Patrick Kinahan: All lost a friend with the passing of legendary broadcaster Klauke

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SALT LAKE CITY — The guy loved baseball, having spent the last 29 summers devoted to the game, so how could anybody not like him? Turns out, fans of all sports in Utah didn't just like him, they loved him.

This is the reason the news of his death reverberated throughout the state, stinging the hundreds of thousands — maybe even more — of Utahns. Steve Klauke was one of us and yet, at the same time, a legend in his chosen field of sports broadcasting.

For all media members, his death after an auto/pedestrian accident in Sandy on Monday was a crushing blow that resulted in losing a dear colleague in a tragic fashion.

Shortly after the awful reality got out, the tributes began flowing across social media forms, all because of a collective deep appreciation for the man known as a friend to those fortunate enough to have even the smallest interaction with him.

Here's the great part for the public that only knew him through his work, which included nearly three decades as the radio voice of the Salt Lake Bees: You were a stranger only because you never got the chance to meet him. Every listener was his friend.

For good reason, polls show the public doesn't have much trust in the media these days. But believe us when we testify, this man is worthy of all the outpouring of love we've seen on social media posts.

The unequivocal truth is this: He would have treated you with the same kindness that all in the media are so willing to describe. Short in stature, Klauke was a giant in terms of character and integrity.

Last summer, as the season wound down to Klauke's last game, I was assigned to write a tribute story about him. In retrospect, considering the circumstances, no piece out of the thousands spread over the last 40 years, has meant more to me.

Rather than reflect on the tragedy and devastating loss for his wife and children, the following thoughts over six paragraphs speak more to the man when he was alive and could read them himself.

"In my opinion," said Bees general manager and president Marc Amicone, "Steve is as good of a play-by-play announcer as there is in any sport. We ask them to tell the game story, but I think more importantly is for the listener to know what's happening on the field, and Steve is the absolute best at that.

"It's been a privilege for me to listen to him, to learn from him, to work with him, but most importantly, to be count him as a friend."

The three-time Utah broadcaster of the year has relationships that run deep in every aspect of sports in Utah, from the preps up through the pros. It's hard not to appreciate a person who has earned great respect among his peers all the way up to the newsmakers.

Team broadcaster Steve Klauke is applauded by manager Keith Johnson as he is honored before calling his 3000th game as the Salt Lake Bees play the Nashville Sounds in Triple A baseball Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Salt Lake City.
Team broadcaster Steve Klauke is applauded by manager Keith Johnson as he is honored before calling his 3000th game as the Salt Lake Bees play the Nashville Sounds in Triple A baseball Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Tom Smart, Desert News)

Originally hired in 1991 to serve as the studio host during Utah Jazz games, Klauke also called events for local colleges, hockey, along with Los Angeles Ange's (the Bees' parent club) and the Toronto Blue Jays. He had planned to remain doing football and basketball games for Weber State, which hired him in 2015.

"I would be dishonest if I said he was low maintenance, because he was NO maintenance. Whether we had technical problems, weather issues or travel difficulty, he just goes about his business with the desire and effort to make it the best broadcast possible," said longtime Bees employee Tony Parks, who served as the fill-in team broadcaster (and later named as his replacement).

"It never mattered if it was an Angels game, Bees game or a high school basketball game in November, he prepares the same way and treats every game, athlete, and radio producer the same. The game was never about him. It was about the players and the people at home or in the car tuning in."

A few weeks after the story ran, the legend sent me the following text: "Sorry that it's taken this long, but thanks for the wonderful article. I appreciate that you took the time to write it."

You're welcome, Steve. And thank you for your wonderful life and letting all of us in the state be a small part of it.

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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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