One one man has called professional basketball games in Cleveland. Well, truth be told, several different men have done it, on TV at least. On radio, however, just one man. His name is Joe Tait, and last night he became a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
Tait began his association with the Cavaliers in 1970 when Cleveland was an expansion team. With the exception of a couple seasons during the Cavaliers 'dark ages', Tait has called the Cavaliers games ever since.
Many younger fans think Tait is a one-trick pony in the broadcasting business. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Tait has done two stints as the play-by-play voice of the Cleveland Indians - on radio from 1973-1979 and on tv from 1980-1987. Tait also called games for the Cleveland Rockers of the WNBA and is currently calling games for the Mount Union Purple Raiders football team on SportsTime Ohio.
On March 26, 2008, Tait announced his 3000th game for the Cavaliers, against the New Orleans Hornets, where he sat at half court. The radio broadcast location at The Q at section C126, has been forever renamed The Joe Tait Perch in honor of this achievement.
In November 2008, Tait signed a two-year contract extension, which ensures that he will be the team's radio voice until at least the 2010-11 season. However, he has a lifetime agreement with team.
What has always been amazing to me is Tait's ability to call games by himself. No need for 'color commentary'. Even on radio, Tait has the ability to tell us everything we need to know, and not a word more. In an era where broadcasters seem to want to become part of the action, Joe Tait has been able to do the opposite. He allows the game to be the star of the show. By doing that, Tait has become a legend.
At his induction last night, Tait did what he does best - explain his gratitude in a minimalist way.
In an acceptance speech that lasted only a couple of minutes, Tait dedicated the award to a number of people associated with the Cavs he said were instrumental in his winning it: former coach Bill Fitch, former owner Nick Mileti, former principal owner and current minority owner Gordon Gund, former General Manager Harry Weltman, owner Dan Gilbert, former player and GM Danny Ferry, former GM Wayne Embry and former player and coach Lenny Wilkens.
"But the person who is most responsible for me being here tonight is the lady who has stood behind me, in front of me and beside me for almost 30 years -- my wife Jean," Tait said in his customary strong voice that never wavered. "Thank you very much. Thank you, Basketball Hall of Fame."
In May, Tait announced that 2010-11 would be his last. I'm still hoping he changes his mind. If not, the NBA will lose one of the true gentleman of sport. Congratulations to Joe Tait on his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.