Sunday's New York Times revives a classic Los Angeles sports media incident — the time that KLAC radio reporter Paul Olden asked Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda what he thought of Cubs' left fielder Dave Kingman clubbing three home runs in that day's game at Dodger Stadium. The question set off a recorded tirade which did a lot to shape Lasorda's public image back then — and that made Olden famous for something. Olden sold the tape to Rhino Records and went on to do play-by-play and serve as the stadium public-address announcer for 12 Super Bowls. He is now the Yankee Stadium public-address announcer.
“I jokingly say that in my obituary in Southern California, that will be in the first paragraph,” Olden, 61, says in the NYT story. “In my obituary in the East Coast, it won’t even be mentioned.”
“I was in the front row with my arm extended, holding the microphone, and no one was asking about the main thing from that day: the three home runs by Dave Kingman,” Olden said. I just needed a quick sound bite, 10 or 15 seconds, and then get the heck out of there.
“So I sort of innocently asked his opinion of Kingman’s performance. A minute and a half later, he’s still talking.”
And not just talking. Lasorda immediately repeated the question, and did so 10 more times, lacing cuss words throughout. At one point he conceded he was mad and had not given a good answer, to which Olden replied, “It wasn’t a good question.”
Olden was not backing down, he said; he was actually repeating a Groucho Marx line, a heady ad-lib in a tense moment. Olden was young but had dealt with angry managers before. Walter Alston, he said, once threatened to bash him over the head with his tape recorder.
Lasorda has said that he never expected his answer to air, because he cursed so much during it. But Jim Healy, who hosted a popular gossip show, used it in all its bleep-filled glory, and it became a staple on radio stations for years.
Photo: New York Times/Victor Blue