On The Air
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
June 9, 2006
Philadelphia sports fans know the on-the-air story of “The Dean of
Philadelphia Sportscasters,” Bill Campbell (Eagles, Phillies, Warriors,
However, his fascinating off-the-air story is chronicled in the new book “Bill Campbell: The Voice of Philadelphia Sports” by Sam Carchidi.
Basketball Hall of Famer, Campbell, 82, who still does three commentaries a week for KYW 1060-AM, triumphed in life despite a tumultuous childhood.
Campbell’s father, Bill Campbell Sr., lost his mother when he was born. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, Campbell Sr.’s wife died while giving birth to Campbell in 1923. Campbell Sr. remarried and had two daughters, but Bill Jr. didn’t learn his own mother died until his father and second wife got divorced when Bill was 11.
When the family split up, Bill lived with his father, and his sisters lived with their mother. Father and son moved around from various apartments and hotels in Philadelphia. Campbell attended three grammar schools and three high schools.
However, Campbell and his father bonded over sports. Campbell started announcing while in high school and got his first job at WIP the summer after graduation. He then entered the Coast Guard “which was the thing that straightened me out.” When he returned from the service, Campbell had to decide between college and work.
“Things were bad financially for dad, so when WIP offered me a full-time job, I took it,” Campbell said. “I still regret not going to school, though.”
The book covers the many highlights of Campbell’s career — the Eagles’ 1960 NFL Championship game, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game and his years with the Phillies.
It also covers the biggest disappointment in his career — his shocking firing from the Phillies in 1970.
“Bill Giles still has never told me personally why I was let go,” Campbell said. “However, I never held anything against [replacement] Harry Kalas.”
Campbell “managed” to find other work during the last 36 years. KYW, his radio home for the last 14 years, was so intent to keep Campbell that it configured his computer so he could do his commentaries from home.
“I think about retiring sometimes,” he said, “but KYW makes it so easy. I also still go to games.”
Bill and his wife Josephine (whom he met at WIP) celebrated their 59th anniversary last week. They have one daughter, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“It’s been a wonderful life,” Campbell said. “ I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Campbell will be signing copies of his book, which includes a CD with some of his calls and interviews at various bookstores beginning Saturday. Go to www.middleatlanticpress.com for his itinerary.
Laura Nachman can be reached at email@example.com.