While Cawood Ledford rightfully is remembered as a Kentucky broadcasting legend, he followed another legend — Claude Sullivan — who is not nearly as well known by UK fans as he should be.
Sullivan’s son, Alan, hopes a new book — Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting — by him and Joe Cox can help show fans the way his father rose to prominence. Claude Sullivan called the first four NCAA championships that UK coach Adolph Rupp won. He changed the coverage of the UK football program by starting a coach’s show with Paul “Bear” Bryant, something that was not being done anywhere else in the country. Sullivan eventually became the voice of the Cincinnati Reds and even worked the 1960 summer Olympic Games in Rome.
Claude Sullivan, who died of throat cancer when he was only 42 in 1967, was a national treasure and the book features interviews with Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, Babe Parilli, Cliff Hagan, Ralph Hacker, Jim Host, Billy Reed, Rupp and Ledford.
So what inspired Alan Sullivan to be part of this book?
“My father saved 30 boxes of memorabilia plus all the tapes of games that have been restored and are available on line at http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt754746qt9q/guide,” said Sullivan. “There was so much information, is was too difficult to ignore.
“The project started with getting information about Claude Sullivan for the Basketball Museum in 1998. The audio clips will be in the ebook version which will follow the book, and you can actually hear the highlights of games and interviews as you read.”
The book is scheduled to be out Aug. 22 and should be available in book stores in Lexington, Louisville, Elizabethtown and Bowling Green as well as through online sources.
“Once you have the book, you can send a photo of yourself with the book to University Press and get a free ebook with the 28 enhanced audio clips embedded also to follow the text. This is the first time University Press has published a book with enhanced audio clips,” Sullivan said.
“Those that were fortunate enough to have witnessed or can remember the games accounted for in the book, you will be taken back to some great moments in UK and Cincinnati Reds history, from Bear Bryant, Babe Parilli, Adolph Rupp, Wah Wah Jones, Frank Robinson and Pete Rose,” Alan Sullivan said.
NBC-TV sportscaster Tom Hammond said he “grew up listening to Claude Sullivan call UK football and basketball” when the radio play-by-play voice was the one who painted pictures for fans because games were not on TV. Hammond says any UK fan will enjoy this book and that’s what Alan Sullivan wants.
“I hope fans learn great memories of Claude’s calls and interviews from his audition interview tape from 1944 to the Texas Western game in 1966. (Current UK radio play-by-play broadcaster) Tom Leach told me that he was too young to remember Dad but that after hearing his football tapes before the Outback Bowl, that he now knows what he missed,” Alan Sullivan said.
“I hope the book reminds fans of the great talent he was, especially since he was gone at the age of 42 after such a rich career. He accomplished much and had extensive travels as well. I think the book will show by the interviews how much Claude was respected not only as a talent, but as a person and mentor.”
Alan Sullivan has his own special memories of his father.
“There are many but some of my favorite memories are of working with Dad and my brother at Memorial Coliseum and Stoll Field and getting to go to the locker room to get Adolph after the basketball games for his interview with Claude,” Alan Sullivan said. “At Stoll Field I remember the stories Dad told of Bear Bryant and what he did with the team — and then after interviewing Parilli for the book hearing through his own accounts those same memories.”