Ralph Lawler, the broadcaster whose catchphrases “Oh me, oh my” and “Bingo” have become synonymous with Clippers games for the last 40 seasons, will join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a winner of its Curt Gowdy Media Award, the NBA announced Friday.
Lawler will be joined in the hall at a ceremony Sept. 5-7 in Springfield, Mass., by fellow Gowdy Award honoree Marc Stein, a New York Times reporter and graduate of Cal State Fullerton. The award is presented to members of electronic and print media whose work has contributed to basketball.
“This is the absolute ultimate capping a 40-year career with the ball club,” Lawler said. “There’s no better way to do it than to have this honor. It’s the ultimate honor that a broadcaster or a journalist of any sort can have. We are thrilled to death.
“We were in Boston with the Clippers playing the Celtics. [Suns broadcaster] Al McCoy who got this award deservedly some years ago told me he got a call but he didn’t recognize the number so he ignored it two or three times and finally got it and said ‘Oh my goodness.’ I got the call then and I saw it was a Springfield number and I told … my wife, ‘Oh I better answer this.’”
Lawler, 80, is retiring after this season and several NBA teams have honored him during road games that have marked his final broadcast in the city. The Clippers have used social media to publish interviews in which Lawler share memories from his career, which has included more than 3,200 Clippers broadcasts.
“Clipper Nation calls him the ‘Voice of the Clippers,’” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a news release, “but Ralph is so much more than that; he is our heart and soul.”
Before calling Clippers games, beginning when the franchise was in San Diego, Lawler broadcast games of Philadelphia’s Phillies, 76ers and Flyers, and San Diego’s Conquistadors and Chargers. He already is a member of the Bradley University Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Southern California Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
“Ralph has always had such a great spirit,” Mike Breen, ABC-ESPN’s national play-by-plan broadcaster told the Los Angeles Times in December. “He’s not one of those ‘old-time’ guys who thinks the game was better when he started. His enthusiasm reflects on his impression of today’s athletes. That’s what I love about him.
“Over a long period of time, sometimes the hardest thing is to keep that passion year after year. I turn on a Clippers’ game on League Pass, and it’s the same energy and feeling that there’s no other place he’d rather be. It’s really incredible.”
Stein was rendered almost speechless.
“My first year covering the league was the Clippers halfway through the ’93-94 season and, I just I don’t know, I don’t know,” Stein said. “I’m lost.”
Andrew Greif reported from Los Angeles and Tania Ganguli reported from Charlotte, N.C.