Oakland A's fans lost their beloved announcer Bill King on October 18, 2005. For those that tune in to every game, he was as familiar as a close family member. Fans will always remember the "Holy Toledo!" calls and the quips about dome stadiums, artificial turf, and the heat in Texas.
With all his decades of unmatched service, Bill King is a hall of famer by any standard. Join other A's fans in the effort to nominate him to the hall by clicking on the link below.
Bill King's Biography
Bill King (born 1927(?) . October 18, 2005) was the radio voice of the Oakland Athletics for twenty-five years (1981-2005), the longest tenure of any A's announcer since the team's games were first broadcast in Philadelphia in 1938. Prior to joining the A's, he had been the radio play-by-play announcer for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders football team and the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors basketball team for many years.
Arguably the most well-known and best recognized sports announcer in the San Francisco Bay Area, King was born in Bloomington, Illinois and was stationed on the island of Guam at the end of World War II when he began his broadcasting career with the Armed Forces Radio Network. He launched his sportscasting career in the late 1940s in Pekin, Illinois, broadcasting high school football and basketball games as well as minor league baseball games. He later announced basketball games for Bradley University and basketball and football games for the University of Nebraska.
King moved to the Bay Area in 1958, when the San Francisco Giants baseball team hired him as an announcer, together with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons. He also announced University of California football and basketball games during those years.
A major turning point in King's career came in 1962 when the NBA Philadelphia Warriors moved to San Francisco and hired King as their play-by-play announcer. King announced Warrior games from 1962 through 1983, through the Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, and Rick Barry eras, and the team's only NBA Championship on the West Coast in 1974-1975.
In 1966, while continuing to call Warrior games, King was hired as the play-by-play announcer for the Oakland Raiders, then of the American Football League, a post he held until after the 1992 season. For a time, he commuted to Los Angeles when the Raiders relocated to Southern California from 1982-1994. He announced the Raiders' three Super Bowl victories, as well as countless other memorable games.
Arguably, King's most famous call came during the Raiders' September 10, 1978 game against the San Diego Chargers. In the final seconds of the game, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler fumbled the ball forward, and Dave Casper grabbed it in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown. King's description:
"The ball, flipped forward, is loose. A wild scramble. Two seconds on the clock. Casper grabbing the ball. It is ruled a fumble. Casper has recovered in the end zone. The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play. Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here. He does. There's nothing real in the world anymore. The Raiders have won the football game."
Though carrying a substantial workload as the announcer for two professional sports teams, King was persuaded by the new owners of the A's to become their lead announcer in 1981. King continued to call Raider and Warrior games, though he retired as the Warriors' announcer after 1983 and as the Raiders' announcer in 1992. For the first fifteen years as A's announcer, King was paired with another long-time Bay Area sports announcer, Lon Simmons, with whom King worked briefly with the Giants in 1958. He was there during the "Billyball" and "Bash Brothers" eras, as well as the Moneyball era of today.
Former Athletics' announcer Greg Papa, who worked alongside King for thirteen years, says of King: "Bill is without a doubt the best radio play-by-play announcer I have heard in all of sports. His energy, preparation, his thoroughness, his word choice---he is without peer."
King was often described as a renaissance man who was a voracious reader, loved to watch the ballet and opera in his spare time, and study Russian history. King was known on broadcasts for his catchphrase "Holy Toledo!" and recognized by his distinctive handlebar mustache and beard. He lived on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, and would often go on long sailing trips in the baseball off-season.
Bill King died of a pulmonary embolus in San Leandro, California on October 18, 2005. He refused to reveal his age and was thought to be 78 years old.
On November 1, 2005, in conjuction with the Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, and Oakland Raiders, a private ceremony celebrating the life of Bill King was attended by friends, family, and the media at the Arena in Oakland. There were performances by the Smuin ballet, and tributes from Bill's former broadcast partners. Hank Greenwald who worked with Bill during his Warriors tenure was the master of ceremonies.
The most memorable tributes were from Hank, Ken Korach, and Raiders owner Al Davis. In his speech, Korach mentioned Bill had three rules in his broadcasts. He hated it when an announcer mentioned a "grand slam home run" because saying home run was redundant. Second, Bill disliked the usage of saying "early on" (the word "on" was improper grammar). Third, Bill never liked to be thanked by his broadcast partner when he "tossed" to him for his innings. Korach said, "sorry partner, but thanks for everything."
Al Davis had arguably the most commanding and entertaining eulogy. When he first met Bill at Raiders training camp in 1966, he didn't know what to make of the small statured King with his handlebar mustache and beard who sat shirtless, sitting on a blanket and holding a yellow pad making notes of what the players were doing on the field. Davis said, "You've got to be kidding me! What could this 'little fella' possibly know about football?"
"To think it was Bill King who brought us together," Davis said, noting it's a rare day when all three Oakland teams are represented in one room. Davis sat at the same table with Warriors Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
"Bill King never played for the Oakland Raiders, nor did he play for the Los Angeles Raiders. Nor did he wear the famed colors of silver and black. If he had worn them, he would have worn them with poise and with pride and with class, because he was a star."
Davis spoke that Bill gets a cloak of immortality because time never stops for the great ones.
It was Al's dream to have built a sold out stadium that seated 1 to 2 million and all the Raider fans would be listening to the voice of Bill King.
Bruce MacGowan of KNBR also had a moving speech about how he met Bill King through Lon Simmons and even worked as a Raiders statistician in the early 70's. He once asked Bill for a ride home and MacGowan noted how beat up Bill's car was. On the drive to Marin County, Bruce noticed there was a draft yet the windows were rolled up. To his dismay, there was a hole in the floorboard by his feet. MacGowan asked how long Bill had been driving his car. King replied, "I just got it a week ago, no sense in paying more than $250.00 for a car."
Besides the tributes, there was a Bill King "uncensored" segment which really opened up some eyes as the audience heard Bill's off-air banter with his broadcasters that included some rather colorful language. The best segment was the actual audio call of the "Mother's Day" incident from the Warriors game at Seattle on Dec. 6, 1968. King was outraged by poor officiating from official Ed Rush in his rookie season. After several calls had gone against the Warriors, King took off his headset, turned off his microphone, cupped his hands and yelled a certain expletive at Rush. Unbeknownst to King, the crowd mic was on and Bill's insult went over the airwaves. The Warriors were assessed a technical foul and owner Franklin Mieuli later had to pay the appropriate fines to the FCC for the incident.
Years later, King would receive a Mother's day card from Ed Rush with a note stating, "nice to share a moment with you from the past and by the way, do you know how hard it is to buy a Mother's day card in December?"
From now until December 1, fans can nominate Bill King to the Baseball Hall of Fame, an honor long overdue. http://baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/frick/index.asp
As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, "King was believed to be 78. The lack of knowledge of his exact age was one of the many quirks that made King one of the great characters in Bay Area sports."
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