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The Vocabulary of Bill King
2005-06-30 15:33
by Ken Arneson

There's nothing better than listening to Bill King when he's cranky.

Listened to the game on the radio this afternoon, and King was in fine form. I was doing some dishes in the middle innings, and only sorta paying attention to the teasing banter going on in the booth, when King suddenly said to one of his radio mates, "Don't be an ass."

There was a moment of silence, as everyone (including me) was rather stunned that King would say that on the air (especially considering that KFRC is now a religious station). Then, just as suddenly, you could hear people bursting into laughter in the background.

If this were someone else, they probably wouldn't have laughed, as the announcer might be looking at some trouble. But this is Bill King. You laugh because you know he can get away with it. After all, this is the guy who four decades ago got away with the infamous "Mother's Day" incident, when, while still on the air, he shouted down an incompetent NBA ref, using a compound word that would get bleeped even today on cable TV.

Bill King can say whatever the heck he wants. If they couldn't stop him before, they can't stop him now, when he's an institution. He can use a phrase like "Katy, bar the door" as he did in the post-game show, and when his younger collegues look at him in confusion, he can just refuse to explain what it means. Bill King answers to no one.

I once heard an interview with King, where he was asked what advice he would have for young broadcasters. He suggested working on expanding your vocabulary, because the more ways you have to describe something, the more ways you have to describe the action in accurate and interesting ways. That's obviously helped King, as I doubt that any broadcaster can match his vocabulary.

When a guy with Bill King's ability to turn a phrase goes on a rant, there's nothing better. Come to think of it, maybe Sandy Alderson took his firm stance and busted the umpires' union, just because he had listened for years to Bill King's colorful opinions about how horrible the officiating was, and became convinced something had to be done. The umps are better now, and King complains less often about them. While baseball is better for it, the broadcasts are not. I miss those umpire rants.

But all is not lost; there are still things that irk King, such as interleague play. A couple weeks ago, Ken Korach mentioned on the air that MLB was considering reversing where the DH was used during interleague play next year: in the NL parks and not in the AL. It was the first King had heard of it, and his reaction was classic:


That sounds just like Selig logic. And that's an oxymoron.

2005-07-01 08:01:54
1.   photogirl
No! I can't believe I missed that?

Kerry Haas :-)

2005-07-01 09:08:25
2.   BayRadioDJ
Bill King is my favorite sportscaster of all time, bar none. My favorite Bill King "blue moment" was his call of the famous Holy Roller play in the Raiders-Chargers game from 1978, which he finished with: "Madden wants to know if it's real. They said Yes, get your big butt out of here. He does! ... There's nothing real in the world any more!"

Bill King is a great baseball play-by-play man, but in a world where football announcers think that the ability to count backward by fives ("He's at the 40, 35, 30 ... 25, 20 ...") is the same as actually describing what is happening, Bil King was unparalelled. Hearing Bill King describe a game on the radio is as good as actually being there live.

2005-07-01 10:56:22
3.   photogirl
So true! Even when I'm at the game,I'm dialed into 610am. It's not the same without Bill!

Kerry Haas :-)

2005-07-01 13:48:29
4.   chuie
While I respect Bill King, I support the new DH scheme. For a couple of years, I've thought that would be the way to go. I mean, if you're AL and your pitchers have to hit, at least let them do it in front of a friendly crowd. If you're in an NL city, you might rather face pitchers than DH's because you might stand a better chance of winning, but is it better baseball?
2005-07-02 17:30:31
5.   Ken Arneson
I'm sure it's better business; nobody's gonna pay to see a pitcher hit, but some people might pay to see a DH hit.

I'm not sure it makes much difference to the overall quality of baseball, though.

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