Even now, Jim Host describes the events of Dec. 6, 1967, "as one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life."
With regular play-by-play man Claude Sullivan in Minnesota being treated for cancer, Host was in Memorial Coliseum that night calling the game between Adolph Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats and the Xavier Musketeers for the Standard Oil Radio Network.
During the game, a note was passed to Host.
He read it, fought to collect his emotions, then shared it over the air.
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"One of the greatest announcers of all time, Claude Sullivan, has just died," Host told the listeners.
Left unsaid were two tragic elements of the story.
When he passed, Claude Sullivan was at the height of his career — the radio play-by-play voice of the Cincinnati Reds as well as calling UK football and basketball games.
He was 42 years old.
Essentially, Alan Sullivan, 63, gave 11 years of his life to one goal — preserving in book form the legacy of his late father, the iconic Kentucky radio sports broadcaster Claude Sullivan.
On Sunday, Alan Sullivan and his co-author, attorney Joe Cox, will be signing copies of Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting (University Press of Kentucky) at Lexington's Morris Book Shop.
"For people under, say, 60, they never heard Claude Sullivan," Alan Sullivan says. "So this was something I wanted to do to give people a chance to know my dad's work."
In the 1950s and into the '60s, the structure for the broadcasting of UK sports over the radio was radically different than now. Back then, there was not an official "UK Radio Network." Instead, myriad radio stations or radio networks carried the Wildcats.
Over time, two of the many play-by-play men calling the Cats rose to the greatest prominence. One was Cawood Ledford, who broadcast over the massive megaphone provided by WHAS radio's 50,000-watt signal. Claude Sullivan, who called the Wildcats games for WVLK and the 17 stations of the Standard Oil radio network, was the other.
The native Kentuckians, Sullivan from Clark County, Ledford from Harlan County, were friendly rivals. They were roughly the same age, Sullivan having been born in 1924, Ledford two years later.
While Ledford built a nationwide following for both UK and himself thanks to the vast reach of WHAS, Sullivan was the better known of the two in and around Lexington.
"I remember we'd see him out driving, and it would be like 'Hey, there's Claude Sullivan,'" says Tom Hammond, the NBC sports broadcaster from Lexington. "I played in some high school games that Claude called on the radio. When you saw him show up to do your game, it was exciting."
Alan Sullivan said his dad's first UK broadcast was the famous 1948 basketball exhibition between Kentucky's "Fabulous Five" and the AAU champions, the Phillips Oilers, held in Stoll Field.
From there, Claude was at the mike for the golden age of Kentucky Wildcats sports. He called three of Rupp's four NCAA titles (1949, '51 and '58) as well as Bear Bryant coaching the Wildcats football team to appearances in the Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls (1949-51).
Unlike Ledford, who seemed content to work inside Kentucky, Sullivan had aspirations beyond the commonwealth.
"Claude loved baseball," said Host, who became a nationally prominent college sports marketer. "I remember he would say his goal was to be a major-league baseball announcer."
After being turned down for a job with the Cincinnati Reds in 1962, Sullivan was asked to join Waite Hoyt in the Reds radio booth for the 1964 season. By 1966, Hoyt had retired and Sullivan was "the Voice of the Reds."
Yet by mid-summer of that year, Sullivan's voice began to fail him.
"He was in Los Angeles for a series with the Dodgers, and Vin Scully recognized something was wrong," Alan Sullivan said. "Vin told him he needed to get to a doctor and get checked out."
Eventually, doctors at the Mayo Clinic told Claude Sullivan he had throat cancer.
Over what was left of his life, Sullivan's voice became a screechy squawk.
"It was the cruelest thing that could happen to a broadcaster," Hammond says, "just horrible."
According to lore, long after UK had realized the business rationale in consolidating its radio broadcasts into a single network, it did not do so. The reason was the university and its athletics director at the time, Bernie Shively, did not want to pick between Sullivan and Ledford.
"By the end, Bernie Shively had finally decided they would have Cawood call the football games and Claude the basketball games over one network," Host said. "Then Claude died."
Ledford became the radio voice of the unified UK Network and "called the Cats" through the 1991-92 school year. Far too soon, Sullivan's name and his work began to slip into the mists of history.
"Claude Sullivan was much more a 'story teller' than Cawood," Host said. "Cawood didn't really tell stories, he stuck with the game at hand. But Claude worked (stories) into his broadcasts. And I always thought Claude was the master of the telling statistic, that one stat that was vital that you couldn't find anywhere else."
Said Hammond: "There was a dignity in the way Claude Sullivan, and Cawood for that matter, called games. They weren't screamers. You knew, certainly, they were for Kentucky, but they weren't homers in the way lots of announcers are now. I think my own style benefitted from the fact I grew up listening to Claude, then Cawood."
In its e-book version of Voice of the Wildcats, the University Press of Kentucky has embedded audio clips of Claude Sullivan play-by-play calls.
"I'm really hoping," Alan Sullivan says, "this gives people a chance to hear my dad."