I was 4 years old during the ‘Miracle of Richfield’ season. My fan-dom certainly did not begin there. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in high school did myself, or my dad for that matter, really begin to follow the NBA at all.
I do remember listening to the radio down in the basement when I was a kid. We had a fabulous basement for a little boy. It was big and open, and had a cement floor. I was allowed to ride my bike down there, bounce the basketball or just play around with the exercise equipment. Often I would just watch my dad work at his workshop. (For the life of me I have no recollection of him actually finishing a project, but that’s another story.)
As I rode my bike or played whatever imaginary game my mind conceived of I would sometimes listen to Tait call the Cavs games. I remember hearing the names of World B. Free, Roy Hinson, Mel Turpin and John Bagley. It wasn’t until Price, Daugherty, Nance and Hot Rod though that I became a fan of the Cavs.
At age 14 I got my first job. We’ll be nice and leave out the names of the guilty so as not to cause any child labor inquiries. I worked evenings and couldn’t watch the Cavs from the kitchen of the restaurant. I was allowed to bring in a radio however, and listen to the Cavs while I did the dishes or prepped food for the following day.
And that is where my affection for the Cavaliers, and Joe Tait began.
Those years were awesome. Price pulling up for three point shots in transition. Nance and Williams blocking shots and stuffing the rim- with the right hand of course. Sure I made it to some games at the Coliseum, but for the majority of the season I was listening on the little radio in that kitchen.
What I loved about Tait was that no matter when you tuned into the game, it wasn’t long before you knew the important things. He told you the score. He told you who was in foul trouble. He told you who was hot and who was not hitting shots. All you had to do was listen. Joe took care of the rest.
He never had to say anything about the officiating either. You could tell from his call if the foul was legit or not. His signature phrases we all know and love, but maybe my favorite Tait calls were when he was frustrated with the officials and would say “a whistle and WHAT?” Then he would tell you “They’re going to call a travel on Terrell Brandon”, or “according to the official Daugherty didn’t have his feet set long enough.” I felt like we were both rooting for the Cavs, but he just happened to be there to tell me what was going on.
Those years listening to the Cavs at work with Tait, and to the Indians with Score and Hamilton I never really knew how great we had it here in Cleveland. Add in Nev Chandler, Jim Mueller and Casey Coleman for the Browns and we’ve been very fortunate here.
For 35 years it has been about the action on the court for Joe Tait and Cleveland. Tonight it is about Joe. The game is a footnote really. Thanks friend for always telling me the score.