CLEVELAND — Joe Tait, a longtime Cleveland sports broadcaster and voice of the Cavaliers for more than four decades, died Wednesday. He was 83.
Tait had recently gone into hospice care following a lengthy battle with kidney disease and liver cancer.
“A friend and mentor to many over the years, Joe Tait wasn’t just a member of the Cavaliers family; he was a part of the Cavs story like no one else and his voice and unique, candid perspective reverberates throughout the team’s history,” the Cavs said in a statement. “He will be dearly missed.”
Tait was with the NBA team from its inception in 1970 until he retired in 2011, calling over 3,000 games. In his final season, the Cavs honored Tait with a commemorative banner that hangs alongside some of the team’s retired jersey numbers in the rafters of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Sometimes a little gruff when he didn’t agree with a referees’ call, Tait also had several signature sayings like “Wham with the right hand!” following a dunk.
“Joe was also famous for his dry wit and his pragmatic view of life and probably wouldn’t have wanted a big, sentimental sendoff,” the Cavs said. “So, to paraphrase the legend, himself – Let’s not say: ‘goodbye.’ Let’s just say: “Have a GOOD night, everybody!’”
Tait was there in the good and bad years for the Cavs and he finally made it to the NBA Finals as LeBron James led Cleveland to its first appearance in 2007.
James expressed his condolences in a Twitter posting.
“Rest In Paradise my friend!!” James wrote. “You’ll be extremely missed here!”
Tait did radio and TV play-by-play for the Cleveland Indians for 16 seasons. He also called games for the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers, Cleveland Crusaders hockey and Mount Union football.
Among Tait’s more memorable calls was the Cavs’ “Miracle in Richfield” run in the 1975-76 playoffs, when Cleveland rallied to knock off Washington. He also handled Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.
“Thank you, Joe, for the decades of joy you have brought Cleveland sports fans,” the Indians said in a posting.
Tait was born in Evanston, Illinois. He began his radio career at Monmouth College (Illinois) before graduating in 1959. He had planned to be a writer, but changed his career course after a professor sent him to record a basketball game and heard his call.
Tait also served three years in the Army.
He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame media wing in 2010.
There were no immediate information on services.