PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Bill Schonely, the iconic voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, has died at the age of 93, biographer Kerry Eggers shared on Twitter on Saturday morning.
Few faces, or voices, have been more recognizable in the state of Oregon than that of Bill Schonely.
“And I yelled out ‘Rip City.’ Who knew those two words would mean so much, to so many”Bill Schonely
Well, that is what made him legendary in these parts.
Schonely was the original voice of the Trail Blazers, taking the position in 1970. In fact, “the Schonz,” as he was affectionately known, was employee number six when the Blazers came into existence, hired by the team’s co-founder, Harry Glickman.
Schonely was behind the mic for more than 2,500 Trail Blazers games from 1970 all the way through 1998. That’s when Schonely was unceremoniously replaced which turned out to be a PR nightmare for Portland’s, at the time, only professional sports franchise.
Facing an uproar by the die-hard Blazer maniacs, the team soon hired Schonely back in an ambassador role, one that he held since 2003. All the while, Schonely’s true love was calling the game.
In October of 2009, the Schonz returned for a throwback night at Memorial Coliseum during a Blazers preseason game. It was a tribute to the man who dedicated his life to this franchise.
And just this past April, Schonely left the Rose Quarter and attending games for good. They held a ceremony to honor him one last time.
The popularity of Bill Schonely is more alive now than maybe ever before.
In his heyday, he had numerous “in-game” catchphrases. “Climb the golden ladder” or “bingo bango bongo” or “lickety brindle up the middle”.
But the one that is etched into the history of the Trail Blazers like none other is “Rip City”. That was always bellowed when the Blazers made an important shot.
Schonely is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
It goes without saying that Schonely lived one of the most fulfilling lives one could ever hope for. A life dedicated to serving others, whether it was his time spent in the U.S. Marine Corps, or all the philanthropic work Schonely committed to.
That’s not to mention all the other sports that “The Schonz” called, from major league baseball to hockey, to even wrestling. Yes, Shonely was indeed the jack of all trades.
He leaves behind his wife Dottie and four adult children.
Bill Schonely was 93. Rest in peace.