December 14, 2003 by

Earl Gillespie


Categories: Sports

Earl Gillespie, the radio voice of the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s, died on Dec. 12 from respiratory failure. He was 81.

A minor league baseball player for the Green Bay Blue Jays in the early 1940s, Gillespie decided to become a sports broadcaster while serving as a fighter pilot during World War II. His re-creations of the Packers-Bears games were so entertaining, the soldiers filled the barracks with their cheers.

When the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, he was hired to call the games. For the next 11 years, thousands tuned in to WTMJ 620AM to hear Gillespie exclaim “Holy Cow!” every time one of the Braves hit a home run or made a big play. From 1963 to 1985, he did commentary on WITI-TV Channel 6 in Milwaukee, and broadcast the play-by-play action for the Green Bay Packers, Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin.

He received the “Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year Award” eight times, and was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

38 Responses to Earl Gillespie

  1. Tim Traynor

    I moved tio Wisconson with my parents in 1967 when I was 18. I never had seen a sports portion of the news that had fishing and other sports other than baseball, football and basketball. I never watched any other news weather and sports show during my 7 years in Wisconsin. I was saddened when I heard of the death of Earl. What a great man he was.

  2. ron barber

    one of the greatest baseball broadcasters who ever lived.
    what’s more, earl gillespie came across as a
    great guy, too.
    he and blaine walsh(the “blainer”) were a
    perfect broadcast team—for a perfect baseball team.
    without a sliver of doubt, earl gillespie should absolutely be enshrined in the major league
    baseball broadcasters’ hall of fame.
    i hope milwaukeeans and true baseball fans
    everywhere take up the baton for that cause.

  3. Robert Daniel

    Earl Gillespie was phenomenal as a broadcaster and my all-time favorite hands down. He described the action on the field so beautifully you’d swear you were attending the game in person. He kept you on the edge of your seat with his dramatic calls and descriptions and was so skillful at creating excitement and enthusiasm for the listener.
    There’s only one other broadcaster that’s in the same league as Earl. That would be the late great Ray Scott, who was magnificent as the voice of the Packers primarily in the 1960’s.
    Rest in peace, Earl Gillespie and Ray Scott! You were the very best and you greatly entertained us all.

  4. keily

    I remember when Milwaukee had the bases loaded, it was FOB. “Full of Braves”. No one could describe Andy Pafko’s catches like Earl.

  5. Tom Milkowski

    Earl was a huge part of my childhood. I lived & died with the broadcasts of those Milwaukee Braves games in the 50’s & 60’s. He was fun, entertaining, knowledgable, & exciting. I still have the old “Earl Gillespie Baseball Card Game” – a real collector’s item. We miss you, Earl.

  6. Frank Nelson

    I was stationed at Truax Field 1954 to 57 and listened to Earl all the time with his fishnet to catch foul balls he was great to listen too. I was wondering what happened to him when the Braves moved to Atlanta. As one of the guys wrote Earl and Ray Scott were the greatest. Today’s announcers could take a lesson from them. Nowadays 3 or 4 announcers sit there and talk about such nonsense among themselves and forget there is a ballgame down below.
    I hope they are enshrined in some kind of hall of fame. Frank in Post Falls, Idaho

  7. tom

    I am too young to remember Earl calling the Braves games, although i have heard the recordings and he was awesome; my most vivid memory of Earl was UW football games; in the late 60s and early 70s, when the Badgers were taking their lumps, listening to Earl describe the action still made it exciting. I had the opportunity to meet Earl in 1989. Folks, he was as nice in person as he came across on the air. Thanks Earl; the profession misses you and so do we.
    tom-appleton, wisconsin

