Bill King was one of a king, and he was always the Bay's own. (Courtesy Oakland Athletics)

Bill King was one of a king, and he was always the Bay's own. (Courtesy Oakland Athletics)

Bay Area legend receives due credit

Yes, Holy Toledo! What else would we say? What else could we say? Except that those who vote on the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, got it right at last.

They’ve chosen the late — to add great, would re redundant — Bill King.

The Bay Area’s Bill King. You couldn’t be much more Bay Area than living on a houseboat in Sausalito and going to the ballet and opera in San Francisco.

The Athletics’ Bill King, because it was with the A’s beginning in 1981 he gained the job he always wanted and in the process made us understand his perception and perspective of the so-called national pastime.

The Warriors’ Bill King, because it was with Golden State his rapid-fire descriptions and personal preferences perhaps first attracted our attention. And oh how could he chastise the officials.

The Raiders’ Bill King because it was with Oakland he had rollicking good times as the voice of a franchise as irreverent and unpredictable as the man himself. Dare we call him the silver-and-black tongued devil?

He also was Cal’s Bill King, because after arriving from the Midwest he worked Golden Bears football, in 1958 at the L.A. Coliseum stripping down to swimming trunks before a game against UCLA. And he also was the 49ers’ Bill King.

Most of all he was our Bill King, unconventional, unequivocal and unequaled, as adept at describing a jump shot by Rick Barry as an aria by Giacomo Puccini.

His trademark phrase, “Holy Toledo,” was the ultimate confirmation something beyond the ordinary had taken place.   

Now, indeed, it has.

King was one of many — what a wonderful group of announcers we’ve had by the Bay: Lon Simmons, Jon Miller, Hank Greenwald, Ken Korach, Tim Roye, Greg Papa and so many others, including Al Michaels.

King was one of a kind, a renaissance man, a Triple Threat whose versatility — basketball, football, baseball — surely worked against his winning the Frick award for the longest time.

King was 78 when he died in October 2005 of a pulmonary embolism. Not that he would appreciate any mention of his age.

Bill didn’t want to be Peter Pan. He didn’t even want to live forever. He just believed we were more concerned about when a person was born than what he or she had accomplished.

“You would always see so-and-so is 57 or 32,” he told me once, “and immediately you’d create in your mind what a 57 or 32-year-old looks like. And so from the time I was about 35, I didn’t want any mention of that number. I just hated it.”

He also hated rock music at ballparks — please, an organist, not Mick Jagger — and all games in Texas, where the weather was humid and the mosquitoes humongous.

King became an announcer almost accidentally when he was stationed in the Pacific at the end of World War II. He had been a catcher at Bloomington  High in downstate Illinois, where teammates included the actor McLean Stevenson and football coach Pete Elliott,  and a few months ago was chosen for that school’s Hall of Fame.

In at least one way Bill was ahead of his time. He grew the Van Dyke beard in the early 1960s. It kept him from appearing on KTVU telecasts of Warrior games — the viewers would be frightened? — and also got him accused of being the devil by an angry lady on a street in Milwaukee. Now virtually everybody has facial hair.

It took a while, but society finally caught up to Bill King. So did the Baseball Hall. Holy Toledo!

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

Bill KingGolden State WarriorsOakland AthleticsOakland Raiders

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Charles Joseph, who is represented by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, is facing deportation to Fiji. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Giving immigrants a second chance after incarceration

Legislation would allow some faced with deportation a chance to challenge their old convictions

The San Francisco Police Department released body camera footage of the alleged assault on Dacari Spiers. (Via SFPD Body Cam)
SF police officer to stand trial for assault over baton beating

A San Francisco police officer who prosecutors say unnecessarily beat a man… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed announced The City’s return to the red tier for COVID-19 precautions at Pier 39 on Tuesday<ins>, March 2, 2021</ins>. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
San Francisco enters red COVID tier, indoor dining to resume

Museums and gyms can reopen with capacity limits

Cole Odin Berggren, community programs director and drum and DJ instructor at Blue Bear School of Music in The City, holds a JackTrip device, which he says has greatly improved students’ experience of making music online. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
COVID-era musicians beginning to make connections

Software eliminates pesky delay plaguing most systems

Under the new plan, Twin Peaks Boulevard would be reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists until Christmas Tree Point.	(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board approves new plan for Twin Peaks Boulevard

Cuts vehicle-free space by half. Neighbors say crime, vandalism will still abound

Most Read