Q and A with Bill Schonely
Who says sports announcing can't be a contact sport? Not Bill Schonely, longtime Portland Trail Blazers announcer, now a team ambassador and the man who gave us the basketball sayings 'Rip City' and 'Bingo Bango Bongo.'
Portland Tribune: The most exciting event you've broadcast is easy, the clinching game of the 1977 NBA finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. But what was the worst event you've announced?
Bill Schonely: Roller derby. It's worse than wrestling. They go around and around and every once in a while they bump into one another and elbow and down they flop. Professional wrestling was more dramatic. I did it because I needed some money.
Tribune: As I understand it, you did more than announce professional wrestling. Didn't you once get in the ring?
Schonely: I was talked into being a part of a three-man tag team, the good guys against the bad guys.
Tribune: Were you a good guy or a bad guy?
Schonely: We were the good guys, the Brunetti brothers and me. I'd been doing weekly wrestling on TV. This one guy used to come out of the ring and give me a bad time as announcer. He picked me up and slammed me on my little table and the Brunetti brothers came to my rescue. Down in the locker room as I was reviving there just happened to be a TV camera. The Brunetti brothers were talking and I was trying to do this interview. They said, 'Shonz, next week we would like to have you be a part of our tag team. We'll take on these guys.'
Tribune: And the next week?
Schonely: I was in the ring. I'd get in a bad predicament and I'd be able to tag either Joe or Guy and they'd come in and rescue me. I'm not proud of it, but I did it.
Tribune: Is it true you stuttered as a child?
Schonely: It was very bad. I'd pick up a newspaper or a book and read out loud slowly and try to breathe better. Singing helped me a great deal. When you sing you don't stutter. I always thought I'd be in a musical career.
Tribune: Your worst broadcasting gaffe?
Schonely: I was doing Pacific Coast League baseball for the Seattle Angels. Somebody was warming up and I said, 'Jones is throwing up in the bullpen.' The guys in the next booth went nuts.
Tribune: Speaking of going nuts, is it true you once punched a fan?
Schonely: I was doing Seattle Totems hockey and they were playing the San Francisco Seals. It was the playoffs, probably 1957 or 1958. The Seals won, but all game long this guy with a little siren kept winding that thing up and standing behind me. And I kept my cool until the end of the game. I was doing the post-game show and he came up right next to my ear and winds that thing up and I'm boiling. I can't concentrate on what I'm saying. I gave a commercial cue, 'I'll be right back, and somebody's going to get a knuckle sandwich.'
I turned around and blasted him. When I came back (on the air) I said, 'You want to know about my knuckle sandwich? I got him pretty good, folks, and he's being hauled out of here.'
Tribune: Different times. But then, you used to make up baseball broadcasts, right?
Schonely: I'd recreate games in the Pacific Coast League. They would teletype it back to Seattle and would give you the lineup and the starting pitchers and a little flavor, the weather tonight and so and so, but all brief remarks.
We had sound effects, for the sound of a bat a little pencil (knocked against the table). 'Here's a high fly ball,' and they'd bring up the crowd noise, and during breaks we would have sound effects, 'Get your hot dogs, get your peanuts and popcorn.' People thought I was at the game.
You were always about two innings behind, so I knew what was going to happen and I could lead up to that point, I could tell a story.
On a couple of occasions I'd be going along telling my story and in would come (on the teletype), 'By the way, Jones did not start the game tonight. It was Peters.' I'd have to figure it out - it was a last-minute change, they changed the numbers of the pitchers and they did not inform us. I'd stickhandle my way out of it.
Tribune: Speaking of stickhandling, any goals still in mind?
Schonely: I want to stick around until (the Blazers) get one of those championship rings. But they'd better hurry, I'm coming up on 83.