Since his college days at UCLA, Bill Walton has been as well-known for his vibrant, eccentric, creative, and downright bizarre way with the English language. He’s one of the fascinating figures in the history of basketball, and while his voice is only heard for college basketball these days, he remains a fan-favorite of NBA fans who grew up hearing his theatrical blazoning of the game of basketball.
Recently, however, Walton took his television talent to a different sport. Here are some of his most memorable calls from the game.
“I’m Bill, and this is my friend, a true giant among us, a brilliant genius, one’s who is able to create beauty — beauty out of darkness… and your name?”
This is how Bill Walton started his baseball broadcasting career, by forgetting the name of Jason Benetti. He is long-winded, excessive, and bafflingly charming.
A Bill Walton broadcast often ends up being just as much about his strange diatribes as it is about the game. He is, after all, the man who constantly would compare players on the basketball court to process works of art and seems to have an endless knowledge of every locale he announces from.
This was just the first sentence, however. The ensuing game against the Angels and the White Sox offered gem after gem.
“I love timelessness. You’re timeless.”
A staple of Bill Walton’s commentary is his flattery of his fellow announcers. ESPN’s Dave Pasch is his typical announcing partner and often has a hard time keeping up with a man whose brain operates at a seemingly impossible speed on another realm from reality. Despite forgetting his name at the beginning, Walton put on the charm for Jason Benetti early on.
“I’ve been dead for many years.”
With this one, Benetti showed his improvisational chops, however, by responding, “And we all may be by the end of the night.”
This type of banter is a staple of a Walton broadcast, and even when he is watching a sport he may not know much about, it is up to his broadcasting partner to be able to keep some semblance to the in-game announcing, and they often have with humor such as this.
“I’m not a very good catcher. I’m much better at getting high, than getting low.”
Bill Walton’s reputation as a stoner has been with him since his playing days. He is, after all, a man who consistently wears tie-dye shirts and tours around with The Grateful Dead.
While we might not know how much of this is an act, it has become a part of Walton’s entire persona, and it is one that he wears as a badge of honor.
“Look at him run. That is the epitome of Usain Bolt right there.”
Bill Walton said this as Wellington Castillo, a player whose sprinting speed, according to the MLB‘s stats page, is about as poor as can possibly be ranked. That didn’t stop Walton from drawing this comparison, however. He is, after all, no stranger to the occasional hyperbolic comparison.
“Swimming upstream, avoiding all the flies, and sending one ricocheting through the universe.”
This poetic language is what makes Walton unique. On the fly, when Mike Trout sends the ball into homerun territory, he has a poetic pun just waiting to be used for the exact moment.
Whether it came to him and he was trying to find the opportunity to use it, or it came to him at the moment, Walton is a wordsmith that few athletes-turned-commentators can touch.
“I apologize on behalf of the human race for destroying your broadcast, and I hope I don’t ruin your career, which [I] think I already let that bus go by.”
Bill Walton is both self-aware and entirely sincere when he takes his talents behind the microphone. Self-deprecation about his ability to hijack a conversation is a staple of his persona, yet in the end, it seems that Walton grows on everyone who hears him speak.