A veteran award-winning newsman who was the longtime radio voice of the Mizzou football Tigers will be inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame Saturday evening.
Saturday’s gala begins at 6:45 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel on South 14th Street in St. Louis. The ceremony is open to the public.
Bill Wilkerson, who died in 2017 at the age of 72, handled the Mizzou football play-by-play duties from 1982 to 1993, according to Learfield-IMG College executive producer Keith Sampson. Wilkerson’s analyst for the 1989 and 1990 seasons was former Mizzou basketball star Tom Dore, who says Wilkerson was the best.
“This is just one of those guys that lived St. Louis, lived for football and lived for Mizzou,” Dore says.
Wilkerson also co-hosted the top-rated “Total Information” morning show on heritage St. Louis radio station KMOX (AM 1120) for years, with Bob Hardy and Wendy Wiese.
Wilkerson is already in the Mizzou Media Hall of Fame. His photo is in the Memorial Stadium press box in Columbia.
Dore says Wilkerson watched hours of film on opposing teams, saying that game preparation is what set Wilkerson apart.
“He knew everybody, he knew the trainer for the other team if the trainer ran out onto the field. If it was the team doctor, he knew who the team doctor was. He knew everything,” says Dore.
Dore says Wilkerson never criticized anyone during broadcasts.
Dore tells Missourinet there was one game in which a Mizzou receiver dropped three passes against Kansas. He says Mizzou’s assistant coaches were in the next booth with the windows open when that happened, and that the coaches were furious with the player. Dore says some of their comments came over the airwaves. Despite that, Wilkerson did not criticize the player.
“That’s the kind of guy he (Wilkerson) was. He called the game, but if you made a mistake or you tried and couldn’t do it or whatever, Billy wasn’t going to rip you. He just was not that type of guy,” Dore says.
Before his death, Wilkerson was also honored by the FBI in Washington for his work with an initiative aimed at keeping St. Louis-area youth out of gangs and away from drugs.
In 2010, Wilkerson traveled to Washington to accept the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award from then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. The initiative, known as “Reach Out St. Louis”, was described by Mr. Mueller as a comprehensive program aimed at stemming the dropout rate at four St. Louis high schools.
Wilkerson, who also called St. Louis Cardinal football and Blues hockey at times on KMOX, had numerous memorable calls at Mizzou, including the infamous 1990 “5th down game” against 12th ranked Colorado at Faurot Field.
Mizzou led the game 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter, against a team that would be the co-national champions that year (with Georgia Tech). A touchdown pass from Kent Kiefer to wide receiver Damon Mays gave the Tigers a 31-27 lead with about two-and-a-half minutes to play in the game.
Colorado marched down the field in their final possession, but during a timeout, the officiating chain crew did not flip the down marker to note it was third down.
During that timeout, Wilkerson provided listeners with a snapshot of Mizzou football history, and how big an upset would be.
“Third and goal at the Missouri one yard line. There have been times in the annals of Missouri Tiger football lore that someone has stepped forward and made a play. At Notre Dame (1978), it was Chris Garlich. At Ohio State (1976), it was Pete Woods. At USC (1976), it was Curtis Brown. At Alabama (1975), it was Keith Morrissey. Who among the 11 black-shirted Tigers today will make the play of the afternoon,?” Wilkerson asked on-air.
The Buffaloes ended up getting a fifth down, and despite being hit by Tiger defender Harry Colon, the officials ruled that Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson scored a touchdown.
Wilkerson’s call became an instant classic, and has been shown over the years on ESPN.
“The snap, Johnson with the ball, no, no, no, no, they call a touchdown, they call a touchdown, they call a touchdown, oh I can’t believe this,” Wilkerson told listeners.
Dore says Charles Johnson still hasn’t scored.
In 1990, the Tiger Network did not have a sideline reporter, so Dore headed to the sideline late in the game to handle the postgame interview with then-Coach Bob Stull. Dore noticed that the officials did not flip the down marker, and says he was screaming at the officials, who told him to either leave or that he would be removed.
Dore says Bill Wilkerson told him off-air “Tell them to arrest you … that will be the greatest Missouri story ever!” Dore calls it classic radio, saying Wilkerson wanted to make that stop himself.
Dore says Wilkerson would be thrilled with the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame induction.
Tom Dore, who played for Norm Stewart at Mizzou from 1976 to 1980, also was a broadcaster with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 2008. Dore was the back-up play-by-play man for one year and handled the television broadcasts for 17 years.
The St. Louis Media Hall of Fame will be inducting 11 other honorees on Saturday. They include longtime KTVI general manager Spencer Koch, former KPLR President Ted Koplar, veteran Missouri Capitol reporter Jo Mannies and 12-time Emmy award winning meteorologist Dave Murray.
Tickets to the Hall of Fame event are available for purchase.
Click here to listen to Bill Wilkerson’s 1990 5th down sequence, courtesy of Learfield-IMG College:
Click here to listen to the full ten-minute interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and former Mizzou broadcaster Tom Dore, which was recorded on March 18, 2019: