France Laux

For young broadcasters, there might not be a better example of “trial by fire” than the story of France Laux.

Laux was hired by Tulsa, Okla., station KVOO to call the opening game of the 1927 World Series 50 minutes before the game, but the story only gets stranger from there. Laux had to be tracked down in his hometown of Bristow, Okla., and transported back to Tulsa – a 45-mile drive. Laux arrived at the studio 90 seconds before opening pitch, and broadcast the game from ticker tape updates.

“What transpired over the next three hours was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” Laux would later say. That day marked his first time on-air but certainly not the last. Years later, he would come to be known as the voice of sports in St. Louis.

A former Army pilot, insurance broker and college football referee, Laux received such favorable feedback of his hectic debut that KVOO hired him to be its full-time broadcaster. He also called college football games for Oklahoma and Tulsa Universities until 1929, when St. Louis station KMOX offered him a 30-day trial.

Laux ended up on the KMOX airwaves for several decades and became an icon in the Gateway to the West. He took over ownership of calling both Cardinals and Browns games, and was noted for being the only voice that listeners heard over the course of a doubleheader. His work extended well past the diamond, as his voice was heard on just about any local sporting event imaginable, from basketball to wrestling to Notre Dame football.

Bill Veeck with Bill Purdy, left, and France Laux, right, during a KXOX interview. Laux signed the photograph in the lower left corner. BL-363.2009.3 (KXOX Inc. / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

CBS bought KMOX soon after Laux was hired, and the partnership enabled Laux to call the World Series on a national scale from 1933-38. All told, Laux’s voice accompanied nine Fall Classics and nine All-Star Games with CBS and Mutual.

“You can imagine the thrill when I said, ‘Hubbell has struck out Babe Ruth,” Laux said of his 1934 All-Star Game broadcast. “Also, he puts a third strike on Gehrig and down the line.”

In 1937, Laux was given the Sporting News’ Radio Announcer of the Year Award. He continued calling both of St. Louis’ baseball teams until 1943, when he spent the season solely with the Cardinals and then took a break from major league games altogether. Laux returned in 1948 as the voice of the Browns and served in that post through the team’s final season in St. Louis in 1953.

After the Browns moved away, Laux did occasional freelance work with his voice but shifted most of his efforts toward his newly purchased bowling house in St. Louis and his new vocation as secretary of the American Bowling Congress. In 1963, he interviewed Stan Musial after his last game – 21 years after interviewing the Cardinals hero after his first major league contest.

Laux passed away in 1978, however his legacy remains as the first voice of baseball in St. Louis.

“Baseball people knew who Laux was,” said 1987 Ford C. Frick Award winner Jack Buck. “If others did, it was through bowling or like, ‘Gee, he was a pioneer.’”

2016 Ford C. Frick Award Ballot

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