The King and I


I’ve also taken issue whenever someone is referred to as a “character”. For whatever reason, I’ve always interpreted the definition of a character as someone who goes through life as some type of outlandish, larger-than-life entity. While that may be all fine and dandy in some eyes, I’ve always felt that it diminished the legacy of the person it inherits. However, having character is horse of a different color entirely.

Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Character is what the late, great voice of the Athletics Bill King possessed in spades. There are no words with sufficient meaning to properly describe the impact Mr. King had on my love of baseball and the A’s. Until his passing in 2005, his name had been synonymous with A’s baseball and his voice was a constant through my childhood and on into the early stages of my adult life. Throughout the years I would listen intently to his clever wordplay and stirring translation of the games events. It really didn’t matter who was beside him in the booth, whether that be his longtime partner Lon Simmons or later Ken Korach; his connection and chemistry perfectly intertwined with them both and created the ultimate transcription of a live ballgame.

This is why it comes as a great delight to report that Ken Korach has teamed in conjunction with Wellstone Books to publish Lessons From Bill King, Renaissance Man of the Mic set to be released in the near future. From what can be gathered from the official Facebook page, Korach has been working arduously in cooperation with Bill’s family to “offer a personal take on a memorable man whose passionate evocations of sporting events inspired so many of us to love language and love sports.”

Although I have yet to preview the book, I can make an educated guess that it will touch upon his storied career broadcasting for the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors. More importantly as the title states, Bill King was also a renaissance man. In his lifetime, he dabbled in sailing, was an expert on history, a voracious reader and an accomplished painter. His interests knew no bounds, and his career in sports broadcasting was really just the tip of the iceberg.

For longtime A’s fans, I hope this book will bring back memories of man who was an integral part of the organization for 25 years. For younger fans and those who didn’t necessarily grow up on the A’s, I hope this book provides a fascinating insight into a truly talented human being who made the most out of his time on this planet. A lesson we would all do well to remember.

In writing this article, I thought it would be appropriate to share my favorite Bill King memory. The crazy thing about this memory, is that it’s from a now forgettable game from September of 2005. At the time the A’s were clinging on to dear hope in the Pennant Race, a late season surge has catapulted them into contention for the division title and on the heels of the Angels. Unfortunately they had been knocked down to Earth by an untimely four game losing streak, and were facing a sweep at home against the lowly Mariners on September 7th.

Down 7-3 heading into the bottom of the 9th, things looked grim for our hometown heroes and a continuation of the losing streak looked likely. Miraculously, Oakland would string together a series of hits and walks off the tandem of J.J Putz and “Everyday” Eddie Guardardo tying the game at 7 on an Eric Chavez 2-run double. During the escalation of events, Bill King became more and more animated as the inning progressed. His voice reaching an enthusiastic fever pitch, as the A’s merry-go round of base runners began to turn the momentum of the game. The excitement proved to be too much for me, as I was forced to exit the highway after driving furiously to my college campus for my evening class. I found a quiet street to pull over, turned off the engine and gave my full attention to Bill as he described the final moments of the game. School could wait. After a pitching change, the A’s loaded the bases with two outs against Jeff Nelson as he settled in to face Nick Swisher. In a patented Swisher at-bat, he loaded the count against the lanky sidearm reliever and coaxed a walk to bring in Jay Payton with the game winning run sending the Coliseum and Bill into hysterics.

As my memory recalls, it went something like this:

"And here’s the pitch…BALL FOUR and the A’s Win! In an incredible comeback victory the Athletics have rallied from a four run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to win 8-7! Like Lazarus rising from the grave, The Athletics have overcome the most dire of circumstances heading into the final inning of a must win game. They avoid the loss! They end the losing streak! And they stay a game and half off the Angels pace! HOLY TOLEDO!"

Holy Toledo, Indeed. Here’s hoping to see you in Cooperstown one day.