A few things have struck me while reading and listening to everything I could about Ken Beatrice in recent days; among them, how many of his biggest fans were just kids during his heyday, and how many of them later went on to media careers of their own.
I’ve always wanted to do a long piece on the absurd number of sports media members — both local and national — who grew up in the D.C. area. When I’ve talked to some of them about this in the past, they usually mention reading The Post’s legendary Sports section of the 1980s, and watching magnetic anchors on local television like Warner Wolf and Glenn Brenner and George Michael, and listening to groundbreaking radio hosts like Beatrice. (If I’m being honest, probably 75 percent of these people grew up in Montgomery County. I have no explanation for that one.)
I didn’t grow up here, but the Beatrice stories this week make it sound like he had something of a children’s army on his side, with pre-pubescent boys listening to his show while doing homework, and nervously jamming his phone lines, and calling him up in his office to chat. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt added his own name to that roster this week, while reminiscing with Kevin Sheehan on ESPN 980.
“He called my house,” Van Pelt said, wonder still in his tone 30 years later. “Ken Beatrice after the show, I didn’t make it on, but he called me up. And it was the craziest thing. You picked up the phone and there’s this incredibly distinctive voice on the other end, and you just can’t believe that he would do that. There’s a lot to him, a lot of complicated this, that, and the other thing, but he was a giant. And it becomes real easy — because you and I both got into this business — to say we were inspired or whatever. I don’t think we ever dreamed we’d be this lucky, but anybody that does it and grew up in D.C. — just like Glenn Brenner influenced us, George Michael, Warner Wolf — he was A Guy, and an amazingly important guy to the sports talk landscape in the city. And so to acknowledge that only seems appropriate.”
Van Pelt’s memory was inspired by a similar one Sheehan discussed with my pal Matt Terl over at City Paper.
“As a kid listening to him, if you called in and you were on hold when the show ended, he would actually call you at your house when the show was over,” Sheehan said. “You’re sitting at the house after the show and the phone rings and it’s Ken Beatrice on the line saying, ‘Hey, Kev! Sorry you didn’t get on, but I just wanted to call.’ And he would sit there and talk to you forever.”
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