  8. Neale Donald Walsch

    From the day the Braves came to Milwaukee in 1953 to the day they abandoned the greatest baseball town in the history of the sport, Earl Gillespie MEANT baseball to me. His calls were legendary for their brightness and their excitement. With his pal “The Blainer” (Blaine Walsh), he made listening to Braves games so hypnotic that even fans to CAME TO THE GAMES listened to his play-by-play on portable radios. You could hear his broadcast all over Milwaukee County Stadium.
    I will remember Earl forever, and cherish his calls of “Spahnie” and Andy Pafko and Hank Aaron and Lew Burdette and Eddie Mathews and Johnny Logan and Joe Adcock and Billy Bruton and Del Crandall and all the rest of the gang who made my childhood in Milwaukee so magical and so special.
    Many of them are together now, I know.
    Earl Gillespie was one of the most exciting, baseball savvy play-by-play men ever to broadcast the game. YES to his being in the baseball broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.

  9. Rick Basham

    I have a Pabst beer sign that has a list of HOME RUN BAKER’S home runs by year and a replica of the bat used by HOME RUN BAKER. The list is signed by Earl Gillespie. My dad had it in his storage building that was falling in. I am glad I found it when I did. Both of these men were the best at what they did.

  10. John P. Schumacher

    As a kid, I watched Earl Gillespie play first base for the Green Bay Bluejays. His nickname was “Lippy,” and he kept up a constant chatter all during the game. Most of it was aimed at his pitcher, by way of encouragement. The Bluejays had one pitcher named Deacon Delmore. I can still hear Lippy calling from first base, “C’m onnn Deke, C’m onnn Babe!”

  11. erin duffey

    Earl was my grandpa. Bops, we used to call him. And when I was little his feet seemed to be about the size of my whole body. Always covered up by long white patent leather buckle shoes. And he had the darkest, thickest, bushy Scots eyebrows I had ever seen. I was a shy kid. And he was a huge personality. And I was a bit timid until I discovered he could pull off his thumb. He pulled hard and it wavered back and forth like a magnet to metal. HOLY COW! What a guy.
    He died two years ago this holiday season. Last winter I was crossing the street in New York and a little girl in a plaid school uniform stopped me right there in the middle of the crosswalk. “Look!” She pulled off her thumb. And there was his voice again. The voice that so many of you know.

  12. Meghan (Gillespie) Blaney

    Earl, too, was my grandfather. It will make you all happy to know that he was just the kind of person he came across as over the airwaves, and even more. He had the greatest smile and voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He will always be one of the greatest people I have ever met and I am honored that he was related to me. I always knew that he had affected so many people’s lives, but I did not realize to what extent until he passed away. I am so happy he was able to share his personality with all of you.
    We love you Bops!

  13. Pat Braun

    I rember Earl Gillespie and of course his buddy, Blaine Walsh ( The Blainer ) Earl’s broadcasts were exciting and energetic. I remember his broadcast one Friday evening when Harvey Haddix, then, of the Pittsburg Pirates, pitched his 12 and 2/3 perfect innings against Lew Burdette and the Milwaukee Braves. In his astonding tone, he announced, “Harvey Haddix has just pitched a perfect game and he walks off the mound without a decision.” His broadcast of that game made it more of a nail-biter than it was to begin with. “Harvey Haddix has faced 33 men and that’s par for the course,” in his Gillespie dramatic tone. Thanks to Earl Gillespie, that was an edge of your seat game. Earl Gillespie was the best baseball announcer of all time. They should induct him into the Baseball Hall Of Fame.

  14. Paul Polito

    Sorry To Hear what a great Man He was so fun to listen to!
    I have a 1954 BaseBall Signed By Earl Gillespie and Blain Walsh! It is in Mint Shape would the Family like it? Or the Hall of fame?
    I grew up in Milwaukee in the 60′,70’s
    If this gets to a family member please write….
    Paul Polito

  15. Bruce Valentine

    I remember when Earl and his budd Blaine Walsh would broadcast the Braves games at County Stadium and they had a big fishing net that they would catch balls with when the batters would foul them back….He was a great guy and will truly be missed.

