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4/10/2005 - 4-10-05, 4:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON Tom Kinder, who began one of the most memorable careers in Bengals’ history as the answer for founder Paul Brown’s need for reliability, ended it Sunday as the answer to a not-so trivia question.
Kinder, 78, who died after a brief illness Sunday morning, called a game at all three stadiums as the only public address announcer the club ever had.
“He loved the Bengals. He said getting to know Paul Brown, one of the true founders of the game, was one of the highlights of his life,” said Tom Kinder Jr., one of his father’s loyal spotters. “Mike (Brown) has been so nice to him, writing letters to him while he’s been in the hospital. It’s been a great association for us.
“When he went into the hospital, he said, ‘If I could just make it one more year, I know Marvin is going to get us to the playoffs and I’d like to be a part of all the excitement,” Kinder said.
Kinder literally became part of the action during the 32 seasons at Nippert Stadium and Riverfront Stadium (later Cinergy Field) because he did his work on the sidelines with a 110-yard cord for the stadium microphone.
“My Dad thought the best way for the fans to get the right information was to have the announcer right down on the field,” said Bengals President Mike Brown. “Tom got to know the players and coaches down through the years and he loved telling those stories. He really enjoyed it and he did a good job and performed a great service. I mourn his loss.”
Kinder Jr. thought the move upstairs to the booth when Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000 extended his father’s career because he could finally sit in a chair. But he didn’t get the same great stories. Like the one from the late ‘80s, when Bengals head coach Sam Wyche grabbed Kinder’s microphone during a game against Seattle and both ended up in Queen City lore.
While a surly Riverfront crowd got through the day pelting everybody with snowballs, Wyche made his move. Kinder had known Wyche since his playing days, when he befriended the young quarterback and helped him find a place to live. But when Wyche approached him in December of 1989 with his hand outstretched, Kinder pulled the mike to his chest and said, “Sam, make sure you be careful what you say.’’
Barely had Wyche completed the infamous, “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati,” when Kinder Jr. knew that his father had his 15 minutes of fame.
“That was it,” said Kinder, who was spotting that day. “And I still see Sam from time to time on ESPN, and there’s my dad standing right next to him.”
Tom Jr., who was 14 when he began helping spot for his dad when the Bengals began play in 1968, saw so many other great moments, too, and hopes to replace him. Moments like in the ‘70s, during a game against the Oilers and Houston linebacker Robert Brazille came off the field and told Kinder he gave the tackle to the wrong guy and missed him. Kinder apologized and told him, “Robert, I’ll make it up to you.”
On the Oilers’ next defensive snap, Brazille came nowhere near the tackle, but Kinder gave him the tackle anyway.
“He was back in the huddle calling signals when he looked up and waved to my Dad like, ‘OK,’” Tom Jr. said. “After that, every year when the Oilers came back, he would look for him and make sure he found my dad and they would talk.”
One time with the Vikings in town, his father sent Tom Jr. to head coach Bud Grant to see which lineup the visitors wanted announced. Grant took one look at the kid, and ripped up one side and down the other, and didn’t give him any names. When Tom came back with the news, Tom Sr. figured he’d approach Grant because he was older and was a familiar face. But Grant ripped him, too, and wouldn’t give him a lineup.
“So he just picked out 11 names and announced them,” Kinder said. “No matter if they were offense or defense.”
Maybe Tom Jr.’s best moment came in 1992 at Riverfront at the game the Bengals honored the 25th anniversary of the franchise.
“The one guy they knew and the one guy they remembered was my father,” Kinder said. “To see all those guys come up and talk to him, guys like Tommy Casanova, that meant a lot. That was special.”
Kinder, in the midst of a 25-year career announcing the University of Cincinnati games, became the Bengals announcer when Paul Brown brought the team to town in 1968. It was a natural in more ways than one. The Bengals were not only playing at UC’s Nippert Stadium, but Kinder had served in the Navy during World War II when his stint overlapped with Brown’s coaching tenure at Great Lakes Naval Station in suburban Chicago and he had followed Brown’s career in the ensuing years. That made the interview a lot more relaxing for both.
Plus, Tom Jr. remembers that Brown, “didn’t want to get sideways with the Reds right away by hiring their announcer.”
Tom Kinder Sr. was born in Columbus, but moved to Cincinnati at a young age and went on to graduate from Withrow High School and then UC. He was CEO of Smith and Schaefer, a company that produces laboratory equipment, and lived in Springfield Township.
Tom Jr., who lives in Anderson Township, is vice president of customer business development for Procter and Gamble in a career that once took him to Japan and away from helping his father spot. His brother Bob also helped him in a family affair, but it was family that almost made their father miss a game.
“I was getting married in Davenport, Iowa, and we actually scheduled the wedding around the Bengals,” Tom Jr. said. “Dad left to come back on Sunday and the plane’s landing gear couldn’t come down, and they had to make a belly landing in Cincinnati. That’s the closest he came to missing a game.”
Kinder became ill a few weeks ago and died of a blood clot at Christ Hospital. Funeral arrangements for Friday are incomplete. The visitation is 4-8 p.m. Thursday at George H. Rohde and Son Funeral Home in Mount Lookout Square, 3183 Linwood Ave.
“At the conclusion of every season, he would always say, ‘On behalf of the Cincinnati Bengals, we thank you,’” Tom Jr. recalled. “And he would add, ‘God willing, I’ll be here to welcome you again next year.’ It wasn’t meant to be this time.”
But after the funeral and some time passes, Tom Jr. hopes to approach Mike Brown about taking his father’s empty chair and announcing the games.
“If Mike doesn’t have any plans or anything like that, I’d like to talk to him about it,” Kinder said. “It would be nice to carry it on in the family. He loved the Bengals so much.”