Ralph Lawler Rumors
The Los Angeles Clippers will honor their long-time play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler with “Ralph Lawler Night” on Monday when the Clippers host the Minnesota Timberwolves. There will be tributes throughout the game as well as a halftime presentation where Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson Jr. will present a proclamation officially declaring March 9 “Ralph Lawler Day” in Los Angeles.
“Sometimes I’ll go to a game and a group of young kids will come over to me and be positively adoring, and that’s hard to walk away from,” Lawler said. “It’s nice to have people love you, it really is.”
He slurred some more words at the end of the game, but a battery of ensuing tests cleared him of any neurological issues, so he figures the whole thing was just some weird remnant of a previous night’s food poisoning. “I’m like, ‘Ralph, you’re like a machine, how do you keep doing this?’ ” said his longtime partner Michael Smith. “Yeah, sure, I worry about him, but he just always finds a way.”
That much was obvious this season after the team’s 76-year-old broadcaster was struck with excruciating abdominal pains while walking out of the team hotel in Charlotte, N.C. He worked that night’s entire game while his body was attempting, and wretchedly failing, to pass a kidney stone. He heaved during the producer’s final pregame countdown, swallowed two doses of pain pills during the telecast, but still finished strong. The stone was so big, it later required surgical removal that caused him to actually miss a game. “My father was a showman who always preached, ‘The show must go on,’ ” Lawler said. “I live by those words.”
It is a love that was momentarily drained from his life in 2009 when he and Smith were suspended for one game for mispronouncing “Iran” while describing Memphis center Hamed Haddadi. They called it, ”Eye-ran,” resulting in one angry email from a season-ticket holder that led to Fox officials to controversially bench the duo. “It was terribly unfair, and I am angry about it to this day,” said Lawler. “I didn’t say one word that could remotely be called racist. Listen to the tape, read the transcript, not one word, being a racist is so far from who I am.”
Normally this is where I’d make a couple of jokes, but I’m honestly a bit concerned about longtime Clippers play-by-play man Ralph Lawler, who announced much of the second half of tonight’s blowout win over the Lakers like the clip above, in a barely understandable mumble. Clippers radio announcer Brian Sieman tweeted that it was just food poisoning, and Clippers PR told me the following: Ralph said he has been battling the flu all day and is not feeling well, but he wanted to tough it out and try to finish the game, which he did.
Ralph Lawler: Well, we have not announced this as final year, but that’s the plan for now. But the plan a year ago was also for that to be final year. …
But what more does it take than entertaining, professional play-by-play, survivability and icon status to win the Curt Gowdy award, which is the NBA’s version of Hall of Fame recognition for a broadcaster? As oversights go, this should embarrass the NBA, the rest of the country now discovering him on ESPN with every replay of Griffin’s latest slam. The old coot is 73 but sounding as excited these days as a real estate agent both listing and selling a house. I cannot imagine anything better than the Clippers’ going deep in the playoffs and Lawler getting Hall of Fame attention. “I can,”‘ says Lawler. “Lying on the beach with my sweet Jo.”
Radio rights change for the Clippers again, and Lawler is back to doing open houses. The new guy bombs, so once again Lawler returns as Clippers announcer. “I thought my career in broadcasting was over,” he says, and so we’ll never know if he might’ve made the Real Estate Hall of Fame. A few years later he’s eating dinner with Chick and Marge Hearn. Lawler is a big admirer of Chick’s as both spent time in Peoria, Ill. Chick broadcast some of Lawler’s high school games. “Chick leaves to sit in his roost in the Forum, so Marge and I are left talking. She tells me, ‘You’re a funny guy. You’ve got a good sense of humor —- use it.’ “I’m thinking, ‘Why would I do that?’ I’m the typical sportscaster who thinks you’re supposed to describe the game as if folks have their eyes closed. “But Marge is telling me, be human. Remember Chick’s shaggy dog tales; people would groan, but the next day they would talk about it at work.”