  16. Daniel Kohl

    As a kid in the 50’s I grew up listening to Earl Gillespie. He so identified with the people of Milwaukee that it was difficult to even imagine anyone else broadcasting a Braves game. He was accused of being a “homer” announcer, and he was, but we listeners still got the picture of what was happening on the field. We were all a part of the excitment he gave us. He probably set the stage for future broadcasters. Probably one of the most influential broadcasters of all time. I miss him and his voice to this day. What joy he gave us kids in the 50’s.

  17. Jerry Currie

    I use to fall asleep at night with the transister radio under my pillow listening Earl and his buddy Blainer, I loved when Earl would yell; GET THE NET OUT BLAINER, when ever a foul ball was coming at them…..My mother got me the GO GET

  18. Hogan Hayes

    A friend of mine was playing poker with his older brother and friends when it came out that my grandfather was Earl Gillespie. There was a moment of silence. They were all Badger fans, and they could still hear his voice.
    There are a lot of us who still hear that voice.

  19. Michael S Kecker

    I have a friend that has a card game called the earl
    gillespie baseball game. its in perfect condition and its all there could some one email me and tell me what its might be worth kecker40@hotmail.com____________________

  20. Lou Lorscheider

    I went looking for Earl while grieving for Lew Burdette, who died just yesterday. And I find all of these wonderful memories from people who were there for the magical baseball era of the Braves in Milwaukee in the 1950s. God bless the whole bunch of them–Spahnnie, Burdette, Buhl, Logan, Crandall, Covington, Aaron, Adcock, Schoendienst, the greatest third baseman of his time, Eddie Matthews, Hurricane Bob Hazel, the Torre boys, Bullet Bill Bruton, Pafko, Del Rice, and on and on. What a perfect time to be a young boy in Wisconsin.

  21. David Luff

    I was reading Tony Cloninger’s stats on when I thought, let me Google Earl Gillespie. I grew up in Milwaukee in the 50’s and 60’s.
    If I remember correctly, Earl was from WMAQ and Blaine Walsh was from WTMJ, both of which stations carried the Braves’ games. While I am still angry with Lou Perini for not allowing the Braves’ games to be televised, Earl Gillespie’s vivid accounts were the next best thing or perhaps even better. I’ll never forget the Haddix perfect game that ended perfectly for the Braves. Earl’s account really brought the game to life.
    Earl really made my childhood a much richer place, even if I might have missed some questions on tests because I’d been up the previous night listening to a colorful night game broadcast!

  22. Peter N Jacobson

    The famous people we get to ‘know’ when we’re kids are surely permanent parts of the universe. It’s hard to reconcile a world without them. Growing up in Madison, That Voice, Earl Gillespie, created everything I knew about my heroes, the Milwaukee Braves.
    I still have a copy of a piece of audio tape used at radio station WISM, 1480, Madison, for a pick-up recording session toward the end of 1963. As the music fades out and the mike clicks off…
    “Here’s a ground ball to the shortstop’s left — Roy’s over, nice big hop, the throw to first base, HE’S out of there, and it’s three up and three down in the fourth, no runs, no hits, no errors, and nobody left on base. We move on to the last half of the fourth inning; the score: the Giants 4 and our Milwaukee Braves nothing.”
    You can hear it, can’t you. It sure is an improvement over:
    H Kuenn Groundout: SS-1B
    0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 0 LOB. Giants 4, Braves 0.

  23. Bill Reistad

    There must have been a bunch of us with transistor radios listening to Braves games when we should have been asleep. Mine was the rocket transistor clipped to the bed frame. I mostly remember Earl pleading “Come on, you Henry” when Aaron was up and the game was on the line. It gave me chills – as much as when Hank came through with a homer or game winning hit. Thanks, Earl, for your part in making my memories priceless.

  24. Gary Kiner

    Growing up in Wauwatosa when the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, some of the best memories with my dad and me were ballgames on Sunday afternoon on the radio while playing catch in the backyard and listenig to Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh. What a terrific combo! Talk about putting the listener into the game! I’ll always remember . . .”no runs, no hits, no errors, and noboby left on base!” Thanks, Earl and Blaine. . .certainly, “no errors!”

