By: Oregonian Live
Trail Blazers founding broadcaster Bill Schonely accepts Curt Gowdy Media Award (The Oregonian, 9/6, 10:01 p.m. PT)
Bill Schonely, founding broadcaster of the Portland Trail Blazers, accepted the Curt Gowdy Media Award on Thursday night at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
His acceptance speech:
Bill Walton told me I can speak as long as I want. Thank you, Bill.
I've known the guy forever. I'm going to tell you a story about him in a little bit, but, thank you all, and thank you to the Naismith Hall of Fame and the Basketball Memorial Museum.
And first and foremost, to the late Curt Gowdy, for which this award that I am receiving tonight and into the Hall of Fame, is named. One of the truly great voices of our time. You know, Curt was a basketball guy, many, many years ago before he had the opportunity to do Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox, the National Football League, "The American Sportsman."
And I became a friend of his, many years ago. We've conversed upon occasion. And it was there that I learned a great deal. We sat down and talked with one another about the broadcasting business and how to tell the story of the event that you were broadcasting. And I tried to do that all my life.
I got into basketball after I thought I was going to have a career in Major League Baseball. I had been doing Pacific Coast League baseball for a long time, Seattle Totem hockey out in the Northwest, the California Golden Seals of the National Hockey League, and then finally, the Seattle Pilots -- the ill-fated Seattle Pilots, who lasted just a shade over a year in the city of Seattle.
And the now-commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, coerced the American League in that time to take that franchise away from the city of Seattle because they didn't have a new stadium on the drawing board at the time. And so, I had the opportunity to go to Milwaukee, but I decided to stay in Seattle for my radio and television work.
There was a gentleman by the name of Harry Glickman. I owe a great deal to Mr. Glickman. He put the franchise the Portland Trail Blazers together and put them on the map back in 1970. I had known Harry through our hockey association, and then, he called me when he found out that I was still in Seattle and not in baseball, and he says, "Schonz, how would you like to do NBA basketball?" ...
Well, I was so involved at the time with other things, I didn't have a chance to get involved in the NBA. Well, I had a Major League Baseball broadcasting job, and then, maybe, an NBA job. So I went from Seattle to Portland, talked to Harry. We talked for about five minutes, shook hands -- and that was 43 years ago. And I owe a great debt to him.
And also, my partner with the Pilots in baseball, it was a gentleman -- you old-timers will remember this because he's one of the great voices of our broadcasting era -- Jimmy Dudley, who is now enshrined, as I am going to be enshrined, but Jimmy's in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and tonight it's happening to me, and I know the little guy is saying, "Way to go, Schonz," and I owe a lot of debt to him. He always used to say, his final tagline was, "So long, and lots of good luck, ya hear?" because he was a gentleman from West Virginia, and I owe a great deal to him.
So basketball has become a very big part of my life over a period of time. Harry Glickman said one time, he said, "Now that you're a Portland Trail Blazer, you've got to put a radio network together, you've got to get a TV station, and we'll go on from there." Well, we worked on that, and it kept growing bigger and bigger and bigger.
I owe a lot to my wife, Dottie, who's sitting back there, and both of our families. We were childhood sweethearts, departed for a long time, have been married for a long time, and I love her very much. And she's sitting there. And my kids always knew because Dad -- you broadcasters would know this -- you were out there, on assignment, doing whatever event you were scheduled to voice, but the kids could always turn on the radio or watch television and say, "Hey, that's my dad." I wasn't always there for each and every thing. But that was my life, and a lot of the broadcasters' life.
And I just tried to tell the story of the game. Each and every night, every day, there was always a story -- the beginning, the middle and the end. And you never knew how it would turn out.
And as I mentioned, this would be my 43rd year with the Trail Blazers. My thanks to the coaches, the players, all of the broadcasters who are enshrined already. And there are a great list of outstanding voices in the game -- Curt Gowdy, of course; Marty Glickman; the great Johnny Most; Dick Enberg; Marv Albert; Bob Wolff; Bob Costas; Dick Vitale; Al McCoy, Phoenix; Joe Tate, Cleveland; Hubie Brown, who's here tonight; and, of course, my dear friend, the late Chick Hearn.
And there are many, many more. I am so proud to be a part of that enclave in the Hall of Fame. And great names in our franchise: Rick Adelman, Geoff Petrie, Jack Ramsay, Lenny Wilkens, Maurice Lucas, the championship team of 1976-77 ... we had a great story.
And speaking of a story, and I mentioned Bill Walton at the outset. I've got to tell you a story.
It was the year before our championship season. Lenny Wilkens, the great Lenny Wilkens who is enshrined in the hall, was our coach. We were in Philadelphia, at the Spectrum, at the shootaround the day of the game. And that particular year toward the late, Walton was hurt. He didn't play for a long period of time. We're at the shootaround and Lenny gathered the team around -- I happened to be at the shootaround that day -- and he said, "Walton, are you going to be able to play or not?"
"No, Coach, I don't think I can play, maybe by the time we get home after this road trip I'll be able to play, but not tonight."
He said, "That's enough! I've been waiting for you to tell me you can play, we need you out there. If you can't play, I don't want you to sit on the bench, I don't want you to be anywhere near the team tonight. If anything, go over and sit with Schonz."
Lo and behold, that night, I'm doing the broadcast. I didn't have, in those days, a long time ago, didn't have another voice with me, the guy that would do the commentary. It was me.
So Walton sat down with me. Now, if you recall the story of the great Bill Walton, he had a stuttering problem, a terrible stuttering problem. And his days at UCLA, John Wooden, in essence, would not allow Bill to come out of the locker room after the game and be with the media because he could not express himself. And so that went on in the early days of the Portland Trail Blazers franchise.
And then, as he sat with me that night, he had so many good things to say about the game of basketball, which he loves and I love and everybody in this room loves. And that whetted his appetite to get into the broadcasting business.
So he spent time with me, we worked on things. He got the great Marty Glickman and other people to help him. And as time went on, he began to express himself more and more, and better and better.
And lo and behold, now that he can talk, we can't shut him up. I love him, Bill Walton.
So my thanks to the committee, who had the chance to give me the selection tonight, and the fans, some of my family is over there, some of the fans from Portland are here tonight, and our front office, and that's great, they're terrific. ...
I thank you very, very much for allowing me to be here tonight.
I came up with the phrase, not only Rip City, but I used to end the broadcast a lot of times with, "You've got to make your free throws." And that's true.
I think I made a couple of more. Thank you very much.