I first became familiar with legendary sports broadcaster Bill King when he was doing the Warriors basketball games on the radio. No need to spend money and buy a ticket. Bill gave you the best seat in the house with his beyond descriptive play-by-play account. When Bill was at the mic, even in such a fast-paced game like basketball, I felt I always knew where all 10 players were at any given time. That alone is genius, a word not that is not an exaggeration when used in the same sentence as Bill King. When he exclaimed, ‘Heartbreak roll,” you could see the ball spinning agonizingly around and out of the basket. My favorite part of the broadcasts came when the referees went astray, at least from the keen perspective of Bill. When the ref simply watched while an opposing player charged over a Warrior, an exasperated King would cry out, “He drew a complete mental blank!”
His work on Raiders games was equally brilliant. Again, it was his precision with words and obvious deep knowledge of the sports he covered that allowed him to paint a moving picture of what was going on down on the field. When wide receiver Warren Wells caught a last-second TD pass to beat the Jets in one of those typical Raider thrillers, I remember King saying if some script writer had come up with this ending, he’d be kicked out of Hollywood because it was so improbable, or something to that effect, but it captured the moment so accurately. I write about Bill King now because A’s announcer Ken Korach has written a book being released this week that tells the story of this unique and marvelous man. The title is “Holy Toledo: Lessons from Bill King, Renaissance Man of the Mic.” “Holy Toledo” was his trademark, used at the biggest moments in the biggest games.
Everyone knows Bill for his work broadcasting the Warriors, Raiders and A’s. But I also remember him for calling one of the biggest home runs in the 55 years of the Giants-Dodgers West Coast rivalry. The Giants entered the final scheduled game of the 1962 season one game behind the Dodgers. The Giants were home against Houston. In the fourth inning at Candlestick Park of a scoreless game, Giants catcher Ed Bailey drove a Turk Farrell pitch over the right field fence. With Lon Simmons gone that today to do 49ers football, substitute Bill King was in the booth with Russ Hodges, and made that dramatic call, which still remains alive today on the “Giants Win the Pennant’ album that can still be found online. By the way, Houston tied it 1-1, but Willie Mays won it for the Giants with a home run in the eighth. The Dodgers fell to St. Louis, forcing a playoff.
My congratulations to Ken for his book, and my thanks forever to Mr. Bill King for sharing his gift with us.