Bill King died today after complications from hip surgery.
When I was a kid, Bill King made me want to become a sports announcer. I'd never heard anyone so eloquently master the ability to describe so many sports with such skill. At one point in the early '80s, he was the play-by-play voice of the Oakland A's, the Oakland/L.A. Raiders, and the Golden State Warriors, all at the same time. It was an incredible feat, and he was stellar at each gig.
In 1990, sometime after I determined I'd stand a better chance of making a living as a writer instead of as a talker, I interviewed Bill King for a feature article that appeared in the Bay Area Radio Digest. It was only my second professional feature interview, and I simply idolized the guy. It went off without a hitch, albeit through no doing of my own; he happily responded to each of my lame questions and contently discussed some of the amazing personalities he'd encountered through the years -- Lon Simmons, Hank Greenwald, Al Davis, John Madden. A couple of days later, when I interviewed Greenwald for the same feature, I was far less nervous thanks to the way King handled our discussion. Greenwald shared with me during that interview that King was his best friend in broadcasting.
From 1981 to about 1995 (I'm doing this all on memory here, so forgive me if my exact dates are off), King and Simmons teamed with whomever else the A's would bring in to be the third banana in the booth (including a then-unknown Wayne Hagin, who as radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals got to describe last night's home run by Albert Pujols to the greater Midwest). I've heard past generations talk about how wonderful Simmons and Russ Hodges were on Giants broadcasts from years ago. For my generation, the King-Simmons pairing was as good as it got. To me, at least, that was the sound of baseball. Simmons was recently inducted into the broadcasting wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and King -- who as voice of the A's for 25 years was at the microphone for some of the greatest moments in franchise history -- belongs there with him.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that longtime A's public-address announcer Roy Steele was absent from a handful of A's games due to illness. I remember thinking to myself that A's baseball would have a hard time still being A's baseball without those two voices as part of the packages. One of those voices was silenced today.
Holy Toledo, Bill. We'll miss you.