Two hall of fame sportscasters died just two days and a thousand miles apart last week. Fittingly, they were linked by more than a common craft.
Dick Wright, who spent two decades as the “voice of Valley sports” while at KZUN Radio, was an inveterate St. Louis Cardinals fan.
Harry Caray was the St. Louis sportscaster for 25 years beginning when Dick listened to Cardinal broadcasts while growing up in Anaconda, Mont.
Wright used to tell me about his Cardinals love affair during weekly breakfasts we had while predicting the outcomes of college and professional football games for a Vera Power advertisement in the old Valley Herald newspaper.
“Dick’s Picks” and “Mike’s Likes” was a friendly competition that spanned a dozen years. I remember because the first year I blew a substantial lead and Dick took a two-game lead with three pro playoff games remaining.
In frustration, I kicked a Moon Boot sitting on the living room rug. It skimmed over the top of my infant son and broke a glass planter swan at the end of the room.
I had no choice but to disagree with Dick on the final three games. He picked every one wrong. That’s about how many games separated us over the entire time.
The memory came flooding back during Dick’s funeral service last Saturday at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. The church was packed with the friends and acquaintances he had encountered during a 50-year career as broadcaster and advertising executive.
If you were a sportsman, you were there. If you were a politician, you were there. If you lived in the small communities that frequented the State B Basketball Tournament, you were there.
His beloved Gonzaga University basketball team, dressed in warmups, was also there.
Dick had asked that I be a pall bearer. When I saw those who were in attendance, I realized what an honor that was.
Our friendship began 30 years ago and spilled over into the Sportswriters and Broadcasters organization, GSSA banquet and hall of fame committees, in which Dick was inducted in 1991.
We traveled together to Seattle for state football, baseball and basketball tournaments involving Valley schools.
Wright had left KHQ, where he was a news broadcaster, in 1955 for the fledging Valley radio station and immediately found his niche as an advertising salesman. It would be his livelihood while feeding a family of eight children.
But it was sports that made him famous. In his distinct style, Dick broadcasted any high school, community college or college game that he could sell to an advertiser. It included his beloved B’s, the City League and Central Valley, where his children attended school.
He was master of ceremonies at every Valley Chamber sports function or school sports banquet that would invite him.
“Dick’s Picks” and “Mike’s Likes” ended six years ago, but our Monday breakfasts and friendly football competition continued when cancer intervened. I’ll miss them.
If Dick has a say, and he usually did, I’ll be reminded of our weekly get-together next fall when the St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series.