  25. Bob Daniels

    I remember Earl Gillespie from his Braves radio broadcast days, and as the radio voice of the Wisconsin Badgers, too. My favorite news telecasts still are the days on WITI-TV Channel 6 in Milwaukee, with Carl Zimmermann (news), Ward Allen & Albert the Alley Cat (weather), and Earl Gillespie (sports). Albert, via his human counterpart Jack DuBlon, always had a zinger or two for Earl, on every broadcast. Earl was no slacker either; he’d give that cat one right back, and maybe another for good measure. God Bless You, Earl.

  26. Don Hooser

    I grew up with earl gillespie and blaine walsh and braves baseball. In the early and mid 50’s following the braves meant radio and earl & the “blainer.” Their style was folksy, colorful, and informative. Their colorful descriptions-spahnie, joltin joe adcock, hammerin hank aaron, the santa barbara and brookfield bomber eddie mathews turned these milwaukee boys of summer into my boyhood heroes. Because we didn’t go to many games, I didn’t realize hank aaron was african american until my dad took me to a game in late summer of 1954. I also remember gillespie for his packer and badger broadcast. “touchdown bucky badger” still rings in my ears as well as his play by play of packer games in the Tobin Rote, Billy Howton era. Earl Gillespie was and is a broadcasting icon. The fact that he is not installed in the broadcast hall of fame is a travesty and reflects the lack of respect Milwaukee has always gotten. Remember “bush league” prior to the 1957 world series. And the subsequent headline, “Bush league wins!” Rest in piece, earl, on a nice walleye filled lake with a pbr in one hand and a spinning rod & reel combo in the other. “Holy Cow!”

  27. don hooser

    as a young lad growing up in Milwaukee area in 50’s, earl gillespie, the “blainer” and the milwaukee braves were a vital part of my summer. Earl and Blaine Walsh’s style was folksy, colorful and still game informative. They were avid “homer” announcers and that’s as it should be. Earl’s colorful names-Spahnie, Joltin Joe Adcock, Sunny Jim Pendleton, Hammerin Hank Aaron, the Santa Barbara and Brookfield Bomber Eddie Mathews, Hurricane Bob Hazel, et al and his colorful commentary on the catches of Andy Pafko and the on-field altercations of Mathews and shortstop Johnny Logan were legendary. I also remember Earl’s days as a Wisconsin Badger football announcer-“touchdown Bucky Badger!” still lingers in my inner voices as well as Earl’s play by play of the Packers during the Tobin Rote, Billy Howton, et al era. I still remember his play by play when Al Carmichael returned a kickoff 106 yards(I think I got the yardage right.) Even though I haven’t lived in Milwaukee for years, I still remember Earl as the premier play by play announcer and a top notch sportscaster on local tv who never lost that homespun style and could just as easily talk about fishing as baseball or football. What a gem. I was shocked to learn that Earl is not in the sportswriters hall of fame. What a travesty of justice that this play by play icon who chronicled Milwaukee’s Boys of Summer through one of the most successul era’s in baseball history-the Milwaukee Braves never finished lower than third place in the old eight team National League. It seems to continue the lack of respect that Milwaukee gets. Remember “Bush League” comments prior to the 1957 World Series-and the subsequent headline “Bush League Wins!” Perfect. Rest in Peace old companion of my youth. I owe you so much in terms of the pictures you painted, the memories you instilled and the warm summer days and evenings I remember because of you-playing pinocle with my dad and our neighbors while listening to the game in which Joltin Joe Adcock hit four home runs and a double; spellbound as you chronciled the greatest pitching performance in baseball history-Harvey Haddix’s 12 inning perfect game spoiled by a Felix Mantilla getting on base, Hammerin Hank getting a walk and Joltin Joe getting a home run which became a double when Aaron walked off the field before crossing home plate after Mantilla scored. I hope you’re enjoying life on a nice walleye filled lake with a spinning rod & reel combo in one hand and a PBR in the other. God Bless you Earl. I miss you.

