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Les Keiter dies at 89; sportscaster known for radio re-creations of games
Les Keiter, a longtime sportscaster who was known for his radio re-creations of San Francisco Giants games for New York listeners in the first few years after the baseball team moved to California, died Tuesday at Castle Medical Center near Honolulu. He was 89.
Honolulu television station KHON, where he had been a sports anchor for many years, reported that Keiter died of natural causes and had dementia.
From 1956 to 1985, he called a dozen championship heavyweight fights for ABC and the Mutual Broadcasting Co., including Muhammad Ali's first title win over Sonny Liston in 1964 and the Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson championship match in 1959. Howard Cosell was his frequent on-air partner.
Keiter was born April 27, 1919, in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
He started his broadcasting career in Hawaii after World War II and then moved to New York.
He was a sports announcer for the Giants from 1954 to 1962 -- the team moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958 -- and for the New York Knicks from 1955 to 1962.
While re-creating baseball games for radio, Keiter used bare information from Western Union wire reports and telephone calls and embellished the facts with sound effects, recorded crowd noise and imagination.
Although it was a common practice in those days, as radio stations saved money by not sending announcers to road games, many listeners didn't realize their familiar play-by-play announcers were sitting in a studio across town instead of in a baseball press box across the country.
"People are funny," Keiter told then-Times reporter Scott Ostler in 1979. "You keep making disclaimers, but sometimes people just don't want to know. There are always some who refuse to believe it."
In the 1960s, Keiter was the radio voice of Philadelphia's Big Five college basketball teams -- La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph's, Temple and Villanova.
Keiter became the voice of University of Hawaii sports and triple-A baseball's Hawaii Islanders in the early 1970s, earning the nickname "the General" for a guest role he had on the TV show "Hawaii Five-0."
He retired in 1994 as sports director of KHON and was the spokesman for Aloha Stadium for eight years.
Keiter is survived by his wife, Lila; five children; and numerous grandchildren.