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Who has been UK’s best radio play-by-play announcer and why?


Vaughtsviews.com regular Larry Pup posed an interesting topic to me that I want to share with you.

“I think interesting  topic for discussion on VV’s would be who the readers think was the best radio play by play announcer the Kentucky Wildcats have ever had. My pick is Cawood Ledford,” Larry Pup said.

So I asked him what he remembered about other UK announcers. Here was his response:

“I have only heard tapes of Claude Sullivan, and he was tremendous for UK.  Shucks horse racing, too.  Many UK fans who remember Claude feel he bested Cawood, but I grew to love Cawood Ledford over the years calling Wildcat games. Sitting by the radio in an earlier life, Cawood made you feel like you were right there in the stadium or at the basketball game.  He was tops in my book.

“One of the best college football radio announcers I ever heard was  Larry Munson on the Georgia Bulldog network.  I used to listen to him a lot when I lived in the deep south.  His famous quote ‘Hunker down Dogs’  just grabbed you by the throat and kept you so focused to the broadcast.  I lived in Jacksonville the year Derrick Ramsey and company whipped the Bulldogs bad between the hedges.  I believe the score was something like 33 to 7.  I will never forget the credit and kind words Munson uttered in that broadcast for that UK team.  I was very proud of the Wildcat” that day and year, and what a team that was with Art Still and some of those others players.

“I also like Mike Hubert of the Florida Gators with his famous saying ‘OH MY!” He does a really great job and makes the game come alive.  Florida tends to do that however on many plays without his help.

“I would be curious how other Wildcat fans rate our own Tom Leach.  He does a good job, but he is no Cawood, perhaps in time.”

So what do you think? Who has been UK’s best play-by-play announcer?  How do you like Leach, who I think is very, very good?

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  1. BodyBeastDude

    I remember Claude Sullivan as a kid – but Cawood is who I think is tops – maybe Tom Leach will be some person’s Cawood in the future

  2. Larry T Clemons

    You mean there’s been other Play by Play announcers ” Other than Cawood Ledford “, I think not…all others are just Wildcat Fans living their Dream, No One Beats or Best, Cawood Calling The Cats !

  3. Norm

    I started listening to Wildcat basketball in 1951 and have heard all the announcers. Cawood Ledford is #1 and no one else comes close. When I listened to Cawood I felt like I was at the sideline sitting beside him.

  4. AndyP

    You have to be long in the tooth to remember Claude Sullivan, but in my book he was the best. Caywood was great, but Claude had an element of excitement in his voice that made him special.

  5. Jerrry Vaughan

    Cawood was amazing in his voice quality, his content, and in the modern contest “fair, balanced, and unafraid” in calling the game, all while somehow supporting the cats completely. He’s the best of them all, not just ours!!

  6. Doug Ridley

    I have to agree with Andy P. Cawood was good but Claude WAS UK basketball in the forties. There was no TV and Claude Sullivan made it seem like TV is now.

  7. bbmike

    I’ll say this-Neil Price for UK women’s hoops and baseball is really deserving of some recognition. He is incredible!

  8. Woohoo

    Probably a unfair question for a fair opinion given that most of the audience isn’t “old enough” to have a thorough memory of Sulivan an Munson. However, as I am post-60 I can easily say two observations with confidence : 1. Claude Sullivan was by far the best UK announcer. His tone, enthusiasm and stle brought chills to the listener and fan. 2. Larry Munson is in a league of his own. He clearly is the BEST play-by-ply announcer ever. Even if you were not a fan of the Bulldogs, his captivating style and colorful quotes were mesmerizing and captured the audience. I’m not saying that Cawood was in anyway inferior, as he was too a Great One. We have been blessed with game announcers that carry the spirit of the BBN!

  9. donv

    I can remember Claude and he was good, maybe as good as Cawood but I would have to vote for Cawood. Kind of like Vince Scully in baseball when you heard that voice you just had to lissen.

  10. bthax

    I grew up overseas as the son of a Foreign Service Officer. We were often able to pick up the Armed Forces Network and they carried a lot UK games, primarily because of Cawood. Even though I was in Paraguay or Spain, Cawood allowed me to “see” the game. Ralph Hacker was the perfect sidekick and I wil never forget them.

  11. John Blakeman

    When I think of Cawood it takes me back to listening to the Cats with my dad. Great memories that molded me to be a Cats fan. But, I think we tend to overlook how good Tom Leach and Mike Pratt are!! Over the 17yrs Tom has called the games I think he has become as good as they get. To me the duo of Tom and Mike are the best in college basketball.

  12. Anonymous

    Claude was first for me & he was great. Reds baseball too. Been so long ago with Claude that it’s hard now to say who was better with Cawood. Net, I’ll call it a tie.

  13. Gary Dearborn

    I also grew up listening to Claude Sullivan , but Cawood was the best. I happen to think that Tom Leach is very good and a joy to listen to.

  14. Randy Henry

    Claude by far with Tom Leach second. Use to listen on Sat. Night pick of Dixie football Munson was great also never forget his call when Hershall Walker ran over Bill Bates from Tennessee

  15. King Ghidora

    I have vague memories of Sullivan even when he was with Waite Hoyt doing Reds games in the mid-60’s. They were an excellent team. They were only together a very short time though and I was pretty young at the time. But at the time it was rare to see baseball games on our tv so if we wanted to follow closely it was on the radio.

