Broadcaster 'Buddy' Blattner dies at 89
Robert G. "Buddy" Blattner, the radio voice of the NBA's St. Louis Hawks in the 1950s, including their championship season of 1958, and a longtime baseball broadcaster, died Friday at his home in Chesterfield from complications of lung cancer. He was 89.
Mr. Blattner was not just a broadcaster. He played parts of five seasons in the major leagues, starting with the Cardinals in 1942, and was a table tennis champion, winning the world men's doubles championship in 1936 in Prague. In addition to broadcasting the Hawks, he was the voice of the Browns, the Cardinals, the Los Angeles/California Angels and the Kansas City Royals.
He also founded the Buddy Fund in 1962, an organization that continues to supply athletic equipment to underprivileged children in the St. Louis area.
"As an announcer, he was superb," said Ed Macauley, who played for the Hawks. "As far as basketball was concerned, he knew a lot about the game. He studied the game and talked to the guys about the game. His delivery was great. His voice was always friendly. He was never screaming. Everyone liked him. He never took cheap shots at anybody."
Greg Marecek, the local broadcaster who has written two books about the Hawks, said: "Buddy had the best voice of any basketball broadcaster in history. He probably had the best voice in St. Louis history."
Mr. Blattner, who went to Beaumont High, was a table tennis standout as a youth his father managed a table tennis club and he traveled the world playing table tennis before giving it up for baseball. He was 22 when he made his big-league debut as a second baseman with the Cards in 1942 and went one for 23 that season.
He served in the Navy from 1943-45 and when he returned in 1946, he played for the New York Giants as their starting second baseman, batting .255 with 11 homers and leading the league in being hit by pitch with six. He played two more seasons with the Giants and then finished his career with one season with the Phillies in 1949.
His playing days over, he began his broadcasting career with the Browns, working alongside Dizzy Dean, and did the Game of the Week for ABC and CBS. He broadcast the Browns until the team moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season.
But it was basketball where Mr. Blattner became popular among St. Louis fans, as the voice of the Hawks. Working from the second deck at Kiel Auditorium, he gave the players nicknames Cliff Hagan was Lil Abner and was recognized for his signature call after a referee had called a foul. Mr. Blattner would say, "They're walking the right way!" or "They're walking the wrong way!" depending on whom the foul had been called.
"He was instrumental as far as being a major part of the St. Louis Hawks in that era," said Al Ferrari, who played for the Hawks from 1955 to 1962. "Things were going so well and he was every bit as important as any of the players, primarily with his nicknames. He made the fans feel so close, he made a love affair with the fans and players. He was so instrumental to having that great run that we had. It would not have been possible without him behind the microphone."
He worked alongside Harry Caray doing the Cardinals in 1960, then did the Angels from 1962 to 1968 and the Royals from 1969 to 1975.
A memorial service will be held at 11:15 a.m. on Sept. 12 at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, 45 West Lockwood Avenue.
Among the survivors are his wife of 68 years, Barbara; three children, Barbara Lynne Young, Deborah Anne Knop and Donna Jeanne Whitcomb; seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Buddy Fund, 16017 Hunters Way Drive, Chesterfield, Mo. 63017.