Longtime voice of the Cavaliers and legendary sports broadcaster Joe Tait died today at the age of 83.
Joe was the voice of the Cavs from their first year in existence through the 2011 season and called Indians games for 16 years on radio and TV previously. He was the best in the game.
Joe is a Cleveland Broadcast Hall of Famer three times over, an Ohio Broadcast Hall of Famer, an Indiana Broadcast Hall of Famer, he’s a Naismith Hall of Famer, he had the radio booth at Quicken Loans Arena named after him, he’s on the Cavs Wall of Honor, and he had his microphone retired in the rafter at the arena.
As a Cleveland sports fan growing up I was spoiled by the guys calling the games. Tom Hamilton, Jim Donovan and Joe Tait. There isn’t a better trio of radio broadcasters in the country and I got to listen to those guys year round. Throw in Paul Keels on Saturdays in Columbus and its overkill compared to any other region.
I had the pleasure, nay, the honor of meeting Joe when he was broadcasting Division III football games at Mount Union. As a lowly freshman working in the sports information office, it was my job to walk down to the concession stand, pick up a whole pepperoni pizza and take it up to Joe for lunch. Every home game, every year, for as long as he was calling the game. Like clockwork.
In his later years, Joe had a hard time climbing the stairs to the broadcast booth in the press box. He made the point known to the mover and shakers in the athletic department and I’ll be damned if that press box didn’t have an elevator and a bathroom on the top floor the next season.
When Joe retired from calling games for the Cavaliers, the new play-by-play guy couldn’t fill the shoes. I told Joe that I missed him calling the games, he kinda laughed and said ‘that’s showbiz baby.’
In his book, ‘Joe Tait: It’s Been A Real Ball’, Joe says the reason he called DIII football games at Mount Union was because Mount Union was the first to ask him to do it. He was also super into trains. Kinda weird, but I like it. I’ll always regret not growing a pair and asking him to sign my copy.
Joe’s calls still live on in Cleveland sports today if you listen carefully. Tom Hamilton starts every Indians broadcast with ‘It’s a beautiful day for baseball at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.’ That’s Joe. Every now and then you’ll hear a ‘WHAM, with the right hand’ on a Cavs dunk. That’s Joe. ‘To the line, to the lane’? Joe. ‘Left to right on your radio dial’? Yup, Joe.
He made you feel like you were at the game and that’s the best compliment a radio broadcaster can receive. RIP in peace.