers would have looked good this past season, too, but he was injured early and missed most of the season.

MONEYBALL: Many baseball writers use the term “Moneyball” in connection with Billy Beane’s baseball philosophy, but the term was coined to describe the A’s economic approach. Beane has consistently looked for players he thought were undervalued. The latest example: The 2005 draft. For years, the A’s had gone after college players who developed faster than high school players and could be used in trades if they weren’t brought up to the A’s. This year, though, “We thought high school pitchers had become the most undervalued players in the draft,” Beane said, “so we targeted them.”

PARITY: The Chicago White Sox proved that good baseball decisions can trump economics by winning a World Championship with a roughly $65 million payroll, but now, they’re learning how difficult it can be to keep a championship team together with that type of payroll: Paul Konerko, their only consistent power hitter, has filed for free agency. Don’t look for the White Sox to repeat, even in their division. The Cleveland Indians will be favorites in the AL Central.

CORRECTION: I mistakenly wrote in my original column yesterday that the Baltimore Orioles had won three straight World Series, 1969-71. I changed that to three straight American League pennants after readers had alerted me to the error.

TV: I am a guest on the “49ers Playbook,” which will air at 8:30 a.m. Sunday on KTVU (2).

AD LINEUP: Don’t forget to look at my new ad lineup on the right, including the one for parking at the Oakland and Portland airports. And to buy or sell tickets, check out the links in “TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! at the bottom of the page.

E-MAILS: I've just updated the "Letters" section. Again, I'd like to remind you to include your home city in your e-mails.

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