Cal Athletics announced that Joe Starkey would retire from his role as play-by-play radio announcer after the 2022 campaign
BERKELEY – Legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Starkey, best known for his "the band is out on the field" call of "The Play" in 1982, announced Thursday that he will retire as Cal's football radio play-by-play announcer following the 2022 campaign.
In Starkey's 48th and final season on the mic, the 2022 Golden Bears will travel to Notre Dame to face the Fighting Irish for the first time in 55 years, celebrate the 125th Big Game and 40th anniversary of The Play in Berkeley, and host "Joe Starkey Day" for the regular-season finale in Strawberry Canyon against UCLA.
"It has been an incredible privilege to have the best seat in the house to watch Cal football since 1975," Starkey said. "My first position in sportscasting was in 1972, and I have had some truly special assignments. But of all the places I have worked, the one constant has been Cal football.
" I can't begin to thank all of the Cal players, coaches, staff and professors who have made this fairy tale journey so incredibly satisfying. The University of California is a very special place and I couldn't be prouder to have made at least a small contribution of joy to this iconic academic institution."
In addition to producing one of the most memorable calls in all of sports history for what is widely considered college football's most famous play ever, Starkey also coined the phrase "What A Bonanza!" to describe other exciting plays he has witnessed since the beginning of his broadcasting career in 1972 as the radio and television voice of the NHL's California Golden Seals. Starkey, who will celebrate his 81st birthday this October 19, began his tenure at Cal in 1975 and has been on the microphone for 538 of the 545 Cal football contests since. He celebrated his 500th Cal game against Oregon on Sept. 29, 2018.
"Joe Starkey's commitment and service to Cal football have been unwavering for nearly a half-century," Cal's Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said. "I'm excited to celebrate and honor all of Joe's great work over the years and make 2022 his best season yet with the Bears. He will always have a home in Berkeley and with Cal football."
"What an incredible career Joe Starkey has had over such a long period of time," said Travers Family Head Football Coach Justin Wilcox, who was born the year after Starkey began broadcasting Cal football games. "Joe's name is synonymous with the history of our football program. It's going to be a thrill to see him honored and recognized by so many who have enjoyed his work over the years."
Harmon will probably try to squib it and he does. Ball comes loose and the Bears have to get out of bounds. Rodgers, along the sideline, another one – they're still in deep trouble at midfield, they tried to do a couple of – the ball is still loose, as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they're down to the 20 – Oh, the band is out on the field! He's gonna go into the end zone! He got into the end zone!
And the Bears! The Bears have won! The Bears have won! Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!
Joe Starkey - "The Play"
Starkey has also had an array of broadcasting duties with professional sports organizations during his career that he mostly fulfilled in conjunction with his Cal duties, highlighted by a 22-year stint on the San Francisco 49ers' radio broadcast team (1987-2008) that included the final 20 campaigns as the play-by-play voice. The 49ers won their most recent three Super Bowls (XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) during Starkey's tenure with the team as he described plays for Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, among others.
Starkey also worked NFL games for the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, the USFL's Oakland Invaders and the WLAF's Sacramento Surge. In addition, he was the first television voice of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, while also broadcasting with the Oakland Seals, Colorado Rockies, Golden State Warriors and Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition, Starkey served for 25 years as sports director at the Bay Area's KGO 810 Radio, which enters its 49th season as the flagship station for Cal football in 2022.
Starkey, who has been named the best play-by-play announcer in the state of California on nine occasions, has recently received several lifetime achievement honors. In 2009, he was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame before being recognized the next year by the National Football Foundation with the Chris Schenkel Award for his distinguished career broadcasting college football. Cal honored Starkey in 2016 by naming the home radio broadcast booth at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium as "The Joe Starkey Broadcast Booth" and then inducted him into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the 2018 class. Most recently in 2022, Starkey was presented with the Durham Voice of College Sports Award from the National Sports Media Association.
We will miss one of the constants in the Cal fandom who was a part of so many of our memories as a Cal Fan. Thank you Joe!
Joe is a family friend. There was a family that used to host post-game ragers in the eighties for alums at their place near Lake Merritt. Joe would stop by on occasion. In fact, I do remember him stopping by very late after the '82 Big Game. He used to cover bball as well, and I can remember talking to him about Derrick Chevius, who played at Mizzou and who we played at Harmon. Joe's son was my roommate at St. Mary's baseball camp. Joe did a nice on-air tribute for my dad when he learned he had passed. He's clearly past his time, but having him on air even well after he has lost his fastball has been a nice thread to some very happy memories.
I've been making fun of him for decades but now I feel nostalgic about him (47 years at the mike!) and wish him nothing but the best.