The longtime voice of Mizzou football will be inducted into the Missouri Broadcasters Association (MBA) Hall of Fame tonight at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The late Bill Wilkerson served as Mizzou football’s play-by-play man from 1982 until 1993, and was the color analyst on the Tiger Radio Network with Dan Kelly in the 1970s through 1981. Wilkerson worked with former Tiger Tom Dore in the booth in 1989 and 1990. Mr. Dore says Wilkerson loved radio.
“This was his medium. He felt so good pulling up behind that microphone with his charts and his notes and the note cards and being able to tell the story of the game,” Dore says.
Wilkerson is best known for his exciting calls for Mizzou football, St. Louis Cardinal football and even Blues hockey at the Checkerdome. Dore tells 939 the Eagle that Wilkerson loved doing football play-by-play on the radio.
“You know in radio as you know Brian, it’s a different animal than TV. Because people are seeing the game, seeing the field, the fans, the atmosphere. They’re seeing that and feeling it the way you describe it,” says Dore.
MBA president Chad Mahoney tells 939 the Eagle that Wilkerson’s longtime friend Bob Costas will present the Hall of Fame award to a representative of Wilkerson’s family tonight at Margaritaville Lake Resort. Mr. Costas, who spent time in Columbia calling Mizzou hoops, will also be inducted into the MBA Hall of Fame tonight.
Dore describes Wilkerson’s football play-by-play ability as masterful and terrific, particularly the way he emphasized certain words with emotion. He says Wilkerson spent hours preparing for broadcasts and being able to paint the picture for listeners.
“He could really let you know how the game was going, what needed to happen, how the crowd was reacting, what the head coach did,” Dore says.
He adds “boy did he know football.” Dore says Wilkerson would prepare for hours, studying players, coaches, even trainers and team doctors for both teams in case they’d have to run out on the field. It sounded automatic on-air, but Dore says the key was Bill’s work ethic.
“He told me that one of the things that he would do is talk into a cassette player with every player, every coach, every trainer, the team doctor, the team orthopedic surgeon. And then he would look at their faces so that if the old trainer from Missouri Freddie Wappel ran out on the field, he knew the difference between Freddie and Bud Epps or you know something like that,” says Dore.
The late Bill Wilkerson may be best-known for his call of the infamous “fifth down” game between Mizzou and #12 Colorado in 1990 at Faurot Field in Columbia. It’s a game Mizzou actually won (but not officially): the Buffaloes spiked the ball on fourth down to set up a fifth down and many Tiger fans say Charles Johnson didn’t score on the final play of the game. Wilkerson was heartbroken in the booth:
“This is the final play of the game, come on Tigers. Fourth and goal. The snap, Johnson with the ball, no, no, no, they call a touchdown, they call a touchdown, they call a touchdown, oh I can’t believe this,” Wilkerson told listeners on-air on that sunny October afternoon.
Audio is courtesy of Learfield.
Some fans at Mizzou were trying to tear the goal posts down, before they realized the call from officials. Dore says that game impacted Wilkerson, who knew Missouri deserved to win the game. Dore notes Mizzou had beaten #21 Arizona State 30-9 the week before and says Mizzou would have been ranked had they beaten Colorado, who ended up sharing a national championship that season.
Bill Wilkerson was also an award-winning newsman at St. Louis’ KMOX, hosting “Total Information” weekday mornings with Bob Hardy and Wendy Wiese. He was also honored by then-FBI Director Robert Mueller with the FBI’s Community Leadership award in Washington in 2010. Director Mueller honored Wilkerson for his work in stemming the dropout rate at four St. Louis schools, and his work keeping St. Louis-area youth out of gangs.
As for tonight’s induction for Wilkerson, Dore says that it’s about time. Other inductees tonight will include 29-time Emmy winner Costas, longtime Kansas City and St. Louis television anchor Karen Foss, Bott Radio Network founder Dick Bott, KOKO Radio Warrensburg 50-year plus morning host Marion “Woody” Woods and Tom and Ralph Oakley, who both served as president of Quincy Media Incorporated.