The name Don Klein may not be familiar to many San Francisco 49ers fans, but one of the many plays he called on the radio might be: The Catch. The Bay Area sportscaster died Wednesday at the age of 95.
Before the 49ers, Klein did the play-by-play for Stanford football and men’s basketball. He later joined the 49ers as their sportscaster and got to call the 1981 Championship Game where the 49ers’ sprint right option was immortalized as the catch once Dwight Clark got his hands on a Joe Montana pass.
Most replays will have Vin Scully’s voice as the play-by-play since he was doing TV at the time, but Klein’s call was just as important. Here’s what Klein said in those final moments (via San Francisco Chronicle’s Tom FitzGerald)
“Third and three. He has the ball, Montana rolling out to the right ... looking toward the end zone ... throwing under pressure ... throws his pass ... Caught by Clark! Clark’s got a touchdown! Dwight Clark has it! It’s a touchdown for the 49ers!”
Radio sportscasting was huge in the 1980s, since smartphones didn’t exist and streaming a game was a pipe dream. The internet also wasn’t prominent If you weren’t at home near a TV, this was the only way to hear what was happening. Klein’s voice helped usher the 49ers into their dynasty era.
Klein is preceded in death by his wife Jeanne, and his son Gary. He is survived by his son Raleigh and daughter Karen Brown.
Below is some radio highlights of 49ers’ 1981 season featuring Klein’s voice.