The Class Act; U.S. Women Prevail
One of the classiest and most accomplished broadcasters in Bay Area sports history passed away last week.
Don Klein was the voice of Stanford football and basketball for 24 years before moving to the 49ers, where he did play-by-play for six years before retiring. He also served as sports director of KCBS for over 30 years.
Don was something of a good luck charm, calling two Rose Bowl wins (1971 and ’72) for Stanford and two Super Bowl championships (1982 and ’85) for the 49ers.
And he was lucky in his own life, landing the job he always dreamed of and marrying his high school sweetheart, Jeanne. They were together for 72 years before she passed away in 2017.
I had the honor of working with Don for several years when I was sports information director (SID) at Stanford. I first met him in 1968, when I was sports editor of the Stanford Daily, and was immediately struck by how different he was from most broadcasters.
Many TV and radio types are loud, egotistical, and arrogant. They always know more than the coach, love to hear themselves talk, and won’t hesitate to shove past the ink-stained wretches from the newspapers to position their microphones and cameras.
Don Klein was nothing like that. He was a humble, low key, wonderful man. He was courteous, old-school. He’d never disrespect a coach or writer or SID. Any criticism he offered was mild and almost apologetic. He was incredibly appreciative of anything you did for him, even simple things like arranging an interview or mailing a credential. He was a gentleman.
On the air, he was the consummate professional. Always prepared. Never flustered. Not a screamer. He felt the game was the story, not the announcers. His well-known protégés included Barry Tompkins and Bob Murphy.
Don and I became good friends and spent a lot of time together during Stanford football and basketball road trips. I even got to do a little radio commentary with him on away basketball games.
We worked very closely with John Ralston during the Rose Bowl years and later with Bill Walsh. Bill offered both of us opportunities when he became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. After much discussion with my wife, Christy, and many sleepless nights, I decided to stay at Stanford.
Don also agonized over his decision. When he finally decided to leave, he came into my office, closed the door and quietly explained to me that as much as he loved Stanford, and as much as he appreciated all the university had done for him, he felt this was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Walsh had told him that the 49ers were going to the Super Bowl.
It turned out that he was right.
In his first season with the Niners, 1981, Don got to call “The Catch” and the radio broadcast of their Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
World Cup Winners: I've never been much of a soccer fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the U.S. women's team's 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the World Cup Final yesterday.
And it was nice to see Megan Rapinoe, who had to endure absurd attacks on her patriotism after a little dust up with Donald Trump, and former Stanford stars Kelley O'Hara and Christen Press playing such important roles throughout the tournament.
The back-to-back world championships, along with raucous crowds and high TV ratings, provided some additional ammunition for the team's gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. The disparity in pay—not to mention ability—between the U.S. men and women is embarrassing and needs to be rectified immediately.