Ex-Titan Announcer Rebenstorf Dies : Broadcasting: He did play-by-play for Cal State Fullerton athletics for 10 years and most recently did UCLA football and basketball.
John Rebenstorf, radio voice of Cal State Fullerton athletics for 10 years and recently the voice of UCLA football and basketball, died of heart failure Sunday morning at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, less than 24 hours after having bypass surgery. He was 41.
Rebenstorf, who had a history of congenital heart problems, checked into Los Angeles Kaiser Hospital last week after complaining of chest pains. He failed a treadmill test, and an angiogram revealed blockage in a coronary artery. He was transferred to Good Samaritan and underwent surgery Saturday morning.
Sarah Kaufman, a spokeswoman at Good Samaritan, said Sunday that his surgeon, Michael Mendez, said Rebenstorf was doing fine after the operation, but developed congestive heart failure at 1:30 a.m. and died.
Rebenstorf, whose deep, robust voice seemed perfect for radio, previously had suffered two heart attacks, the first when he was 28. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 1985.
“It’s quite a shock,” Fullerton football Coach Gene Murphy said. “He was a great announcer and had a great voice. He also had a great, big heart. It just stopped working at the end.”
From 1981-90, Rebenstorf immersed himself in the Fullerton job. Rebenstorf, who previously worked for radio stations in his hometown of Danville, Ill., Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario, was a one-man radio show at Fullerton.
The school gave him broadcasting rights, and Rebenstorf negotiated with stations for air time, sold advertising, engineered the broadcasts and did play-by-play. He traveled with the Titan football and basketball teams, broadcast many baseball games, and his low-budget operation pretty much mirrored that of the school’s financially strapped athletic department.
He finally got his big break in the fall of 1990, when he was hired by KMPC as the Bruins’ football color commentator. In June, 1991, Rebenstorf signed a multi-year contract with KMPC to do play-by-play for Bruin football and basketball games.
“It was like I won the lottery,” Rebenstorf said at the time. “I was standing up when they told me, so I had to sit down. If I was sitting down, I’d have had to stand up.”
Though Rebenstorf hit the big time, the Fullerton resident remained close to those in the Titan athletic department. Even after moving to UCLA’s broadcast booth, he was a regular at Titan football, basketball and baseball games and still attended several Big West Conference functions.
“If you do your job the way you’re supposed to, you’re not supposed to get emotionally involved, but he was pretty attached,” Murphy said. “When he left here, everyone was elated for him because he busted his butt.”
Said Mel Franks, Titan sports information director: “He was a true Titan for a decade, and he developed that same type of allegiance with UCLA. He loved sports, and as a professional, he was always highly prepared.”
“You had to be at Fullerton. Who can ever forget the 1983 Fullerton-Nevada Las Vegas football game, which was moved the morning of the game from Anaheim Stadium to Anaheim’s Glover Stadium because of a rain clause that gave the Rams sole rights to the field for the entire weekend when it rained? Rebenstorf was forced to call the game without a press box phone line.”
“The city was going to send out an electrician,” Rebenstorf told The Times last year. “But it was Saturday, and you know Cal State Fullerton--'He’ll be there on Monday.’ So we wound up tapping into a private phone line. It was a house with a couple of kids. I told them, ‘Fullerton and Vegas are playing for the conference championship. Can you please stay off the phone for the next 3 1/2 hours?’
“They were real stars. They waited for 3 1/2 hours, but the game ran long and with two minutes left, I hear in my headset, ‘What’s going on here? Isn’t the game over yet? How come we can’t use our phone?’ ”
Franks said Rebenstorf’s ultimate goal was to do play-by-play in the major leagues. To gain experience, Rebenstorf spent the 1986 and ’87 baseball seasons in Oklahoma City, broadcasting games for the Texas Rangers’ triple-A team there.
Rebenstorf filled in on a few KMPC Angel broadcasts this season, moving one step closer to that goal. He hosted a weekend evening call-in show for the station.
Rebenstorf is survived by his wife, Linda, and two children, Brian, 15, and Kristen, 12, and a stepson, Michael, 23. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this story.