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KEN WILSON
St. Louis Blues Announcer

KEN WILSON: BLEEDING BLUE FOR 20 YEARS

By Pam Droog Jones

“Oh baby!”

Nobody articulates those two words quite like St. Louis Blues play-by-play announcer Ken Wilson. “It just came to me naturally,” he explains. “It’s not like I tried to come up with something.” Actually, Wilson says, his wife heard him say the phrase during a game and suggested he say it more often. He decided to use it as “a big exclamation point,” he says. “I don’t say it for its own sake and I don’t say it every game. I save ‘Oh baby!’ for when something exceptional is happening.”

Something exceptional did happen recently when Wilson announced his 1,500th NHL game during his 20th season as a member of the Blues broadcast team. “Others have been around longer than me, but 20 years broadcasting for the same team, that’s fairly unusual,” Wilson acknowledges. “It’s the result of good fortune and perseverance.”

Wilson also believes two decades behind the mike have allowed fans to get to know him. “It’s like a friendship,” he says. “It grows and endures and allows me to be a little bit broader in terms of my personality.”

Blues fans dote on Wilson’s outgoing personality and depth of knowledge about the game of hockey. The Detroit native, however, dreamed of becoming a baseball player. Although he was an all-city player in high school, “I was a long way from being real good,” he says. So he went to college and majored in journalism, becoming a disk jockey at the campus radio station. “I didn’t know a thing about broadcasting,” Wilson says. “I had the voice and that helped a little. But I felt comfortable there and felt I could possibly be successful at it.”

After graduation he attended business school in Honolulu. But Wilson’s priorities changed when he did his first play-by-play broadcast for the Hawaii Islanders, a Triple A baseball club. During his seven years in Hawaii, he became sports director at the NBC affiliate in Honolulu, hosted a morning radio sports show and developed only the second sports talk show in the U.S.

“But the time came when I asked myself, ‘Do I want to stay here forever, or pursue a real play-by-play career in the majors on the mainland?’” Wilson remembers. In the end, he decided to go for it, moving to Seattle to announce Mariners baseball for six seasons. Then it was Chicago Blackhawks hockey, and Cincinnati Reds baseball.

Then came the call in 1984 from Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., which was a part owner of the Sports Time Cable Network. “They asked me to announce the Reds games on cable. They also asked me to leave the Blackhawks and do St. Louis Blues games.”

In 1985 Wilson moved to St. Louis, but continued to supplement his Blues duties with calling games for the California Angels and Oakland A’s. But in 1998 Wilson devoted himself exclusively to St. Louis and the Blues. “I felt 22 seasons in major league baseball was good enough,” he says.

Fans believe Wilson’s enthusiastic announcing style goes way beyond good enough. “It reflects how much I love hockey,” he says. “I try to be very descriptive. That’s essential on the radio and even on TV because folks have trouble seeing the puck and identifying players.”

Outside the booth, Wilson and his wife, Marlene, have three sons, Ryan, Grant and Keaka, and one daughter, Sophia. An avid reader of sports publications, he enjoys exercising, running and golf. Wilson is also managing partner of the River City Rascals, a minor league baseball team he founded in 1999, based in O’Fallon, Mo., and an investor in the Gateway Grizzlies minor league baseball team in Sauget, Ill.

But like thousands of fans, Wilson bleeds blue. “Blues fans are very ardent and loyal. They’re hungry to win a Stanley Cup. It’s frustrating but kind of an adventure to get to that final destination,” he says. “In the meantime players, owners, coaches, even announcers may come and go, but St. Louis Blues fans will carry on. It’s a wonderful phenomenon.”

TALKING POINTS

Born: Detroit, Mi.

Education: B.A., University of Michigan.

First blues game: A 4–2 win at Calgary, Oct. 11, 1984.

Favorite Places:
Hawaii, England, T.R. Hughes Ballpark, and Ted Drewes in St. Louis.

Favorite Movies: “Mystic River,” “Avalon,” “Tootsie.”

Favorite tv programs: David Letterman, news.

Last Books Read: Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years In Baseball; Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age by Dan Kindlon.

Favorite sports moment: the seventh game in the 1968 World Series at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals vs. the Detroit Tigers; any NHL game at Olympia Stadium in Detroit.

Favorite restaurants: Citizen Kane’s in Kirkwood; Mulligan’s in Ballwin.

Best Things About St. Louis: Easy living and the Gateway Arch. “It’s a nice little river town—and that’s a compliment.”


Pam Droog Jones is a freelance writer based in Jefferson City, Mo.
 

 

 


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