I never got the chance to work for Bill Haig. That was my professional loss.
I did get to spend many a summer night with him at County Stadium, and that was my personal gain.
You might've heard that Bill died over the weekend after a lengthy illness. As you learn about him, you will read and hear many great things.
All of them are true.
Bill helped turn WTMJ Radio into a sports powerhouse during his time here at Radio City, locking the station in as the flagship of the sports teams it still broadcasts today. He gave a lot of young hopefuls a professional boost, not the least of them a sales guy named Steve Smith who would eventually be handed the keys to WKTI. Bill was here when the decision was made to blow up the moribund, beautiful-music WTMJ-FM and turn it into an automated top 40 station. That was in 1974. They knew they wanted it to be I-94, but they needed two more call letters between the W and the I. KT was the choice, the first name of a salesperson's wife (Katie).
Smith would take KTI live, hire Dallas Cole to run the joint and the rest was history. Haig was gone by then, taking a post with the Brewers as VP of Broadcasting, but as I came to know him it was obvious that he still cared deeply about Radio City and the FM upstart that was starting to make some noise.
I got to see a lot of baseball thanks to Bill who'd send out "the letter" each spring--an open invite to call him for tickets whenever the club was in town. It was an offer I abused, and what made each occasion even more special was the chance to spend time with Bill who'd invariably make his way down to the seats to shoot the breeze about ball and radio for a few innings. He knew the game, he knew broadcasting, and he certainly understood Milwaukee sensibilities. On those occasions when my mom was my baseball "date", Bill made sure to tweak our seats, often moving us up to the old County Stadium mezzanine where he would share stories and tell my mom she did a pretty fine job raising me.
You don't forget a man who does that. Trouble is, it feels like I never thanked him.
Bill is in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall Of Fame, deservedly so. What he did for the business and the people he worked with is the stuff of legend in this town. As a person, you would be hard pressed to find a better man, one more passionate about his family, more loyal to his team or more generous to his friends. Personally, he was beyond kind to me, a radio rookie who he didn't know but whom he treated like a best friend.
Thank you, Bill, for so many great summer nights, for so much of your time and for so much of your wisdom about the game--the one they call baseball, the one known as radio, and the one we know as life.