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Bill King, 78; Bay Area Broadcaster Was Voice of the Raiders

October 19, 2005|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Bill King, a Bay Area broadcasting legend who was the radio play-by-play voice of the Raiders football team for 27 years -- including 11 of the team's 13 years in Los Angeles -- died early Tuesday of complications after hip surgery. He was 78.

Starting in the Bay Area as an announcer for the San Francisco Giants in 1959, King was by 1981 the voice of three major teams: the Raiders, the Oakland Athletics baseball team and the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

A spokesman for the A's, with whom King was employed at the time of his death, said King died at a hospital in nearby San Leandro several days after undergoing surgery for an injury he had suffered earlier this year when he tripped on luggage in his Phoenix hotel room while with the A's during spring training.

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

"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.

Ken Korach, King's partner in the A's broadcast booth the last 10 seasons, called King's death devastating.

"He just meant so much -- a true icon, a renaissance man, a one-in-a-million kind of a character, and I mean that in a positive way," Korach said.

Rich Marotta, who became King's broadcast partner when the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, said: "I have worked with some great broadcasters -- Bob Miller, Ralph Lawler, Tom Kelly -- and no offense to those guys, but Bill King was the greatest broadcaster I was ever associated with.

"No one else could pick the perfect phrase out of midair the way Bill could. People just don't know how amazing this guy was."

Marotta said King first had hip problems in 1992 and missed the second half of the season after undergoing hip-replacement surgery.

He left the Raiders after that season, ending a 27-year run, because of a salary dispute with Nederlander Sports Marketing, which took control of the radio broadcasts from Bob Speck Productions in early 1993.

Nederlander hired Joel Meyers to do the Raiders' radio play-by-play.

Meyers, who is now with the Lakers, said Tuesday that he got to know King in 1983, after moving from St. Louis to San Francisco to become sports director of Bay Area radio station KSFO.

"He was the Chick Hearn of the Bay Area," Meyers said. "He was a great person and great announcer. And basketball may have been his best sport."

King was the announcer for the Warriors for 21 seasons.

King, who was a native of Bloomington, Ill., moved to the Bay Area in 1959. From 1962 on, he wore a waxed handlebar mustache with a goatee.

King was preceded in death by his wife, Nancy Stephens.

He is survived by a stepson, John Stephens, of Sausalito, and stepdaughter, Kathleen Lowenthal, who drove about 80 miles round-trip to pick up King from his home in Sausalito and deliver him to the Oakland Coliseum for games this season. Other survivors include two grandchildren.

Memorial services are pending.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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