I vividly remember the last time I listened to the A’s on the radio and got a classic Bill King moment. It was Sept. 7, 2005, when the A’s scored five runs in the bottom of the 9th to turn a 7-3 deficit into an amazing 8-7 comeback victory over the Mariners. Hot-headed Seattle reliever Jeff Nelson was the goat of the game and King punctuated his end-of-game call with that legendarily scratchy, excitable voice by saying, “… and they better get Nelson out of here before he burns the joint down!”
It was vintage Bill King. Sure, it wasn’t the most memorable game or even his greatest call as an announcer. But it was off-color, funny, unpredictable, and startlingly honest – it was exactly the kind of line that made King so loved by Oakland fans. He was a smart guy who didn’t suffer fools, he was innately rebellious and eccentric, he had a pathological inability to B.S. the listener and he had a fairly serious issue with authority. In other words, he fit like hand in glove with his Oakland fan base.
Six weeks after that A’s-Mariners game, he died at the age of 78 due to complications from hip surgery in a San Leandro hospital.
King was a broadcasting legend in not just one, but three sports – all of them based in Oakland. He worked for the Raiders from 1966-1992; for the Warriors from 1962-83; and for the A’s from 1981-2005. Remarkably – and sadly – he is not in the Hall of Fame for ANY of those sports.
Hopefully, we can help change that.
King was a Oakland baseball icon who was truly irreplaceable. He’s gone. And Oakland A’s fans miss him a lot. But his one-of-a-kind announcing style and all the memories he helped create will live on forever.