    But Cawood is the voice I grew up hearing as “the voice of the Wildcats”. I like Leach and Pratt but it’s rare that I listen to them these days. It is more common than it was with the wide variety of tv outlets for the games now. For many years I only missed a couple of games on tv a year and that was only because they weren’t broadcast because of some rule I don’t remember. And of course the big thing for many, many years was to watch the game on tv and listen to the radio for the play by play. Everyone loved Cawood because he was extremely good at what he did. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone do basketball or football better. Al Michaels was good but he was better at baseball.

    1. larryvaught

      These are some great memories about UK announcers. Hope we get more. And love the idea from this post came from Larry Pup. always open to ideas from readers

  16. RJ

    In my lifetime it was Cawood Ledford by a mile. When he announced you could swear that you could feel pad contact!

  17. TheProfessor

    Claude Sullivan introduced me to UK basketball in the 60s, near the end of his broadcasting. When I switched to Cawood, it took me a time to appreciate Cawood style, but over the long haul, Cawood’s place is difficult to supplant for me, even by Claude Sullivan.

    On a personal note, I have a video tape of Cawood’s last game, the 92 Duke game, and the audio is Cawood’s broadcast, start to finish. It is a real treasure.

  18. Hugh Ward

    The first radio announcer I heard calling the Cats games was Claude Sullivan, and Claude was great. During that time, there were multiple announcers calling the UK games, I heard all of them. Earl Boardman and J.B. Falconer were good, but I don’t think nearly as good as Claude or Cawood. There was a lot of similarity between Claude and Cawood. They prepared for each event in detail, and always knew the opposing players (and how to properly pronounce their names). They described the games in a clear manner so you could “see” the games as they were played. The were never at a “loss for words”. I knew Cawood, although not well, but never had a chance to meet Claude. They were both Kentucky “boys”, and loved the games. As I think about “who was best”, I am not sure there is an answer. UK was lucky to have two guys in the announcers chairs that let us clearly “see” the games through their eyes. Both were “uniquely” good at their trade, and considered it a duty to do the best job possible. In my humble opinion, choosing between the two is unnecessary. They were the two of the best, and should be recognized as such. UK was lucky to have both representing the school via the radio! (And, OH, THE MEMORIES!)

    1. Larry T Clemons

      Agreed ! If their is a little lean, it’s probably the one that you grew up with and brought the most Memories…Great Experiences, make lasting Memories…and So Do defeats, Damn Laettner !

    2. King Ghidora

      Wasn’t there a Louisville station that was the main station in a network that broadcast UK games all around the state? It seems like it was WHAS that was the flagship station for a UK network back then. I think I remember Boardman and Falconer from those games. I know a lot of people didn’t like it that Louisville station was the main station for UK games on that network. I was really young at the time and I don’t remember the details real well. I mainly remember that thing about the people not liking it that a Louisville station being the main station. It was just a short time after that when the games were only carried on the UK network with a Lexington station as the lead station and Cawood was the announcer for that network. This would be back to about the time of the Runts.

  19. Old Cat

    I certainly agree with the comment about Price, he is excellent at both basketball and baseball.
    Too bad the everyone here was not able to hear Phil Sutterfield on WHAS, he also did the TV show on WHAS TV with The Bear. Phil was crippled but did a great job calling the Cats during a great time for basketball AND football.

  20. Indiana Tom

    I go back to the early 60s listening to the Wildcats games, laying in the floor keeping stats on a piece of paper. Claude, Cawood and Tom are all outstanding announcers and to pick just one as the best is impossible for me. One thing I can say, Mr. Pratt, paints as good a picture as to whats going on out on the court, it is like being there. Tom and Mike do one heck of a job.

    1. King Ghidora

      I did the stat thing too Tom. I remember keeping track of Issel’s points in particular. It was something my dad taught me to do. He was so much into that he had my mother write down every pitch and what happened when the Reds were in the World Series in 1961. He was working and couldn’t watch the games on tv. That’s about all I remember of that series.

  21. ukscat

    I would assume some of you are smoking the “good stuff “. So am I

    was not only the best we ever had – – – but ” world known” for his call. Both UK and the Derby.

  22. ukscat

    Sorry Larry,have a hard time with some things, – – – my boys say sign off .
    Been a pleasure.
    Blame it on

  23. andy kleinert

    I think Cawood Ledford when I think UK Basketball … many times I would mute the TV and turn up the radio to here his call of the game

  24. floridawildcat

    Like many I suppose, I would turn TV audio off and turn on Cawood. He called it like it was. You didn’t need the second announcer to throw in their two cents. Yes, Ralph Hacker was there but it was not like today where some think that after every football play or every basket, the color commentator needs to add something. Liked the fact that Cawood did 90% of the game calling and side comments.

  25. Alan Sullivan

    I am biased since I am Claude’s son and finishing a book on his career which is coming out October 2014. As many of you noted, Claude had a 20 year career that was cut short at the young age of 42. At that time he announced 4 NCAA championships for UK and the Wilt Chamberlain 1957 Kansas NC game. He was also Ky Sportscater of the year for 8 straight years competing head to head with Cawood. Unfortunately, he got cancer after a 4 year stint with the Reds and had he lived the 39 year career of Cawood I think he would have been the one everyone remembers. You remember the ones you grew up with and Cawood was great. I worked for both Claude and Cawood at the football games at Stoll Field. I traveled to an NCAA game with Earl Boardman as Claude’s replacement and Cawood looking after my brother and I as we put together the broadcast. This was shortly before Claude died. I think you will enjoy the book! Many of Claude’s recordings can be heard by link to UK Archives…Claude’s last contribution to the Big Blue Nation!

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