BERKELEY — Joe Starkey, sitting within the Joe Starkey Broadcast Sales space on Joe Starkey Day, wished Friday to be simply one other Cal soccer sport behind the radio mic.
That was by no means going to occur, and Starkey knew it.
This was his last day dealing with the Golden Bears broadcasts, his 550th sport over 48 seasons, a run that started in 1975 when Cal coach Justin Wilcox nonetheless was a yr away from being born.
Starkey held it collectively emotionally, even on his postgame present, till his voice broke whereas thanking his household for his or her help over 5 many years.
“It’s robust to say goodbye,” Starkey mentioned. “It’s been a exceptional present to have this seat on this metropolis.”
Starkey signed off for the ultimate time by saying, “Thanks all.”
Friday’s season-ending matchup vs. No. 19 UCLA — which the Bruins received 35-28 — additionally was designated because the annual Joe Roth Sport, honoring the late Cal icon who was the staff’s quarterback in Starkey’s debut season.
Starkey’s spouse Diana mentioned Joe’s routine at residence Friday morning was enterprise as standard. “He bought up early and began working,” she mentioned. “He’s nearly possessed ensuring all the pieces’s completed forward of time.”
However within the sales space, even two hours earlier than kickoff, this was positively not simply any sport. Starkey’s workspace was embellished with streamers and blue and gold balloons and got here geared up with a retirement cake.
The 81-year-old voice of the Bears was distracted beforehand by attempting to verify all invited family and friends had tickets, whereas additionally greeting a stream of well-wishers and being photographed repeatedly within the sales space named in his honor six years in the past.
“Can’t I simply broadcast a soccer sport?” Starkey requested with mock exasperation.
No, not till he was escorted to the sector to deal with the pre-game coin flip.
Veteran Bay Space radio man Hal Ramey dealt with UCLA’s opening collection earlier than Starkey returned to Ground 7 of the press field.
“What a thrill — in 48 years that was the primary time I’ve ever been on the sector earlier than the sport,” he mentioned. “It was superior.”
Shout-outs got here from in every single place. Cal ran on-air and in-stadium video tribute messages all through the sport from the likes of Troy Taylor, Bob Melvin and Tim Roye, amongst others. At halftime, Starkey was honored with the Chancellor’s Quotation from Carol T. Christ.
One Previous Blue within the stands waved an indication that learn: “Joe Starkey: What a Bonanza!” a reference to his trademark saying.
Even followers watching from Tightwad Hill above Memorial Stadium confirmed their appreciation with a “Thanks, Joe” banner. When Starkey acknowledged the tribute, a half-dozen followers on the hill waved again.
“A number of love on the market for you, Joe,” Cal radio analyst for former quarterback Mike Pawlawski mentioned.
“Imagine me,” Starkey mentioned, “I’m honored past perception.”
The sport didn’t begin nicely for Cal, with UCLA scoring first and threatening to make it 10-0 earlier than the primary quarter ended. As an alternative, when the Bruins’ 33-yard area purpose try hit the left upright, Pawlawski credited “the magic of Joe Starkey Day — the announcer’s hex.”
Cal responded with the primary three of 4 landing passes by Jack Plummer — 46 yards to J.Michael Sturdivant and 38 and 22 yards to Jeremiah Hunter — to forge a 21-17 halftime lead. With every huge play by the Bears, Starkey’s voice rose an octave as he described it.
Whereas the Bruins finally secured the victory throughout a back-and-forth second half, Starkey discovered time to thank everybody. He additionally bought in a shot at UCLA for its deliberate departure to the Massive Ten Convention after the 2023-24 tutorial yr.
Diane Starkey mentioned she’s trying ahead to having her husband round on Saturdays subsequent fall, however is aware of it is going to be tough for Joe.
“Oh, he’s going to overlook it,” she mentioned. “When subsequent season comes and he’s not preparing for the video games, it’s not going to be enjoyable. He’s going to be a tragic man, as a result of he loves it. He loves the atmosphere and he loves Cal.”
Starkey had no argument together with his spouse of 56 years.
“I believe I’ll be OK till someday subsequent summer time,” he mentioned.
Mike Krupicka, who has labored 5 seasons as Starkey’s engineer within the sales space, echoed Diane’s sense of how Joe will reply to the top of his period calling video games.
“If he might do that one other thousand years,” Krupicka mentioned, “he would do it.”