Legendary local play-by-play man Bill Worrell recently retired after nearly 40 years announcing Houston Rockets games on TV.
Over his long, amazing career, Worrell also broadcast Houston Astros and Houston Oilers games, plus everything from rodeo to table tennis, volleyball to boxing, and golf to synchronized skating.
"I got there two hours early and they tried to explain the sport to me. Basically I just did the introductions and turned it over to my color analyst. Whatever she said, I agreed with it," Worrell once told me.
Funny thing, if it weren't for a class scheduling conflict at UH, Worrell might never have become a sports announcer. He'd be William Worrell, M.D. today.
Worrell, whose father "Dub" Worrell served as team dentist for the UH Cougars, Rice Owls, Houston Oilers and Rockets, entered UH in 1964 as a pre-med student and lefty baseball pitcher. When he tried to register for Introductory Biology 101, the class was scheduled for the same time as baseball practice. Pre-med or baseball? That was an easy choice for Worrell, and he switched his major to Radio-TV.
"I was a pitcher of limited ability, with a pretty good curveball and a good pickoff move. I needed that move because I walked so many batters," he says.
Fun and weird fact: Worrell started a game against Texas A&M in 1964, walked the first three batters and picked each one of them off first base. That's got to be a record of some sorts.
After graduating, he took a job with Channel 2 and eventually advanced to sports anchor. In 1983 he was hired as the Rockets play-by-play announcer on TV, and as they say, the rest is history. In Worrell's case, historic.
I caught up with Worrell the morning after the night before — his final game for the Rockets.
Ken Hoffman: Did you go anywhere after the game Friday night to celebrate your retirement?
Bill Worrell: I went home. I am 77 years old, and it was past my bedtime. That's part of the reason I retired!
KH: What was the single wildest, funniest moment of your career?
BW: I think it was the game in Indianapolis when the refs called a foul on Reggie Miller and the crowd went nuts! They started throwing pennies at first and then some of the fat cats threw in some quarters, and when they came up short of the court they were hitting me and Calvin Murphy right in the back of our heads.
Calvin reached back and grabbed some lady's umbrella, opened it up, and put it over our heads. You could actually hear the coins hitting the umbrella. The lady wasn't too happy, but it saved us some bumps. It ran on the highlight shows for about a week, and they still haul it out from time to time. The lady was mad at first, but we put her on TV and she lightened up.
KH: You were a pretty good pitcher in college at the University of Houston. When you broadcast Astros games early in your career, did you ever fantasize that you were on the mound?
BW: Never. I topped out at 87 mph. Ray Charles could hit me.
KH: While you watched the retrospective of your career that the Rockets and AT&T SportsNet put together, did you reminisce about your once-luxurious dark hair?
BW: I never look at my hair now, because at my age, I don't go around mirrors anymore. At least I still use a brush, most of my friends are bald.