  28. Lois Schmidt

    Growing up practically in the shadow of Borchert Field in Milwaukee, I still knew nothing about basball – until the Braves became the Milwaukee Braves. A young stay-a-home mom with my first child, I started listening to the radio broadcasts, and I learned to just love baseball!, all from Earl Gillespie, the best sportscaster I’ve ever heard. No one can say enough about that man – he was as good as they come.

  29. Tom Stecker

    I had the honor of being Earl’s step son-in-law for 20 years. The passing of both of their spouses led to the meeting and eventual marriage of Earl and my mother-in-law. That union allowed me to become friends with one of the nicest men that has walked this earth.
    Growing up a sports fan in the Milwaukee area I was certainly familiar with who Earl Gillespie was. He was the face of sports in that town for many years so I was a little nervous, but also excited to learn that he, and his celebrity, would be included in our family group. The person I met was one of the most humble and nicest I have had the opportunity to know. He was a true gentleman, loyal friend, and fun fishing and golfing partner.
    He loved his family, loved his friends, and I loved him. He’s probably fishing right now. I can hear him. “HOLY COW! Look at the size of that walleye!”

  30. Paul Ruffino

    I worked with Earl from 1980 until his retirement at WITI in 1985. I spent countless hours in his office between shows. He had more charisma than anyone I have ever met. I don’t remember him ever getting mad when things went wrong. He would tell stories! Here’s one. Bob Uecker was once in a limo with Frank Sinatra and Frank asked Bob, “How’s Earl?”. Apparently Frank used to listen to Earl call Braves’ games. Earl was proud of that one.
    I’m sure he’s in heaven doing his duck call. “Hey duck”.

  31. Howard Clyman

    Sorry to hear too late the passing of a great man. I worked for TV6 from 1970 to 1984. I was his photographer for many sporting events. Over the years I shot numerous fishing shows with Earl. He loved people and loved his job. He will always be missed.

  32. Bob Barry

    Fans of Earl….go to the Wisconsin Broadcast Hall of Fame web site and look up his video. It tells his story in a few minutes.

  33. Milt Greenberger

    I worked with Earl in the 60’s and 70’s at TV6, and I have never met such a humble man. What you saw on the air is what you truly saw when the red light went off.

    His energy and smile inspired all of us at the station. What I treasure most about Earl is that he treated everyone the same. Whether you were a custodian or the general manager of the station, you can count on Earl to treat you with respect and sincerity. He always made time to chat with you, no matter how busy he was.

    A True Gentleman.

  34. pamela broome

    My father and earl played on the minors league of wisc blue jays. I have an autographed baseball from 1944 with earls signature as well as my father and the team. Father Robert o perthel

  35. sanford sklansky

    Pretty surprising that the last response came so many years after this piece was written. I was reminded today that that this was the anniversary of the last Braves home game. What a said day. I didn’t hear this because I was out of state in college, but Earl said “They sold us down the river” I am happy to have a team here, but still pissed off the Braves left.

  36. Gregory Dendor

    Earl Gillespie was GREAT. As a High School Freshman at Don Bosco High School I called up WITI-TV6 and asked if I could speak to Earl and set up as interview with him for an English class project I was doing.

    He was busy at the time but I was able to leave my home phone number with the person I spoke with at WITI-TV6 and a few days later Earl called me up and we arranged a time for the actual interview.

    True to his word, Earl called me up at 4pm one day after I got home from school and we talked for 5 minutes or so.

    Being a teenager and talking to such a “larger than life FAMOUS person” that he was to me at the time, Earl was “easy” with me and made the interview really pleasurable and memorable.

    To top it off, Earl sent me a transcript of the interview on WITI-TV6 letterhead paper, which I still have to this day !

    All Hail to The Milwaukee Braves and All Hail to Earl Gillespie…

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