Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Les Keiter

Les Keiter, who served as the voice of Hawai'i and national sporting events for more than a half century, died today. He was 89.

Keiter achieved national and local prominence for his booming play-by-play accompanied by folksy catchphrases.

KHON2 news anchor Joe Moore nicknamed Keiter the "General" after a character he played in a "Hawai'i Five-0" episode.

It was a fitting description for an announcer who commanded widespread respect.

"Everybody looked up to Les," said Riley Wallace, a former University of Hawai'i basketball coach. He was old school. He reported only the facts of the game. He always was a friend — to coaches, players, and the fans. He'll be missed."

Long-time Hawai'i sportscaster Jim Leahey said: "He was a terrific guy. He always called you 'Kid.' Even though he was getting aged, his voice was still strong. And his mind was sharp as a tack."

Keiter started his broadcasting career in Hawai'i after World War II, then went on to a successful career in Philadelphia and New York.

He was the voice of Philaelphia's Big-Five college basketball. He also covered major boxing matches, including championship bouts featuring Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston.

After the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to California in the late 1950s, Keiter was hired to do recreated broadcasts of their games for New York baseball fans.

His broadcasts were peppered with pet phrases:

"In-again, out-again, Finnigan."

"Ring-tail howitzer."

"Tickle the twine."

"Back, back, back ... Boom! Off the wall."

"They're wearing their batting clothes tonight."

Leahey said: "We could be here a long time remembering his sayings he used to enliven his broadcasts. When you had the drudgery of recreation, you had to create a whole new world and invite people in."

Keiter returned to Hawai'i in the early 1970s, where he served as voice of the Hawai'i Islanders and UH sports.

He teammed with Moore to launch KHON atop the local news ratings.

Keiter's autobiography, "50 Years Behind the Microphone," is in the baseball Hall of Fame.

Keiter's death comes a day after Harry Kalas died. Both began their broadcast careers in Hawai'i and both became popular sportscasters in Philadelphia.

In 1982, both were hired to announce the first Aloha Bowl.

Lenny Klompus, the senior communcations advisor to Gov. Linda Lingle, was the executive director of the Aloha Bowl.

The deaths of Keiter and Kalas, Klompus said, "remind me of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passing away on July 4 of the same year. Maybe they're calling a game upstairs. I feel like I lost brothers today."

By Stephen Tsai

We’ll miss The General -- by Dave Reardon

Les Keiter remembered

Bill Kwon remembers The General

Ron Mizutani remembers his mentor

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