Buddy Blattner, a former major leaguer and longtime sportscaster who paired with Don Wells on the Angels' KMPC radio broadcasts from 1962 to 1968, has died. He was 89.
Blattner, a St. Louis native who spent most of his life in the Midwest, died Friday of complications from lung cancer at his home in Chesterfield, Mo., said his wife, Barbara.
A gifted athlete, Blattner was a world champion table tennis player as a teenager before switching to baseball. In retirement he took up tennis, winning many national senior tournaments.
He began his broadcasting career in 1950 in St. Louis, calling games for the Browns, the city's American League team, alongside Dizzy Dean, the Hall of Fame pitcher turned down-home baseball announcer.
The pair also were heard nationwide on the Liberty and Mutual radio networks' "Game of the Day" and then on television when ABC and CBS broadcast the "Game of the Week" in the '50s.
Blattner was the straight man and translator for Dean's extremely colorful commentary.
"People liked [Dean] giving everything but the score but wanted me to restore sanity," Blattner told author Curt Smith for his 2005 book "Voices of Summer."
Blattner also was the radio voice of the NBA's St. Louis Hawks in the '50s and spent two seasons in the booth for the St. Louis Cardinals before coming west to work for the Angels. He joined them in 1962, a year after expansion admitted them to the majors.
After the 1968 season, Blattner left for the Kansas City Royals, and Dick Enberg replaced him on the Angels' broadcasting team.
Blattner retired after the 1975 season and returned to his native Missouri.
He was born Robert Garnett Blattner on Feb. 8, 1920, and learned to play table tennis at a neighborhood pool hall where he and other boys covered billiard tables with wooden boards.
In 1936 and 1937, he traveled to Europe for the table tennis world championships and came home with trophies.
Baseball won out over table tennis, however, and he made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 1942, playing 19 games that season before he was drafted into the Navy.
Stationed in Guam during World War II, Blattner returned to spend three seasons with the New York Giants and one with the Philadelphia Phillies before retiring in 1949.
A shortstop and second baseman, Blattner finished his major league career with a .247 average in 272 games over five seasons.
"I was already 26 after the war," Blattner told Smith. "My skills were gone. So I looked elsewhere."
At the end of his broadcasting career, Blattner created the Buddy Fund, a charity that provides athletic equipment to disadvantaged youth in St. Louis.
Besides his wife of 68 years, Blattner is survived by three daughters, Barbara, Debbie and Donna; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A moment of silence was held before Friday night's Angels-Royals game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to honor Blattner.