Holy Toledo! The A's are winning, and Bill King would approve
A new book by A's broadcaster Ken Korach is a wonderful tribute to Bill King, Korach's former partner and a Bay Area broadcasting legend.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was a moment last September when Ken Korach let it go, a moment when he did what he wasn't sure he ever would.
The A's were about to clinch the American League West by finishing a shocking final-series sweep of the Rangers. Brandon Moss drove in two runs to really put the game away. Up in the A's radio booth, Korach said it.
"That was worthy of a Holy Toledo!" he screamed.
It's always dangerous quoting a legend, but in this case, you can bet Bill King would have approved.
King was a Bay Area broadcasting legend, and "Holy Toledo!" was his signature call. It's also the title of a wonderful tribute book written this year by Korach, who was King's partner in the A's radio booth, and then his successor as the A's lead voice after King died in 2005.
Korach writes with the passion of a fan, which he was. He was a kid growing up in Los Angeles when he first heard King calling NBA games for the Warriors.
But Korach also writes with the insight that comes from having spent 10 years as King's partner on the A's broadcasts. And he writes with the help of memories from others who worked with King when he was the voice of the Warriors, the Raiders and the A's.
King was someone you didn't forget, even if you just knew him a little, as I did. He looked different, he sounded different, and his interests were different.
He loved great restaurants and great art, as many do. But King went further, learning to paint and learning to speak Russian, because he was fascinated by Russian history.
He loved food and he loved words and he hated driving, referees, umpires and interleague play. He skipped many trips to Texas, but he had it written into his contract that he could spend extra days in New York.
He was the guy with the crazy mustache, the guy with the distinctive voice, the guy who refused to conform but still managed not to offend.
The personal memories are the best part of Korach's book, but he didn't stick to just his own. He set out to talk to as many people who knew King as he could, and was surprised by how willing all of them were to provide as much time as they could.
"Everybody I talked to had this passion talking about Bill," Korach said.
King had a passion for his work, a passion that came out in his broadcasts. With the A's on another September run, it's easy to wonder how King would have reacted to this group.
"I think he would have really enjoyed it," Korach said. "He really cared about the A's and the franchise. He was emotional. He wasn't a homer, but there was no question he was emotionally invested in the A's.
"He had a remarkable ability to not only describe that emotion but to feel it, too. I think that's one reason the fans reacted to him the way they did, because they knew if he was saying something, he was feeling it, too."
Korach has that same passion when he talks and writes about King, even now, almost eight years after King died at age 78. King worked right to the end, and Korach writes that as the 2005 season wore down, King was making plans to keep working in 2006.
He didn't make it, and for seven years Korach wouldn't dare to use King's signature "Holy Toledo!" on the air.
"Those were sacred words," Korach writes, "although I thought if the A's ever won a World Series maybe that would be an appropriate time to break it out."
He used the words once, on that final day of the 2012 season. He hasn't done it again, not yet.
The way the A's are playing, it could happen soon.