Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A voice from above

The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.

When the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum opened its turnstiles to East Bay baseball fans, there were two voices booming loudly. In the broadcast booth, it was Monty Moore detailing the exploits of the likes of Jim “Catfish” Hunter throwing a perfect game and “helping his own cause” by getting three RBI. A few rooms over, a bushy-haired man sat booming the names to the fans below. That man: Roy Steele.

Dubbed “The Voice of God” by Jon Miller, Steele has been the voice of the Oakland Athletics since 1968. He is the West Coast version of the Yankees Bob Sheppard. Like Sheppard, however, Steele is no longer able to work the Coliseum’s Public Address System.

As a young A’s fan in the late '80s, I can distinctly remember the names of Mark McGwire and Dave Henderson echoing through the Coliseum. It always highlighted the experience of sitting in the stands at the Coliseum. Not to mention the fact that A’s were consistently contending for the Commissioner’s Trophy (World Series Trophy) each year. I have never had the opportunity to meet Roy Steele but I would like very much do.

The reason for this is simple: I met Bill King in 2004 during Spring Training. This is the first and only time I’ve met an announcer in any sport. Because I was a bit out of the loop sports wise, my lauding of Bill King did not resonate the way it should. It also hurt his cause that I wasn’t hearing him broadcast Warriors or Raiders games when I was a kid.

Roy Steele, on the other hand, has been a constant voice I have heard throughout my childhood. I like Dick Callahan -- the current voice of the Coliseum and the Cal Bears -- well enough. He is a jovial sort and does a good job. The problem is that he is the unenviable position of following Roy Steele.

The same is true of Vince Cotroneo who was hired by the A’s after Bill King’s untimely passing in 2005. I can only think of one situation in which the man following a legend did so without a “bump in the road”: Harry Kalas.

In addition to having been the voice of the Phillies since 1971, Kalas became the full-time voice of NFL films after John Facenda passed in 1984. Facenda created many of the great voice over moments in the history of NFL films. For Bay Area purposes, one of his greatest was “The Autumn Wind is a Raider.” The combination of the musical score and Facenda’s voice is what Hawaiians call a “chicken skin” moment.

This only one moment in a sea of other, slower transitions from one voice to another. Like many things, I just miss “The Voice of God” as it hearkens back to a simpler time when Dave Henderson’s name boomed through the stands.

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