Voice of the Wildcats
Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
328 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in, 67 b&w photos
- Published: September 2014
As one of the first voices of the University of Kentucky men's basketball program, Claude Sullivan (1924--1967) became a nationally known sportscasting pioneer. His career followed Kentucky's rise to prominence as he announced the first four NCAA championship titles under Coach Adolph Rupp and covered scrimmages during the canceled 1952--1953 season following the NCAA sanctions scandal. Sullivan also revolutionized the coverage of the UK football program with the introduction of a coach's show with Bear Bryant -- a national first that gained significant attention and later became a staple at other institutions. Sullivan's reputation in Kentucky eventually propelled him to Cincinnati, where he became the voice of the Reds, and even to the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome.
In Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting, Claude's son Alan, along with Joe Cox, offers an engaging and heartfelt look at the sportscaster's life and the context in which he built his career. The 1940s witnessed a tremendous growth in sportscasting across the country, and Sullivan, a seventeen year old from Winchester, Kentucky, entered the field when it was still a novel occupation that was paving new roads for broadcast reporting. During the height of his career, Sullivan was named Kentucky's Outstanding Broadcaster by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters for eight consecutive years. His success was tragically cut short when he passed away from throat cancer at forty-two
Featuring dozens of interviews and correspondence with sports legends, including Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones, Babe Parilli, Cliff Hagan, Ralph Hacker, Jim Host, Billy Reed, Adolph Rupp, and Cawood Ledford, this engaging biography showcases the life and work of a beloved broadcast talent and documents the rise of sports radio during the twentieth century.
Building a Life The Best of TimesGlory DaysThe Fall A Return To NormalcyKentucky Broadcaster, International Man of MysteryFiddlin' and Travelin'When in RomeCotton, Bradshaw and a "Dream Deferred"Moving on UpThe View from on TopTragedyAftermath of a Tragedy
"What an absorbing tribute this is to this man who in his prime was a legendary figure in broadcasting a trio of sports within a geographical region that extends several hundred miles. The son has done his daddy proud as he reminds his readers often of his father's ties to family activities ahead of those highlighting his passion for work. It is a fascinating read, inclusive of all the detail one would anticipate, and written in a breezy style that doesn't drag as it flows chronologically." -- Jim Cox, author of Radio Speakers: Narrators, News Junkies, Sports Jockeys, Tattletales, Tipsters, Toastmasters and Coffee Klatch Couples Who Verbalized the Jargon of the Aural Ether from the 1920s to the 1980s -- A Biographical Dictionary
"Alan Sullivan recounts the story of his father's broadcasting career covering University of Kentucky sports, horse racing, and Cincinnati Reds baseball at the midpoint of the Twentieth Century. The author meticulously researched the details of the UK sports covered by his father and skillfully uses oral history interviews to provide insightful and entertaining stories." -- Terry Birdwhistell, Dean of University of Kentucky Libraries
"'If Claude had lived, no one would have heard of Al Michaels'. Those were the words of Hall of Famer Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson prior to a UK vs Tennessee game in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was correct. Coach Adolph Rupp once said to me, 'if Claude were alive I am not certain they would have filled Rupp Arena'. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration?
In either case these men who knew him and those of us who listened and worked with him knew he was a man of extreme talent. Before television he was the eyes of the fan. He made you hear every crack of the helmet, bounce of the ball, feel the temperature and the wind in the air, hear the squeak of the shoes, smell the sweat of the game. He took you inside the game, through him you knew how Joe Nuxhall or Bob Perky was pitching, Ed Bailey was catching and Frank Robinson and Veda Pinson were hitting, or if Johnny Temple and Roy McMillian were going to turn the double play. Without being a 'homer,' with his special use of the English language you knew who he was for. Before The Cincinnati Reds, HE WAS THE VOICE OF THE WILDCATS." -- Ralph Hacker, University of Kentucky basketball announcer
"Claude Sullivan could paint a picture with words.... [H]e could transport you to the center of the action.... [W]hen you listened to Claude Sullivan call a game... it was if you had the best seat in the house." -- David Sullivan, Former EPSN Anchor and son of Claude Sullivan, from The Best Seat in the House
"He was the 'Voice of the Kentucky Wildcats.' His credentials were incredible, for a young man, and he was a young man, he was 27 when I met him when I came to the University and some of the players were 23 and probably when he started he was only a year or two older than some of the players." -- Cliff Hagan, former player 1951 NCAA Champion & Former Athletic Director
"He did his homework, he went to practices, he talked to the coaches, he talked to coach Rupp and Bryant and others, and he knew what it was about. So I think the ones that came along later, Cawood, JB Faulkner also heard him broadcast, Earl Boardman came in as I recall . I think Claude was kind of the model." -- CM Newton- UK Athletics Director 1989-2000/UK Basketball 1949-1951 1951 NCAA Champion team
"He (Claude) called the football games for Kentucky the basketball games and he went on the do the Cincinnati Reds baseball, a three letter man, they were hard to find especially in the broadcasting business and I kind of learned by listening to him." -- Vernon Hatton former UK Player 1958 NCAA Championship team.
"Claude Sullivan taught me one thing and that was "everything in life is based on preparation because if you prepare, you will succeed." I never saw anyone work harder at preparing than Claude Sullivan did, which is what made him the great announcer and the great broadcaster that he was." -- Jim Host, Former announcer & President -Host Communications
"I grew up listening to Claude Sullivan call UK football and basketball on the radio. Television was still in its infancy, and the radio play-by-play man was the ultimate communicator; painting a word picture as the action unfolded. None was better than Claude Sullivan, a true wordsmith, who brought the scene to life. I am certain that my own broadcasting style has been greatly influenced by those early years of listening to Claude Sullivan and Cawood Ledford. Any Wildcat fan who has been enthralled by the vivid descriptions of great moments in UK sports will enjoy the story of Claude Sullivan, lovingly told by his son Alan." -- Tom Hammond, NBC Sports
"What an inspiring and factual account about the life and times of a true pioneer in sports broadcasting, Claude Sullivan. His insightful and colorful broadcasts of Kentucky Basketball and Football games created a fan base that has become the 'Big Blue Nation.' Before television, his exciting and picturesque description of game action left listeners spellbound, visualizing they were actually at the games. It was such a tragedy his life was cut short because Claude was truly the original 'Voice of the Wildcats.' This book is a must read for every Kentucky fan!" -- Adolph "Herky" Rupp
"A treasure trove of recorded broadcasts" -- WUKY
"[A] splendid biography that will bring back many exciting memories for oldtime Wildcat fans." -- Northern Kentucky Tribune
"Providing a behind-the-scenes look into one of UK basketball's most triumphant periods, Wildcat fans and those interested in the history of radio will find plenty to enjoy." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society