Bill Walton is a national treasure

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Bill Walton was tapped to provide color commentary for Friday Night’s Angels vs. White Sox game. For those of you who might not know, Walton is the father of former Warriors assistant coach Luke, and he himself is a former NBA player and has been doing basketball broadcasting ever since.

Walton says he used to have a hard time speaking in public because he had a speech impediment that he has since overcome. Listening to him on Friday night, however, you never would have known. Walton exuded the confidence of a man who didn’t know what he was talking about and didn’t really care. He was a free spirit. And it worked.

Walton joined the White Sox booth on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, wearing extremely bright Sox branded tie dyed t-shirts with a mindset to match:

It’s almost a crime to try to describe the experience rather than just letting Walton speak for himself. But I’ll give it a shot, since this is a website for the written word.

There aren’t many people who could come into a baseball broadcast booth to call a game and get away with basically learning the sport on the job. But Walton’s infectious enthusiasm and larger than life presence made the experience charming in a way that very few others could ever pull off.

Some highlights:

  • Calling Wellington Castillo’s slide into second base “the epitome of Usain Bolt.”
  • Wondering why they didn’t retire Rod Carew’s position when they retired his jersey number.
  • He enthusiastically called a double play ball on a third out.
  • This quote:
  • He praised the defense as a Mike Trout home run was sailing over all of their heads. After which, he asked “That’s Trout?” and went into a soliloquy about trout making their way upstream and out through the universe.
  • He seemed to lobby for players to be able to punch each other to get an out? I think it was more that he didn’t think the tag should have to be made with the ball, but he used punching as the example, seeming to frighten his fellow broadcaster just a bit.
  • He got to call a James McCann grand slam for the Sox as well, and though he had some trouble with the terminology, he nailed the enthusiasm for the moment, before adding “Put Ricky in the Hall of Fame today, after his contract extension.” Still not 100% clear on that one, but I guess we’ll allow it.
  • He was later absolutely perplexed about why the same two teams would face each other two days in a row.

Walton’s partner in crime for this game, Jason Benetti, had actually worked with him before, and had this to say about him at the time:

“His mind is a playground, an orchestra and a volcano all rolled into one. It is impossible to think of someone who takes the audience and his broadcast partner on more of a journey through the world, and to have that next to me is an honor and a treat.”

And I don’t think there’s a better way than that to sum up the experience. You can appreciate some of it for yourself here:

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Sami Higgins


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