Chuck Thompson: 1921 - 2005
'A class all to himself'
Broadcaster: The Hall of Fame announcer came to Baltimore in 1949 and won over the hearts of the city.
Chuck Thompson called Orioles games for the better part of five decades and worked 30 years as a play-by-play announcer for the Colts. He died yesterday morning at 83. (Sun file photo / September 27, 1991)
Mr. Thompson, known for his catch phrases "Ain't the beer cold!" and "Go to war, Miss Agnes!" came to Baltimore in 1949 to broadcast the games of the International League Orioles and never left.
"He was a joy to work with," said Vince Bagli, Mr. Thompson's longtime announcing partner with the Colts. "He was the best who ever worked in this area. Other than [for] Brooks Robinson, the best ovation [at an Orioles game] was when they said that Chuck Thompson was going to Cooperstown."
Said former Colt Tom Matte, now a radio analyst for Ravens games: "In my opinion, he was probably the greatest announcer I've ever known. He had a class all to himself. He had the greatest voice in the world."
Mr. Thompson died at 8:17 a.m. yesterday. He was stricken shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday at the Mays Chapel home he shared with his second wife, Betty, and was rushed to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, according to his brother-in-law, Fred Cupp.
Craig Thompson told reporters at GBMC yesterday that his father died "very peacefully, in his sleep," with his family by his side.
"This city of Baltimore has lost a good friend," Craig Thompson said. "And the sports media has lost one of the greatest voices of all time."
He asked that the news media respect the family's privacy and said it will be releasing more information in the coming days.
Mr. Thompson's health had declined in recent years. In 2000, he was forced to stop calling play-by-play on Orioles games part time because he suffered from macular degeneration, which made it impossible for him to read documents or follow the ball. He also suffered from some dementia and short-term memory loss, his brother-in-law said.
"He was without a doubt a giant in the business," said Jim Hunter, a current Orioles announcer. "As far as I'm concerned, he'll always be the voice of the Orioles. He was Mr. Oriole. You could even argue as much as Brooks [Robinson] and Cal [Ripken Jr.] were."
Veteran sportscaster Ted Patterson featured Mr. Thompson in two of his books, The Golden Voices of Baseball and The Golden Voices of Football.
"He was a throwback to an era when the broadcasters painted the pictures," Mr. Patterson said. "And he was tremendous at it."
In 1993, Mr. Thompson received the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award, which, while not signifying induction into the Hall, is the highest honor a baseball announcer can receive.
"It was well-deserved," Mr. Bagli said. "It was overdue. But he never had the national profile. He never wanted to leave here. He had chances. But he loved Baltimore."
Said former Orioles manager Earl Weaver: "He did his job, he did it every day, and he did it as well as anybody could do it. He's going to be remembered, and there are going to be a lot of tapes that will still be played of some of Chuck's calls during all those fantastic years that the Orioles had."
To the day of his death, Mr. Thompson's voice could be heard on radio in commercials for a number of local companies.
Mr. Thompson was born in Palmer, Mass., on June 10, 1921. His family moved to Reading, Pa., in 1927, just before he began first grade.
While in high school, Mr. Thompson worked as A singer with dance bands, earning $1 a night for singing eight songs and $5 for a New Year's Eve gig.
Earning $5 a game