CLEVELAND, Ohio — The late, great Joe Tait will be watching and calling the CSU Vikings NCAA tournament game from the great press box in the sky with the best view, for W.R.I.P.
The Hall of Fame voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Indians passed away March 10, at age 83 after battling kidney disease and cancer.
That March sadness followed the CSU Vikings making the “March Madness” NCAA tournament the night before when they won the Horizon League Championship beating the Oakland Grizzlies 80-67.
“This is for the Viking Nation and the city of Cleveland. This is for them,” said Viking’s coach Dennis Gates.
In 1986 the Vikings first made it to the tournament and the ‘sweet 16′ under coach Kevin Mackey. The last time they made it was in 2009. Led by coach Gary Waters they upset Wake Forest. Will the third time be the charm?
Anytime time Joe Tait called a game in any sport for any team it was a charm for listeners. From the time a college speech professor first sent him with a tape recorder to do the play by play of a Monmouth college basketball game, to his final game as voice for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011.
At the recommendation of Cavs coach Bill Fitch, Tait was hired to be the voice of team, which he was from their founding in 1970 until 2011, with the exception of the 1980-81 season, when he was fired by infamous owner Ted Stepien.
In that year away from the Cavs, Tait called Len Barker’s ‘Perfect Game’ for the Cleveland Indians.
“He was there as the Cavs stumbled through the early seasons and when they reached the NBA Finals in 2007. He called the Miracle in Richfield in 1976 and The Shot by Michael Jordan in 1989. He interviewed every player from Austin Carr to LeBron James and every coach from Bill Fitch to Bryon Scott. He was the link to the team in victory and defeat,” wrote Mary Schmitt Boyer for Cleveland.com
Of all the seasons and games Tait called for the Cavs he said among the most meaningful were games 5 and 7 of the 1976 ‘Miracle in Richfield’ playoff series, and the team’s first year.
“I miss that very first year, when we went 15-67, and everybody ate together, traveled together, went to the movies together on off days. We were like Custer’s Last Stand. We knew if the other team showed up, we were going to lose. You became very, very, close to those goes,” recounted Tait in a 2002 interview with The Plain Dealer.
That cherished memory of the team’s humble beginning speaks to the character of the man who would go on to call the games of wunderkind LeBron James.
It also makes me imagine Tate doing the play by play of Custer’s Last Stand and surviving.
Tate was born in 1937 and grew up on a farm in Amboy, Illinois. It was when he went to Monmouth College with aspirations of being a sportswriter that a speech professor heard the sound of a different destiny calling and sent him to call the College’s basketball game with a tape recorder that would later be replayed in the Student Union Hall.
During his long career, Tate also called games for the Cleveland Barons, Rockers, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, CBS College Basketball Game of the Week and Indiana University Football.
The Basketball Hall of Fame gave Tait the Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2010. The same year he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is in 6 other Halls of Fame, including the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Tait was also named Ohio Sportscaster of the Year in 1974,’76,’78,’91,’96,’99,2002 and 2004.
Tait’s customary opening line was “It’s basketball time at…” His closing line was “Have a good night everybody.”
It’s Tait time. Have a good day everybody with good memories of Joe Tait.