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Cleve Hermann; KFWB Radio Sportscaster


Cleve Hermann, whose calm voice and trademark alliteration defined KFWB sports and features reporting for nearly four decades, died Thursday. He was 80.

Hermann died at the home of his son, Steve, in Redding, Calif., after a fall, said his former KFWB colleague Mitch Waldow, now of KCOP-TV Channel 13.

Unusual in the radio business, Hermann was a fixture on one Los Angeles station from 1952, with only one brief move to KGFJ-AM (1230), until his retirement in 1990. He symbolized continuity as the popular station moved from its rock 'n' roll heyday to its current all-news format.

Hermann was the consummate sports commentator, dispensing the scores, inside information and a barrage of opinions on games and athletes. With his "Live Line to the World of Sports," Hermann could be witty, caustic, sentimental or indignant.

As broadcast contracts limited the reach of radio sportscasters, Hermann branched off into more commentary and a feature program, "At Large in L.A."

He developed his style using alliteration early in his life after reading Philip Roth's "The Great American Novel."

"Roth started me on it," he told The Times in 1984. "I was actually doing it before [former Vice President] Spiro Agnew."

Hermann left KFWB-AM (980) for nine months in 1971 because of an emotional breakdown that peaked when he found himself unable to describe the Los Angeles Open on the air. He spent nine months doing "absolutely nothing" then returned to work as a writer for KGFJ. Eventually, he went back to KFWB.

"I thought of myself as being superbly unsuccessful," he said in discussing his breakdown for The Times in 1977. "I had bombed out of TV, I was doubtful of myself and approaching age 50. It's an age, I've learned, where a lot of men have similar feelings."

Born to an Amish family in Peoria, Ill., Hermann sustained an accident at birth that caused him to lose his left eye. He was known for his signature eye-patch and enjoyed telling colleagues he had been asked to pose for Hathaway shirt advertisements featuring a handsome one-eyed man.

Hermann lived on a Missouri farm as a toddler, but came to Los Angeles with his family before he started school. He grew up in South-Central Los Angeles and by the age of 14 was a sports stringer for the now-defunct Los Angeles Examiner, earning 25 cents a column inch.

Never considering any career but broadcasting, Hermann studied journalism at USC.

"For a brief time I thought about being a preacher or lawyer. Perhaps this influenced my on-air style," he jokingly told Don Barrett, author of "Los Angeles Radio People."

Hermann worked briefly at the Los Angeles Herald-Express and the old Los Angeles Daily News before breaking into broadcasting. In 1948, he began writing for an NBC radio series "Jason and the Golden Fleece" starring MacDonald Carey.

The broadcaster spent the early 1950s working for television as sports director at KNBC-TV Channel 4, producer for local television shows and co-host of a KABC-TV Channel 7 sports discussion series, "Press Box."

When he finally left KFWB, Hermann said he felt bitter toward the news business and wrote--but never published--a therapeutic book titled "Garbage Collector."

Recently, he had been working on a memoir titled "Hollygood."

In the late 1970s, Hermann managed son Steve's rock group Meandyou and proudly told The Times: "Some day I'd like to be known as Steve Hermann's father."

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