Mike Walden, the voice of USC and then UCLA sports, dies at 89

USC’s broadcaster Mike Walden was in enemy territory when the Trojans’ basketball team finally handed UCLA its first loss at Pauley Pavilion in 1969. When it was over, Walden climbed atop the announcer’s table and yelled, “The Trojans win! The Trojans win! The Trojans win!” much like the legendary Harry Caray.

So Walden lost a few friends several years later when he took a job across town and became the only person to serve as the broadcast voice for both USC and UCLA.

“But Mike Walden was a journalist first, and did not want to be known as a homer,” his son, Gregory Walden, reminisced in an email. 

Walden, a Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame member best known for his coverage of the Trojans and Bruins, and for his loud sport coats, died Sunday at his home in Tarzana from complications related to a stroke, his son said Thursday. He was 89.

“He had a very distinctive voice, he had a very distinctive way in which he pronounced each syllable and he had a very distinctive style of dress,” said Tim Tessalone, USC’s longtime sports information director.

“I can only imagine what Mike’s closet looked like. He had a shirt and slacks and coat and shoes of every color imaginable and never hesitated to wear any of them,” he said.

Walden occupied his own space in the constellation of iconic Southern California sportscasters of his time — Chick Hearn, Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Bob Miller. 

Walden, who was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, called the university’s games from 1966 to 1972, including five Rose Bowl appearances. Two of those USC teams went on to become national champions.

Walden’s time intersected with another legendary USC broadcaster, Tom Kelly, when Kelly began calling the university’s games on television.

USC’s current play-by-play broadcaster, Pete Arbogast, said Walden’s style of calling a game represented a “younger and hipper” era. Walden bestowed nicknames on players and veered away from the more staid style of previous generations.

“He’s talking to college kids, basically, and younger with the parlance that he was using,” Arbogast said. “I really enjoyed listening to him.”

Walden went on to call games for UCLA for 18 more years.

Wider exposure came on the small screen, as part of the “Super Dave” television comedy series. Playing himself, Walden would interview Super Dave Osborne, an ill-fated daredevil, before and after his doomed stunts. The show lasted 95 episodes and aired on Showtime.

Myron Dale “Mike” Walden was born Nov. 6, 1927, in Girard, Ill. His father, Merle, was a banker and his mother, Marie, a homemaker.

He studied journalism at the University of Illinois, where he met his future wife, Nancy Stewart.

After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Walden began his broadcasting career in Milwaukee, working for WTMJ-TV and doing play-by-play for Wisconsin Badgers football and basketball games. One of those games was a Rose Bowl contest against USC.

Soon, Walden did radio broadcast for the Green Bay Packers and TV for the Milwaukee Braves, calling their 1957 World Series win, before moving to Tarzana in 1966.

He is survived by his wife; daughters Nanette Walden and Julie Creaser; sons Gregory Walden and David Walden; and five grandchildren.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Twitter: @zhelfand

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