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Irv Kaze, 75; Radio Sports Talk Host


Irv Kaze, who after a multifaceted career as a sports executive became an award-winning radio sports talk show host, died late Saturday night after suffering a heart attack. He was 75.

Kaze was taken to Glendale Memorial Hospital after collapsing in a Glendale restaurant. He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead about 11:30 p.m.

Earlier Saturday, he had done his regular weekly talk show, "Irv Kaze on Sports."

Kaze, who had the distinction of working for both George Steinbrenner and Al Davis during his long and distinguished career as a sports executive, seemed to know just about everyone in sports.

And everyone seemed to know the affable Kaze.

As a result, he was able to land some of the biggest names in sports as guests on his radio show over the last 10-plus years.

Kaze began doing his show for KRLA-AM (870), formerly KIEV, in April 1992. John Wooden was his first guest, and was back on his 10th anniversary show during this year's NCAA Final Four weekend.

Six times Kaze was named L.A.'s best radio talk host by the Southern California Sports Broadcasters. His show was the longest running sports talk show in this market.

Kaze was born Sept. 2, 1926, in Worcester, Mass. His family moved to Brooklyn when Kaze was 1 and after his father died six years later, he and his mother moved in with his mother's parents in Jersey City, N.J.

Kaze went to high school in Jersey City and attended New York University.

While in college, he worked as a sportswriter for the New York Post.

He later moved to Southern California and did publicity for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He moved up to the parent Pittsburgh Pirates when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to L.A. in 1958.

With the Pirates, Kaze helped develop the "save" rule in baseball for relief pitchers.

He also spent two years with CBS Sports in New York, during which time he helped develop the "checkered" center line for the National Hockey League, which the league still uses.

He returned to L.A. as the first public relations director of the Los Angeles (now Anaheim) Angels.

When Davis became commissioner of the American Football League in 1966, Kaze joined his staff.

After the AFL merged with the National Football League, he became business manager and assistant to the president of the San Diego Chargers for seven years.

Other baseball stints included time with the National League as administrator for communications. Among his responsibilities was the development of the league's centennial program and promotion, which included a CBS-TV film on the league's 100th year.

Turning to basketball, he served as vice president and general manager of the San Diego Clippers during the team's inaugural years.

Kaze returned to New York to be the media relations director for Steinbrenner's New York Yankees.

Kaze rejoined Davis when the Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982, and served as the team's senior administrator for eight years.

Kaze had both a Super Bowl ring from his time with the Raiders and a World Series ring from his tenure with the Yankees.

He later served as commissioner of the Continental Basketball Assn.

Besides being honored by the Southern California Broadcasters, Kaze was honored by the New York Baseball Writers Assn. He was also a member of the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Broadcaster Keith Olbermann, who is now with ABC Radio, said, "He was such an extraordinary man and I have known no one in his field who worked so long yet preserved so much of his humanity and good humor."

Olbermann said that his eulogy for Kaze today on his "Speaking of Sports" program would include the comment: "There was no stadium or arena in this country where there wasn't a crowd of people glad to see him, and another privileged to meet him."

Kaze is survived by Barbara, his wife of 17 years; son Benjie; two grandchildren, and five step-grandchildren.

A private service will be held today. A public memorial service will be held later.

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