Before the Miracle of Richfield, before his name hung in the rafters at The Q, Joe Tait worked for WRAM, "The Pride of Prime Beef Country," a daytime-only Monmouth, Ill., radio station that once ran a promotion in which a lucky listener won an on-air breakfast with the mayor. "We cooked the breakfast and broadcast right from the kitchen," the legendary Cleveland sports broadcaster recalls in the pages of Joe Tait: It's Been a Real Ball (Gray & Co., $15.95). Written by The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto, the book is something Tait once vowed would never happen. It reaches back into his childhood, discusses his early days on radio and offers a play-by-play of his Hall of Fame career. "I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised when he called about doing it," says Pluto. "The best part of writing it was being able to put it in the context of Cleveland sports for the last 40 years."
The book reveals Tait as a young boy who broadcast imaginary baseball games from the privacy of his bedroom, drawing the disdain of a domineering father who sent him to a child psychologist. It follows him to Illinois' Monmouth College, where he had a fateful meeting with Bill Fitch, who would go on to be the Cavaliers' first coach, and recalls Tait's first NBA broadcast at the dungeonlike Cleveland Arena.
It also explores his tireless work ethic, which led to a broadcast job with the Indians too, where Tait was in the booth for Len Barker's perfect game as well as the infamous 10 Cent Beer Night. But Tait's legend is cemented in his calls of Cavs' games — from the first-year team that lost 27 of its first 28 games to the reign of LeBron James.
"The Miracle of Richfield team was fun because we had never won anything at all," says Tait, who talked to Cleveland Magazine about the book.
But that wasn't his favorite team. "You'll never find a greater group in one place than the [Mark] Price, [Brad] Daugherty, [Larry] Nance and [Craig] Ehlo teams. They were some of the finest human beings I have ever been around," he says. "In the LeBron James era, we slipped into the modern mode of professional basketball and elevated him to somewhere near the right hand of God. He wasn't a leader. ... A great player, but he needs someone to lead him."
When the NBA became "a cross between pro wrestling and the roller derby," he says, the thrill was gone, particularly after James' overhyped decision to play for Miami.
"That was an embarrassment to LeBron, the NBA and ESPN," Tait says. "Anybody who had their finger in that pie came away with a stinky finger."
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12:00 AM EST
November 17, 2011