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Stanley L. Spero, 86; KMPC Exec Helped Put Together the Angels

July 18, 2006|Ross Newhan | Special to The Times

Stanley L. Spero, a longtime executive at radio station KMPC who in 1961 helped Gene Autry quickly assemble a professional baseball team called the Los Angeles Angels, has died. He was 86.

Spero died Saturday of complications from a blood disorder at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, his wife, Harriette, said.

From 1960 to 1998, Spero was involved in the Angels' everyday operations as the ad sales and general manager of KMPC and KABC, which broadcast Angels games.

He also had a minority interest in the Angels and was dispatched to New York to sign advertising sponsors when Autry was given 11 weeks to assemble a management team and sign players before spring training.

When the Angels won the World Series in 2002, Spero expressed regret that "Gene and the other fellows responsible for the team's success aren't here to enjoy it."

Autry sold the team in 1996. He died in 1998, the same year Spero retired.

Gary Owens, the longtime KMPC personality who is now at KKGO, called his 20 years working for Autry and Spero "radio heaven."

Spero "embodied everything a great salesman should be. The whole business is going to miss him, but not just the radio business. He lived for sports in this area, and especially the Angels," Owens said.

Johnny Grant, a former on-air personality at KMPC and the longtime honorary mayor of Hollywood, told The Times on Monday that Spero's "influence will be felt around L.A. radio for a long time."

Spero was "the best salesman I ever met in my life, but he was also a man of integrity," Grant said. "You could go to the bank on his word. He also loved counseling young radio people."

Born in 1919 in Cleveland, where he ushered at Cleveland Indians games in what was then Municipal Stadium, Spero graduated with a bachelor's degree in public administration from USC's School of Government and spent 46 years working with Autry at his Golden West Broadcasters.

Spero served as general sales manager at KMPC, Golden West's flagship radio station, from 1953 until 1968 before becoming general manager and vice president of Golden West. He had responsibility for marketing and selling sports properties, which included the Angels, the Rams and UCLA, from 1979 until 1994. By that time, Autry had sold off most of the components of Golden West. Spero worked in marketing at KABC from 1994 until his retirement in 1998.

Long after his financial interest in the club had expired, Spero frequently made the drive from his Westlake Village home to Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

He attended his last game two weeks ago and often called friends to discuss the team's play.

Spero said he "was fortunate to be there for the birth of the Angels, fortunate to work for a station at which baseball was one of the primary properties and fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with Gene Autry."

"I always regarded it as a labor of love," he said upon accepting the Southern California Sports Broadcasters' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

In addition to his wife, Spero is survived by daughters Laurie Asjes, Lisa Dieffenbach and Leslie Spero-Schneider; stepchildren Stacey Powells, Victoria Powells-Conway and Robert Powells; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Eden Memorial Park, 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. Instead of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Concern Foundation for cancer research, (323) 852-9844, or the Autry National Center, (323) 667-2000.

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