Joe Starkey has served as the radio play-by-play announcer of California Golden Bears football since 1975. He previously worked as the sports director of KGO radio in San Francisco, California and play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco 49ers for 20 seasons from 1989 to 2008.
Starkey is most famous for his frenetic call of The Play in the 1982 Big Game between Cal and Stanford: “Oh, the band is out on the field!” Starkey nearly lost his voice during and after this event, which he hailed as “the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”
Starkey grew up in Chicago, and briefly played football at Thornton Junior College. He attended Loyola University, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business.
He has broadcast for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, the USFL’s Oakland Invaders, and the first telecaster for the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Starkey was also the radio and television voice of the now defunct National Hockey League’s Oakland (later California Golden) Seals and Colorado Rockies who later became the New Jersey Devils.
His trademark call, whenever the Seals scored a goal, was “What a bonanza!” It was a trademark call he carried into his football broadcasts to describe outlandish catches, notably by Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens.
Other previous assignments include the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, and basketball games for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and the University of California Golden Bears.
Prior to assuming play-by-play duties with the 49ers in 1989 he served as color analyst on 49ers radio broadcasts in 1987 and 1988 with the legendary Lon Simmons handling play-by-play. Also he called the radio broadcasts of Super Bowl XXIV, and Super Bowl XXIX.
He was involved in the radio call of several of the team’s most famous moments. In addition to his Super Bowl calls, Starkey was play-by-play announcer for the 1998 club’s two signature moments – Garrison Hearst’s 96-yard touchdown in overtime against the Jets, and Steve Young’s game-winning touchdown to Terrell Owens – The Catch II. Starkey also broadcast San Francisco’s 2002 playoff comeback against the Giants.
When the 49ers moved their broadcasts from KGO to rival station KNBR in 2005, Starkey had to resign from KGO in order to continue his role with the 49ers. Starkey is still the broadcaster for the Cal Bears on KGO radio.
On December 18, 2008, Starkey announced his retirement as the play-by-play announcer of the 49ers, citing difficulties with travel between Saturday Cal football games and Sunday 49ers games. He will continue as the voice of the Bears indefinitely. In December 2010 The National Football Foundation honored him with “The Chris Schenkel Award” for his long and distinguished career broadcasting college football for the University of California at its annual awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He was nine times voted Best California play by play broadcaster by the Associated Press and was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2009.
Starkey and his wife Diane reside in Walnut Creek, California.