St. Louis lost a broadcasting icon in 2017 when pioneering sportscaster Bill Wilkerson passed away at the age of 72.
Wilkerson’s career spanned over 4 decades and is most remembered for his work at KMOX radio where he got his start and made his name.
Big Red fans remember Bill calling Cardinals games starting in 1973 and continuing until the team left in 1987. He also served as color commentator for the baseball Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Spirits basketball, and was the longtime play by play voice of the Missouri Tigers.
Bill broke color barriers when he became the first African American analyst in NHL history and later the first to do full-time play-by-play for an NFL team. He worked alongside broadcasting legends like Jack Buck, Dan Kelly, Bob Costas, Bob Starr, and others. He was on the call for the infamous “Fifth Down” play in 1990 when Colorado beat Mizzou by scoring the game winning TD as time expired. He also called the largest fourth quarter comeback in NFL history when the Cardinals scored 28 points to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-28 in 1987.
Bill’s first game with the Big Red came in a 1973 preseason contest in San Diego. He was serving as the color commentator with Bob Starr doing play by play.
“I was determined to give the audience some information,” he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “I over prepared. Every time Bob Starr took a deep breath I jumped in to relate some of the facts I had accumulated.”
After the game he asked Starr how he had done.
“Fine,” Starr said. “You certainly were prepared. But could we get by next time with a little less information?”
Enjoy some of Bill’s greatest calls in this highlight video and listen to Roy Green, Ron Wolfley, and Jim Omohundro talk about Bill in a 2017 podcast.