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Lowell Cohn: 'Holy Toledo,' a book that celebrates legendary broadcaster Bill King

It was that gorgeous voice in my ear. If silk could speak it would be this voice coming through the phone to me.

It was Ken Korach talking, Korach the voice of the Oakland A's. I'd listen to him read a menu, something I've done, by the way. But it wasn't Korach talking about Korach. It was Korach talking about Bill King, his former broadcasting partner on the A's, King a legend among Bay Area broadcasters and fans, and this book soon to be a legend among sports books.

Korach wrote a book about King called, of course, "Holy Toledo," King's signature phrase. I can hear Bill shouting it right now — "Holy Toledo!!!!"

God, I miss him. I bet you do, too. What a great announcer he was in basketball, football and baseball. And what a great guy.

So many people miss him as friend, a mentor, an authority on just about everything: sports, haute cuisine, Russian literature, art — he was a connoisseur of art and a painter. Bill King crammed seven lifetimes into his one life — he hated to sleep. And Korach amazingly captures all seven of those lives in this lovely, loving, joyful rendering of Bill, published by Wellstone Books.

Korach and I talked over the phone recently and we immediately got to 'Holy Toledo,' the phrase. "It was instantaneously a trigger, a trip back in time to when I was a kid," Korach said, becoming a kid again for a moment. "When I worked with Bill, he would say Holy Toledo. And I would say to myself right there in the booth, 'Hey, that sounds like something Bill might have said in 1966.'

"Holy Toledo was like an exclamation point. This is really important. Bill led you to a certain feeling this was beyond the normal event sense of amazement. And Bill had so much credibility he wouldn't just throw away a Holy Toledo gratuitously."

I asked Korach what made the words Holy Toledo special.

"They came off Bill's tongue the way he wanted," Korach said. "For all of his interests and all he loved to do, he got the greatest kick out of speaking and broadcasting. Nothing in his life could replace having a mic and doing a game — talking. He loved the act of broadcasting. Holy Toledo, it had to be the number of syllables. They were the perfect way for him to form that exclamation."

Bill was a stickler about words. Take what happened between Korach and Bill one day in the booth. Here is Korach from the book, page 215: "I used the word 'forte' and pronounced it for-tay. He gave me one of his serious Bill looks. 'I thought you knew better,' he said. 'What's that, Bill?' 'For-tay is OK to some people, but fort is the proper way to say it,' Bill replied. 'If you want to get it right, the way the word was meant to be said and should be said is fort.'"


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