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UCLA Hall of Famer Sam Balter Dead at 88

August 10, 1998|GREG SANDOVAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sam Balter, longtime local radio broadcaster and a member of the first U.S. Olympic gold medal basketball team, died Saturday. He was 88.

Balter, the voice of UCLA football and basketball teams and a former Bruin All-American basketball player, died of complications from abdominal surgery, said Steve Sann, a family friend.

Balter, one of five Bruin players on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team that competed at Berlin, was the only Jewish-American athlete to win a gold medal at the Berlin games--the competition in which Hitler and the Nazi's intended to prove Arian superiority.

The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 8.5 points in four games, the fourth-highest average on the team that started the United States' gold medal run that lasted until 1972.

He was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.

"Sam Balter was one of the great all-time Bruins," said Bob Fischer, UCLA's athletic director from 1980 to 1983.

"He wasn't just known for being an athlete, he was an outstanding man. He was nationally known sports broadcaster, one of the first. He was a brilliant man."

Balter was sports director of KLAC radio in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1962 and also worked at KABC radio.

He was a television play-by-play announcer for the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels of the old Pacific Coast League.

Balter worked as an announcer for the Cincinnati Reds in 1942 and in 1950, he did commentary for a game between USC and Utah football teams, the first televised football game in Los Angeles.

He was a charter member of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn., and was elected to the SCSBA Hall of Fame.

Balter was also a longtime sports columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Express and appeared in several movies, including "The Jackie Robinson Story."

Balter is survived by his wife, Mildred, to whom he was married for 67 years; a daughter, Barbara Kahn; and three granddaughters.

Funeral services will be private.

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