William A. Mercer (born February 13, 1926) is an American sportscaster, educator and author. Originally from Muskogee, Oklahoma, he has retired to Durham, North Carolina after a long residence in Richardson, Texas. In 2002, he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.
During World War II, Mercer served in the United States Navy from 1943-1946 aboard the USS Rixie and USS LCI(G)–439 (Landing Craft Infantry – Gunboat) as a Signalman. Mercer's ships participated in five invasions: Marshall Islands, Guam, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa. Mercer first attended college at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, after the war. He then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Denver in 1949 and a master's degree from North Texas State University in Denton, Texas in 1966.
Bill and his wife Ilene (née Hargis, of Stigler, Oklahoma) were married nearly 70 years until Ilene's passing late in 2014. Bill has four children: David, Evan, Martin and Laura, along with seven granddaughters.
Mercer is best known as a play-by-play radio announcer for baseball, football, basketball and wrestling. He was also a news reporter for Dallas, Texas, television station KRLD, covering the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963. He and fellow reporters George Phenix, Wes Wise and Bob Huffaker wrote, When the News Went Live, about their experiences during that time. Mercer also wrote, Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sportscasting Insider, about his experiences in sportscasting. He enjoyed a stint as a sports anchor at KVIL radio station in Dallas-Fort Worth during the 1970s and 80s, alongside longtime morning host Ron Chapman. Mercer also spent over 35 years teaching new generations of sports broadcasters in the University of North Texas's Radio/TV Department.
One of his least-known achievements was the founding of an FM frequency (99.1) assigned to Denton, Texas, in the early 1980s. Along with his business partner, UNT Sports Information Director Fred Graham, Mercer put the station on the air on September 15, 1988, with a pure jazz format under the call letters KWDC. Within three weeks, Mercer and Graham reluctantly sold the station to local broadcaster Larry Greene, having exhausted their resources during a challenging eight-year ordeal of getting the station on the air. Greene retained the jazz format, but flipped the call letters to KJZY. It is currently a Spanish language station under the KDXX call letters. "It was one of the most extraordinary events in my life," Mercer explained to historical broadcast website www.DFWretroplex.com in 2003, "and was amazing (that) a couple of penniless guys could pull it off."
Play by Play
In his 60+ year career, Mercer provided play-by-play broadcasting for several minor league teams: First, the Muskogee Giants of the Class C Western Association, then the Dallas Rangers (Triple A baseball) from 1959–64, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs (Texas League baseball) from 1965 to 1971. He then moved up to broadcast for major league baseball's Texas Rangers (major league baseball) in 1972 (with Don Drysdale) and Chicago White Sox in 1974. Mercer also provided play-by-play for University of North Texas (known as North Texas State College until 1961, and North Texas State University from 1961 to 1988) football and basketball from 1959 to 1994. Mercer's first broadcasts for professional teams began with the Dallas Texans (American Football League) in 1960 with Charlie Jones, then for the Dallas Cowboys (National Football League) from 1966 to 1971. Initially, Mercer provided color commentary with Jay Randolph in 1965 for the Cowboys, then became the play-by-play announcer when Randolph moved to St. Louis the following year. In the 1980s, Mercer broadcast Southwest Conference football and basketball for Mutual Radio. In the 2000s, he assisted Mike Capps with play-by-play for Round Rock Express minor league baseball of the Texas League (currently in the Pacific Coast League,) and for three years with Scott Garner of the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League. While at KRLD-AM/TV in Dallas, he served seven years as color commentator for CBS Radio's annual broadcasts of the Cotton Bowl Classic college football game. Mercer is also noted for calling the famous "Ice Bowl," the NFL championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers in 1967, along with the Cowboys' second Super Bowl appearance in January, 1972.
During his time at UNT, he called games involving Kevin Adkisson and Steve Williams, who both became professional wrestlers under the names Kevin Von Erich and Stone Cold Steve Austin, respectively. He also was the announcer in 1959 at UNT when Abner Haynes broke the color line in Texas and later became a star with the second incarnation of the Dallas Texans (American Football League).
Mercer's best-known work in the field of exhibition wrestling was when he provided play-by-play announcing for the internationally acclaimed World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW,) based in Dallas, from 1982-87. Telecasts were originally shown on Dallas-Fort Worth station KXTX, Channel 39. But, thanks to eventual worldwide distribution of the program, Mercer was voted the fourth most popular television personality in Israel (with first, second and third places taken by three of the young Von Erich family of wrestlers.)
Mercer accidentally became a wrestling announcer in the 1950s in Muskogee, Oklahoma during the course of broadcasting all area sports for local radio station KMUS. By the late 1950s, Mercer had relocated to Dallas and began calling televised wrestling matches at the Dallas Sportatorium and in the studio for KRLD-TV (present day KDFW-TV,) Channel 4. In early 1976, Mercer took over announcing duties for the long-running Saturday Night Wrestling program on KTVT, Channel 11, in Fort Worth, when original announcer Dan Coates retired.
During his time with WCCW, Mercer, along with producer Mickey Grant and wrestlers Gary Hart, Skandor Akbar, The Fabulous Freebirds and the Von Erich family (David, Kevin and Kerry, along with their father, Fritz Von Erich,) all became prominent figures in the success of the organization. The WCCW's history was outlined in the 2007 DVD documentary, The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling, with Bill Mercer and others providing candid insight into the organization.
- Texas Radio Hall of Fame (2002 inductee)
- University of North Texas Athletic Department Hall of Fame
- Texas Baseball Ex-Pro's Baseball Hall of Fame
- Oklahoma Sports Museum, Guthrie, Oklahoma: The Bill Teegins Award
- Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Hall of Fame, April 2009
- University of Texas-Dallas Athletic Department Hall of Honor, 2011
- Namesake of the Bill Mercer Press Club at the University of North Texas's Apogee Stadium, awarded in 2012
- Muskogee Athletics Hall of Fame (2014)
- When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963. ISBN 1-58979-139-8
- Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sportscasting Insider ISBN 978-1-58979-224-1
- "Bill Mercer Bio". Texas Radio Hall of Fame.
- Huffaker, Bob; George Phenix; Wes Wise; Bill Mercer (October 15, 2004). When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 1-58979-139-8.
- Mercer, Bill. Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sportscasting Insider. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-224-1.
- "Merv Johnson Receives Bill Teegins Award". SoonerSports.com. University of Oklahoma. December 11, 2012.
- "UT Dallas Athletics Hall of Honor". UT Dallas. Retrieved 2015-11-08.