It’s a warm summer’s eve and the air is perfumed with the scent of sausages and beer. Suddenly a booming voice punctuates the stillness. “Now batting…third baseman Kevin KOOOOOOzmanoff.” A chorus of KOOOOOOOS ascends from the stands as the crowd mimics the announcer, sitting high in his perch above home plate.
Dick Callahan is the man in the cat bird seat – the stadium voice of the Oakland A’s. His tools are his vocal chords and his work ethic. He prepares for each game as if it were his first, making notes and learning player pronunciations well before the first pitch.
But this is far from Callahan’s rookie year behind the microphone. At 69, his resume reads like a who’s who of sports, having announced everything from Warriors Basketball to college sports at Cal and St. Mary’s. And to think he got his start with a “little white lie”.
“The announcer for my college team didn’t show up for a game,” he recalls, “and they said ‘have you ever done a game before?’ I said yes, even though I hadn’t.” It was the old catch 22. You needed experience to get a job, but you needed a job to get experience.
That was in 1961 and Callahan made $5 a game that season. Today he makes considerably more – although still not enough to survive on – unless you like peanuts and Crackerjack. Luckily, his “day job” is running the successful Kosich and Callahan Insurance Services in Lafayette.
His office walls are decorated with jerseys and photos, sports plaques and awards. Many are from his years with the Warriors – from 1981 – 2000. It was during that time that he developed his famous “SHOOOOOOO –TING TWO” when a player was standing at the free-throw line. “It was so well accepted, I still hear from people all around the country,” Callahan says of the call. It served as his signature and it quieted the crowd, and it hasn’t been done successfully since. “The guy who replaced me tried to do it and they booed him.”
Over almost five decades, Callahan has had some great stories to share. Like the time Kobe Bryant walked up to him during a game, leaned in and said “watch this”. With 9 seconds left and the Lakers up by 2, Kobe got the rebound and jammed it through the hoop for the win. “I said how did you know you were going to get it? ‘It didn’t matter, he said. I was going to get it.’ Now that’s confidence.”
Callahan knows what he’s talking about – and even gives talks on confidence at conferences and colleges. But even he was feeling the pressure, May 9th, when A’s pitcher Dallas Braden was closing in on his perfect game. “I was a wreck in the 7th inning,” he says. “I thought I was going to mispronounce a name. I didn’t want to screw it up.”
Braden’s game was perfect and, not surprisingly, so was Callahan’s. Both had worked hard to get to that moment in time. And for an insurance salesman from the sleepy town of Moraga, it would be one more great story to tell from a job that’s seemed more like a dream.