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Holy Toledo! Bill King definitely was an artist

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POSTED December 30, 2008 12:46 a.m.

During my college days, I recalled a substitute English instructor who made a Bill King reference.

With that she quickly grabbed my attention, thus, halting my classroom doodling.

I grew up with King as the “voice” of both the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors.

He died in October 2005 from complications of hip surgery. His passing was a great loss, particularly for those of us who were raised hearing King’s familiar staccato delivery on the airwaves.

Described as a versatile and tireless radio broadcaster, King was part of the Bay Area sports scene since 1958, serving as the voice of the San Francisco Giants following their move from New York.

And up until the time of his death, King worked with the Oakland Athletics for 25 years and, at one time, handled all three sports simultaneously.

But his work with the Raiders and Warriors will always be near and dear to me.

For those were the days when sports stood in the center of my universe.

This college instructor was able to describe King’s work during a fast-paced pro basketball game. She mentioned the legendary broadcaster had the knack to not only call the action on the court but also describe then-Warrior coach Al Attels’ distinct deep “basso profundo” voice, as one writer put it.

Bill King had a way of pointing out the little things to the listeners.

Those particular moments had a way of sticking in my mind.

I can remember driving south of Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Stockton, listening to the Oakland broadcaster describe the bone-chilling temperatures in Cleveland during the 1980 AFC Wild Card game.

“My can of Diet Pepsi (sitting on the ledge of the press box for about a minute) is nearly frozen,” said King amid a rather close playoff game between the Browns and Raiders.

He was at his best when the action was fast and furious.

I always thought the pace of baseball was a bit too slow for Bill King, who was the voice of the A’s during the era of Billy Ball, the Bash Brothers and Moneyball.

Still, he was much better than the folksy, down-home style of the other Oakland Athletic broadcaster Monte Moore, at least in my opinion.

Much in the airing of sports has changed over the years, with broadcasters of today seemingly trying too hard to find their style for that signature moment.

Today, many are former players or coaches influenced by the likes of John Madden or the crew at ESPN and the other cable networks.

Bill King’s passion made him special, according to his colleagues.

Long before Sports Center, he emphasized his point with the familiar “Holy Toledo” while calling memorable games such as the “Holy Roller,” “Immaculate Reception,” “Ghost to the Post,” or “Sea of Hands.”

It took an English instructor for me to take notice of an artist at work.

Bill King could paint the airwaves like no other.

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