Gil Stratton, Channel 2,
KNX Veteran Gil Stratton Dies at 86
City News Service by Hans Laetz
From: Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – One of the biggest voices in Los Angeles broadcasting history is still, with the death of Gil Stratton Saturday at his Toluca Lake home. He was 86. Stratton spend decades appearing on KNXT, and then KCBS Channel 2, and reporting for KNX on stories ranging from the arrival of the Dodgers to the Lakers “showtime’ era.
In 1961, Stratton became an integral part of the nation’s first regular television newscast longer than 15 minutes: Channel 2’s hour-long “The Big News.” Stratton and cohorts Jerry Dunphy and Bill Keene owned the early-evening Los Angeles television airwaves for that decade, and became the prototype news team for local TV stations across the country. “Hi folks, time to call ’em as I see ’em” was the veteran sportscaster’s trademark opening, both on Channel 2 and on co-owned KNX radio. Listeners in the western United States were familiar with “sports and the weather together,” a nightly segment featuring Stratton and Keene on KNX’s 50,000 watts. He was also the broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Rams for their early years, and was frequently tabbed to call sports remotes on the CBS television network.
Stratton, a native of Brooklyn, got his start on Broadway with a role in 1941’s “Best Foot Forward.” Arriving in Hollywood in 1943, Stratton landed several big radio jobs, but put his career on hiatus for a spin as an Army Air Corps bombardier. The vet then made the rounds of major radio networks shows originating from Hollywood, including “Lux Radio Theater,” “The Great Gildersleeve,” and “My Little Margie.” He played opposite Judy Garland in a 1950 radio adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” He also appeared in 40 movies, and shared an Academy Award for his role as “Cookie” Cook in 1953’s “Stalag 17.” He played “Mouse,” an outlaw motorcyclist, next to Marlon Brando in 1954’s “The Wild One,” and at times starred with Cary Grant, Shirley Temple Marilyn Monroe, and William Holden.
But it was doing sports at Channel 2 where Stratton became most-familiar to Southland viewers. Stratton has spent nine years as an umpire for the Pacific Coast League, and was hired at CBS station KNXT in 1954. Working for both the local station and the network, he covered Major League Baseball, pro football, the Olympics, and major boxing matches. Stratton was part of an experiment at Channel 2 in 1961, when station executives combined 15-minute long news and sportscasts, added weatherman Bill Keene, and put the first evening news hour on the air in U.S. television history. Within a year, “The Big News” was earning a 28 percent share in the Los Angeles ratings books and rewriting the way TV listings would look across the continent.
At Channel 2, Stratton won five local Emmys and seven Golden Mike awards from the Radio-Television News Association. Stratton semi-retired in the 1980s, but returned to his old home at the 1070 spot on the AM dial as the weekend sports anchor, bringing back his “call ’em as I see ’em” tagline.
He left the air in 1997, but continued charity work and teaching broadcasting students at Cal State Northridge. The newborn nursery at Henry Mayo Hospital in Newhall is named after him, in honor of the charity golf tournaments he hosted to raise funds.
Stratton died of heart failure Saturday, CBS2 announced on its Web site.