(Photo by Terence Duffy)

Gary Gerould Offers Some Play-by-Play About His Life and Career

The sports announcer goes off-mic to do his own color commentary

Back Article Jan 17, 2024 By Ed Goldman

This story is part of our January 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Gary Gerould, aka The G-Man, has spent more than six decades as a sports journalist and play-by-play announcer. His greatest gift may be that you don’t have to care that much about the sports he’s covered (basketball, auto racing, sumo wrestling and football come immediately to mind) to be familiar with his name, his distinctively even-keeled voice and his remarkable unflappability — even when he’s standing in an auto racing pit engulfed in flames. (Yes, that happened.)

People who haven’t even met Gerould like him — or at the very least, sense that they would like him if they got to spend any time hanging with him.

That likability is the X factor media owners and station managers publicly pooh-pooh as a hiring criterion, claiming they’re primarily interested in broadcast professionalism. But it’s actually the most important differentiator in who gets and renews their on-air contracts and, unfortunately, who gets shown the revolving door endemic to careers in the radio and television industry. 

Sometimes, even affability isn’t a job guarantor. In 1977, the management at KCRA-TV hired national television consultant Frank Magid, who suggested that the NBC affiliate buy a traffic helicopter. About the same time, the consultant also recommended that Gerould — at 37 years old with a wife, two young children and more than a decade at the station — be laid off and replaced with the sort of sportscaster whose bombastically delivered opinions can inspire saloon fights. 

“Actually, when I caught my breath, it turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to me,” Gerould says today. In his subsequent career, which is still going strong at 83 years old, he’s covered the Olympics as well as motorsports for ABC and ESPN. He’s also served as a pit-lane reporter — yes, where that fire broke out — for the 1981 and 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix. He hosted his own radio show and became the longtime voice of the Sacramento Kings upon the team’s 1985 arrival here from Kansas City. On the day of this interview, he had just signed a new three-year contract to call the games for radio’s KHTK Sactown Sports 1140.

In short, for Gerould, losing his job was a great career move. It brought him fame and financial comfort, and, according to a tourism industry expert, even made him one of the region’s ex officio ambassadors. 

“Sportscasters are the front door to the teams they broadcast about, in so many ways,” says David Eadie, chief of sports and entertainment for Visit Sacramento. “For me, moving to Sacramento in the early 2000s, it was voices like ‘Kruk and Kuip’ (Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper) that turned me into a Giants fan. And Gary — back then in the midst of the Chris Webber era — who turned me into an instant Kings fan for life. 

“I think his voice is the voice of our community — as much as anyone’s is — and you can’t tell the story of Sacramento’s modern history without hearing Gary’s voice. ”

That voice first emerged when Gerould, a native of Midland, Michigan, began his broadcasting life at the age of 15 at a small radio station he’d visit every day. “The people there were very kind,” he says, “and let me shadow them as they did their work.” Within a year of making himself available for any and all tasks, he was given a chance to go on the air. “I had my first DJ job when I was still in high school,” he recalls with a slightly wistful grin. “I knew this was the industry and world I wanted to be in.” 

He never looked back, except, he says, “to be grateful this came my way. Luck has as much to do with opportunity in this business. You learn as much as you can so you’re ready if you get a break. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. I think too many young people today who want a career in broadcasting envision themselves starting at the top.” 

Trim and energetic, Gerould is tucking into a lunch of Crab Louie and a Sprite at the Sutter Club. He’s at the coughing conclusion of a nasty cold that still wouldn’t prevent him from broadcasting a Kings home game the following night. “We have an actual cough switch in the control booth if we feel one coming on,” he says, “so the other announcer can take over. But when I’m on the road, it’s just me. So you learn to kind of push through it.” 

In thinking more about it, Gerould says, “The only reason I’ve ever missed calling a Kings game was when NBC sent me to a big assignment.” He adds, “I have to say, the team’s owners have been great about it — that I’m here when I can be and when I can’t be, I’m not.” What he doesn’t say — because while he’s candid he’s also one of the rare, genuinely modest men in the business — is that the brass no doubt figures having Gary Gerould around much of the time is far better than not having him there at all.

“Gary Gerould is simply one of the greatest broadcasters of all time, and it’s not debatable,” says Dave “Carmichael Dave” Weiglein, popular morning radio host on KHTK Sactown Sports 1140. “But his most interesting talent? He’s actually a better man than a broadcaster. Humble, honest, always has time for anyone. A fantastic sense of humor and someone that looks you in the eye and uses your name when he talks to you, as if there’s nowhere he’d rather be than right there. The influence he’s had on me and countless others in media cannot be overstated, he’s just simply a wonderful human being.” 

“Gary’s low-key, professional play-by-play broadcast differs from many sportscasters, who often pride themselves on theatrics and catch-phrases,” write longtime husband-and-wife fans Paul Donahue and Lori Kammerer in a joint email. Donahue is a retired legislative committee consultant; Kammerer is still in the advocacy game at her eponymous firm.  

“With his calm, iconic voice,” they continue, “Gary simply tells us what’s happening in a manner that makes it a riveting experience.”

Gerould and his wife Marlene have been married 62 years. Their son Bob is also in the sports business; four years ago, their daughter Beth died as the result of a stroke, after suffering from a myriad of infirmities throughout her life. “She was always in pain,” Gerould says sadly. “We were almost relieved when she passed.” 

As for the future and the dreaded “R” word (retirement), Gerould says, “As long as I feel good, and the fans and the team like me, I’ll stick with this. A very long time ago I discovered not only a career but also my passion.” What’s not to like?  

The Fans Have Their Say

- While acknowledging that all sportscasters have “their own unique style,” says Visit Sacramento’s David Eadie, “I think what really sets Gary apart is his ability to pull you in and make you feel like you’re sitting courtside. That’s the romantic artistry of radio — that you have to set the stage, narrate the play, but also give the listener the tools and audible space to color in some of the picture in their own mind. Gary does that as well as anyone.”

- Wanda Peters is both a longtime executive assistant in the Sacramento office of Orrick, the international law firm, and a longtime fan of the Sacramento Kings. Asked what she thinks distinguishes Gerould from other sportscasters, she doesn’t hesitate. “His love of the game,” she says. “I think he’s over the top and makes you feel like you’re right there. She adds that listening to Gerould’s coverage is “the next best thing to being there if you’re not able to attend the game. He brings the game to life on the radio.”

- Self-described “huge fans” Paul Donahue and his wife Lori Kammerer: “Sometimes it seems that we as fans need calm reassurance as our team goes through the paces during a game. If the pitcher is getting shelled, we wanted Vin Scully (the late longtime announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers) to be hand-wringing right there with us, which for some reason made the situation seem a bit more tolerable. Gary Gerould has been pressed into service many times over his storied career in Sacramento — and listening to him on the air has always made it a lot easier to stomach a 60-point loss to the Warriors, or 16 years of no playoff appearances.”

–Ed Goldman

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