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'The General'


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Decades before Joe Moore nicknamed him “;The General,”; Les Keiter was commanding the airwaves.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster, whose career spanned six decades, died yesterday at Castle Medical Center of natural causes. The longtime Kailua resident would have turned 90 on April 27.

               

     

 

LES KEITER

        The General had a long and illustrious career that includes some of the most memorable sports events in history:
       

» 1949-50: Sports director KPOA radio, Honolulu

       

» 1954-1962: National broadcaster for New York football and baseball Giants, New York Knicks and New York Islanders.

       

» 1964: Broadcast Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston heavyweight title fight in Miami.

       

» 1968: Broadcast George Foreman's gold-medal fight of the Mexico City Olympics.

       

» 1971-79: The “;Voice of the Hawaii Islanders”; Triple-A baseball team

       

» 1971-1994: Sports director for KHON-2.

       

 

       

Friends and colleagues first knew that he was ill when Keiter missed the Honolulu Quarterback Club's annual Banquet of Champions in February. He had served as toastmaster and emcee for the club for many years.

“;Les was one of a kind, a true original, a sportscaster's sportscaster,”; said KHON anchor Moore, who began working alongside Keiter at the station in 1981. “;I was lucky to partner with him for a lot of great years on the Channel 2 news. He took every broadcast seriously, and in all the years we worked together I never saw him unprepared for a sportscast or a play-by-play assignment.

“;But, I think the most remarkable thing about Les was that he was the nicest person I've ever met in broadcasting. All that fame and success, and I never heard him say an unkind word to anyone or about anyone.”;

It was Moore who nicknamed Keiter “;The General.”; It came years after Keiter played a general on an episode of 'Hawaii Five-0.'

“;I had called him “;General”; off the air, but I slipped one night, calling him that on the air,”; Moore said. “;But it seemed so right, that I continued to call him that, and his fans kept it going.

“;To me, he was 'The General' of the sports world. When Les said something, it had the ring of a general speaking to his troops.”;

On June 6, 1998, Les Keiter's book, “;Fifty Years Behind the Microphone,”; was formally added to the special collection at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Keiter was born in Seattle in 1919 and attended the University of Washington, where he met his future wife, Lila Hamerslough. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last Sept. 9.

They first moved to Hawaii in 1948, where Keiter was sports director for KPOA radio for two years. He “;recreated”; Major League Baseball games by reading off of the Western Union teletype system, something he continued as the “;Voice of the Hawaii Islanders”; Triple-A club from 1971 to 1979.

Keiter left Hawaii in 1950, going on to New York as the broadcaster for the baseball and football Giants (1954-62) and New York Knicks (1955-62). He announced 12 championship heavyweight fights for ABC and Mutual, including Muhammad Ali's first title victory over Sonny Liston in 1964.

In 1968, while the sports director at Philadelphia's WFIL-TV, he did the Mexico City Olympics coverage for Mutual radio. He is enshrined in the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia.

Keiter moved his family back to Honolulu in 1970 to work in advertising. But when Al Michaels left to continue his broadcast career on the mainland, Keiter took over the Islanders' job.

In 1971, Keiter was hired as the sports director at KHON, a position he held until retiring in 1994. The station began a segment called “;General Remembrances”; on its “;Hawaii Sports Final”; show in 1990.

“;What a voice,”; former KHON sportscaster Jai Cunningham said. “;As an intern, I had a chance to do numerous things for the program, one of which was write 'General Remembrances.' It was the thrill of a lifetime to be an intern looking for a job, getting to write something that was actually on air, but more importantly, something being voiced by 'The General.'

“;His depth of sports knowledge was remarkable. He could talk at length about anything that had happened over the many years he had covered sports. He was like a walking encyclopedia of sports knowledge.”;

Keiter is survived by his wife Lila, five children, eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Services are pending.