Talking with … The radio voice of the Oakland A’sby abra cohen
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Name: Ken Korach
Home: Henderson, Nev.
Profession: Oakland A’s radio play-by-play announcer
J.: You’ve done radio for the Oakland A’s for 18 years, the last eight as the lead announcer, and have been a sports broadcaster since 1981. How did you get into it?
Ken Korach: It was a combination of falling in love with broadcasting and being exposed to sports by the time I could walk, literally. I was around sports at an early age because my dad was a baseball and basketball coach. I grew up in Los Angeles and was enchanted by the magic of games that you could pick up from out of town on transistor radio. When I moved to the Bay Area in 1979, I got a job [soon after] in Sonoma County at a tiny little station [KTOB] that no longer exists. I started by working four hours a week on Saturday morning making minimum wage.
KK: My Jewish background ties into my exposure to sports. Sandy Koufax was a big star for the L.A. Dodgers. I grew up in a Jewish household and my grandmother, who came over from the Old Country, knew nothing about sports, and yet whenever Koufax pitched, it was a holiday. I was very close with my grandmother and we had Shabbat dinner at her house every Friday night. When you were Jewish and grew up in L.A. during a time in which Sandy Koufax was really blossoming, you were very aware of your own religion and how important he was in the Jewish community.
J.: What announcers did you look up to when you were growing up?
KK: Vin Scully, who was and still is the voice of the L.A. Dodgers. He has been broadcasting for the Dodgers since 1950. He is a legendary figure and a real idol of mine. I was also heavily influenced by Bill King, the legendary Bay Area sports broadcaster. King was the influence for writing my book last year, “Holy Toledo: Lessons from Bill King, Renaissance Man of the Mic.” California was really fertile for great influences for an aspiring broadcaster.
J.: The baseball season runs roughly from Passover through the High Holy Days. Do you ever opt to not work on Jewish holidays?
KK: I’ve worked on Yom Kippur, and it has been something I’ve been conflicted about. There was one time when we were late in the season when I actually didn’t work a game on Yom Kippur. But for a lot of us in baseball, that is a conflict that you need to deal with. It takes a lot of Jewish people who work in baseball to confront that. I’m not saying I’m proud of it, but it’s the way I’ve dealt with it, and yet, I don’t know if it will always be the way I will deal with it.
J.: You spent many years calling A’s games alongside the late, great Bill King, who earlier called Warriors and Raiders games. What inspired you to write “Holy Toledo”?
KK: The genesis behind the book was not only the influence that Bill had on me, but also that we spent 10 years working together. And no one had really written his story.
J.: Bill’s famous catchphrase was “Holy Toledo,” and you like to say, “Watch it fly” during A’s home runs. How did that come about?
KK: I’ve never set out to have catchphrases, but these kinds of things just happen. If you stay up at night trying to think of something catchy for people, it can really sound contrived and I want whatever I do to be authentic. People talk about my home run call “Watch it fly.” I don’t even know where that came from. But at book signings, people have asked that I write “Watch it fly” in their book.
J.: In your career, are there any games that stick out?
KK: We have been really fortunate with the A’s to have a lot of postseason experience. They’ve made it to the postseason seven times in the last 14 seasons. The postseason is riveting — an energy that you can’t replicate in the regular season. Also, [A’s pitcher] Dallas Braden’s perfect game in 2010. Calling that game in the ninth inning, my stomach was churning as much as it has ever been. And in 2002, when the A’s won 20 consecutive games.
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