Athletics announcer King passes away

Athletics announcer King passes away

OAKLAND -- Bill King, a legendary figure in the local broadcasting world who had served as the A's play-by-play man since 1981, passed away on Tuesday morning at San Leandro Memorial Hospital after suffering a pulmonary embolus.

King, whose travel with the team was limited this season as the result of health concerns, was originally admitted to the hospital last Friday for hip surgery.

"We are deeply saddened by Bill's passing," said A's president Michael Crowley. "He was arguably the most recognizable voice in the history of Bay Area broadcasting."

Also the play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors from 1962-83, and for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders from 1966-92, King was a rarity among announcers who balanced play-by-play duties with three major sports franchises simultaneously. In all, he spent five decades thrilling fans with his vivid descriptions of some of the most historic moments the Bay Area's pro sports.

"One would be hard-pressed to find an announcer who served as the lead play-by-play voice for three major sports franchises for as long as Bill," Crowley said.

King's accounts of Raiders games, including the infamous "Heidi" game against the New York Jets in 1968, the "Sea of Hands" game against Miami in the 1974 AFC playoffs, Dave Casper's "Ghost to the Post" touchdown reception that gave the Raiders a 1977 playoff win at Baltimore, the memorable "Holy Roller" play against the San Diego Chargers in 1978 and "Old Man" Willie Brown's interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl X are regularly replayed and will forever be a part of the game's lore.

When the Philadelphia Warriors moved west to San Francisco following the 1961-62 season, it was the voice of King that introduced professional basketball to fans in the Bay Area and Northern California. For the next 21 seasons, King described the action from courtside during the Wilt Chamberlain era and saw the transition to the Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry eras and beyond. His play-by-play descriptions of the Warriors' improbable run to the 1974-75 NBA championship remain etched in the minds of Bay Area basketball fans.

Because of his immense talents as a football and basketball play-by-play announcer, many thought of baseball as being his third sport. However, after 25 seasons of broadcasting A's games, beginning with the "Billy Ball" teams of the early 80's, continuing through the "Bash Brothers" era that saw the A's make three consecutive World Series appearances (1988-90) and transitioning to the talented A's teams of the present day, King took his place alongside the game's great announcers, both past and present.

"There is nobody better at, or better-prepared for, what he does than Bill King," fellow A's announcer Ken Korach said earlier this year. "He's the gold standard."

King 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 career in the late 1940's in Pekin, Ill., broadcasting Minor League Baseball, along with high school football and basketball games. He later added duties calling Bradley University basketball games, along with Nebraska football and basketball games.

He came to the Bay Area in 1958, when he was hired by KSFO radio to join legendary talents Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons on the San Francisco Giants broadcasts. He also served as the voice for Cal football and basketball games.

A man whose passion for fine wine, food and the arts rivaled his passion for preparation and sports, King will be missed by fans far and wide.

"He was a broadcasting icon and true renaissance man -- in every sense of the word -- whose loss will be felt in many circles," Crowley said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill and his family."

A native of Bloomington, Ill., King lived in Sausalito, Calif. He is preceded in death by his wife, Nancy Stephens, and is survived by his stepdaughter, Kathleen Lowenthal, and her husband Barry of Woodacre, stepson John Stephens of Sausalito, and grandchildren Julia and John Lowenthal.

Memorial services are pending. Those wishing to make donations in memory of King may do so through the Smuin Ballet, 300 Brannan Street, Suite 407, San Francisco, CA, 94107 or the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, P.O. Box 809, Point Reyes Station, CA, 94956.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.