Veteran sportscaster-actor Gil Stratton dead at 86

Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:34am EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran U.S. actor and legendary sportscaster Gil Stratton, remembered for his signature line, "Hi folks, time to call 'em as I see 'em," and for roles in such movies as "Stalag 17" and "The Wild One," has died at age 86.

His death was reported on Sunday on Stratton's official Web site and by his longtime Los Angeles television station, KCBS-TV -- formerly KNXT -- where he anchored sports coverage in the 1960s and '70s on "The Big News," the nation's first hourlong local newscast.

According to a friend, Stratton had suffered heart problems and died on Saturday at his Los Angeles home.

A native of New York City's Brooklyn borough, Stratton got his start as a Broadway performer at the age of 19 in the 1941 musical "Best Foot Forward."

Arriving in Hollywood in 1943, he landed work in radio and appeared with Mickey Rooney in the film "Girl Crazy," but his show business career was interrupted by a World War Two stint as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

He later returned to films, playing the stuttering narrator "Cookie" Cook in Billy Wilder's 1953 war movie "Stalag 17," which starred William Holden, and appearing as an outlaw motorcyclist beside Marlon Brando in "The Wild One."

Stratton also appeared on the 1954 TV sitcom "That's My Boy," a role that caught the attention of executives at KNXT and co-owned KNX radio, leading to a job that year as the stations' daily sportscaster.

Drawing on his background as a onetime umpire, Stratton famously opened his TV and radio sportscasts with the line, "Hi folks, time to call 'em as I see 'em."

He covered Major League Baseball, pro football, the Olympics, college and professional basketball, major boxing matches and other sports for both the local CBS affiliate and the network. He semi-retired in the 1980s.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Cynthia Osterman)