Tag: Hall of Fame

Hank and Stretch: Telling them goodbye

San Francisco Giants fans knew, as soon as the final out of the 2018 season was made, that it was going to be a long offseason.
A couple of weeks in, the biggest question is, can we have a do-over?
It’s looking mighty grim out there, thanks mostly to the ol’ Grim Reaper.
We, as fans, have lost a pair of legends with the passing of announcer Hank Greenwald and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Can they be equated? You betcha.
While basketball and hockey are like someone you see every few days and football is the weekly gathering of the tribe, you invite baseball into your life every day, from late February to (hopefully) late October/early November.
The sights and sounds of the game, as well as the players, become as familiar as family, with the broadcasters painting word pictures whether you’re at home, stuck in traffic or at work, or just checking in to see if the rain delay is over.
From 1979 to 1996, save for that two-year stretch with the Yankees, Hank Greenwald was our Rembrandt.
Granted, there weren’t a lot of great moments for the Giants in that era – the 1979 NLCS and that epic 1993 NL West race come to mind quickly – but despite some of the wretched baseball of the era, Hank kept it interesting, and kept us listening.
The 80s may be the last decade when most of us consumed baseball via radio, and game after game, we’d tune in not only to keep up with the team, but to hear what Hank had for us next.
Maybe it was a bit of baseball history we didn’t know about. Or a one-liner he’d pull off flawlessly with that dry wit. Or maybe this would be the day he didn’t mess with the disclaimer? Or he’d tell us about the Alou brothers other than Felipe, Jesus and Mateo. (For the record, there was Toot, Bob, Skip, Skip and Walleib as well as a sister, Hullub.)
And, of course, in his first two seasons with the Giants, he got to tell us the story of the final days of Willie McCovey’s career.
And what a career it was! 521 home runs, including 18 grand slams. 1,555 RBIs. 2,211 hits. 1959 National League Rookie of the Year. 1969 National League MVP. 1969 All-Star Game MVP. A World Series-ending liner to Bobby Richardson that merited not one, but two mentions in the comic strip “Peanuts.” Cooperstown Class of 1986.
No hitter was more feared in his time. And in the mind of 9-year-old me, he was a threat to take one deep every time
There was the McCovey Shift, first attempted by the Cincinnati Reds, I believe. And we will always have McCovey Cove, thanks to the efforts of the San Jose Mercury’s Mark Purdy.
And you just know, as soon as he arrived at Pearly Gates Park, he was rushed into the game and hit a home run, causing another HOFer, Lon Simmons to get him on the heavenly post-game show. And whatever question he asked, Willie answered “That’s right, Lon.”
Rest in peace, gentlemen. We’ll carry on somehow.


King to Cooperstown: Holy Toledo!

The word cut through cyberspace and Northern California airwaves much like a Dave Stewart fastball. Or a pass from Ken Stabler to Clarence Davis. Or yet-another perfect Rick Barry free throw.

And, of course, topped off with an emphatic “Holy Toledo!”

Bill King, recipient of the Ford Frick award. Next stop: Cooperstown, 2017.

Of course, this award is for excellence in baseball broadcasting, which he did so well for the Oakland Athletics from 1980 until his death in 2005.

But, for all who have lived and breathed the San Francisco Bay area sports scene since the late 1950s, it’s validation for his work in all three sports. And he may have been better at basketball and football than at baseball.

LA had Vin Scully in baseball and Chick Hearn in basketball, but we had Bill King.

Both are one-trick ponies in many ways in comparison, namely, because they worked just the one sport.

For 50-plus years, he was courtside with the Warriors, behind the plate at the Coliseum or, in the same booth along the 50-yard line, painting word pictures of some of the greatest moments in Bay area sports history.

But beyond the routine of the game, there were the intangibles that even today’s blowed-dried pretty boy broadcasters miss without replay, helped by color analysts speaking in something resembling Sanskrit when it comes to their sport, with their talk of cover-2s, the wildcat and zone vs. man-to-man defense: Defensive switches, substitutions, changes in strategy, you name it.

And not just for the radio audience, but the thousands (like me) who turned off the network motormouths and listened to King describe what we were seeing on TV, before the proliferation of satellites and cable TV made this futile.

Off the air? You’d be more likely to find him at the ballet, opera or studying Russian literature, or, hitting the high seas as soon as NBA season ended, not to be seen again until the Raiders opened training camp.

Oh, those words! So perfect for the occasion, whether it was the defining moment of the game or yet-another tirade against NBA officiating (and we’ll refer you to the books by two of his biggest boosters, Hank Greenwald and Ken Korach, for all the details on the infamous Mother’s Day game).

But why write about them when we can listen:
From the Bay Area Radio Museum, the end of the Raiders-Chargers “Holy Roller” game in 1978:


From YouTube: A few highlights of the 1974 Dolphins-Raiders game mentioned above, the famous “Sea of Hands” game with Clarence Davis in the Promised Land:

Also from the Bay Area Radio Museum site, parts of a Warriors-Sixers game in 1977:

Another touch of the NBA, from a special commemorating the Warriors’ 1975 NBA championship. From YouTube:

From YouTube, what may very well be the last interview with King, orchestrated by KNBR’s Gary Radnich, who’s joined by the great Art Spander and Tony Bruno:

And, believe it or not, a little bit of minor league hockey, involving the San Francisco Seals and the Seattle Totems in a playoff game, doing color along with Roy Storey. Again, via the Bay Area Radio Museum:
http://bayarearadio.org/audio/seals_hockey/sf-seals_seattle-totems_1963-whl-final_ut B32k.mp3

But this is about baseball, of course, so let’s start with an interview with Korach, talking about his book, with another great set of pipes, the Orioles’ Gary Thorne. Via YouTube:


Speaking of Dave Stewart: His no-hitter vs. the Blue Jays, via YouTube:

A’s defeat Red Sox in playoff game on a walkoff bunt:

A’s win 20th straight game on walkoff homer:

Holy Toledo, indeed!