Ken Gimblin, an influential teacher and sports journalist who covered Northern California teams for many radio and TV stations, died April 15 of a heart attack, his family said. He was 76.
Decades before Ryan Seacrest turned up everywhere as a TV host, radio personality and producer, Mr. Gimblin was a expert multitasker who juggled careers as an educator and sportscaster. He started teaching at California Middle School in Sacramento in 1961 and later ran a successful student internship program at the state Capitol. Meanwhile, he reported on local high school and college sports for KROY radio and was the first sports anchor for KTXL Channel 40 in the 1970s.
“He told me once that he would get up, do a radio show, teach all day and then drive down to San Francisco to do an interview,” his sister Jean Cress said. “In the van on the way back, he’d sleep. Then he’d go into the station, write everything up and do the show. The next day, he did it all over again.”
For more than 50 years, Mr. Gimblin hustled harder than many top-dollar athletes as one of the most respected sports journalists in Northern California. In addition to college teams – from Sacramento State to Stanford and UC Berkeley – he covered the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, the Oakland A’s and Raiders, and the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings for major Sacramento and Bay area media outlets.
“When I was covering the Giants at Candlestick (Park) in the 1970s and ’80s, Ken helped me so much,” said Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, a Spanish-language Major League Baseball announcer. “He was a real gentleman who treated everyone with respect, no matter who it was. He was a very talented man, and we’re going to miss him.”
Besides working as sports director at KTXL, Mr. Gimblin built a loyal following in Sacramento reporting for KCRA, KGMS and KWOD radio, including live coverage of the Camellia Bowl at Hughes Stadium. While working as a sportscaster for KXTV Channel 10, he eased into game shows as the popular host of “Bowling for Dollars,” a nationally syndicated program. In addition, he spent spent many years as a spokesman for the California State Fair.
Widely admired for his extensive knowledge of professional sports and teams, he founded his own company, Multi-Media News and Sports, as an umbrella organization for his services as a journalist, public relations expert and tour host for Giants and Raiders booster clubs. He was spotted in the press box at a Giants game a few days before he died, family and friends said.
“Ken was top-notch,” said Lee Leonard of Sports Radio Service. “He was always giving tips and helping people who were trying to break into the business. He had relationships with so many people in radio and TV. He was a classy guy.”
Kenneth Earl Gimblin was born Dec. 2, 1937, in Sacramento. He began doing on-air sports for KXOA and KFBK radio while attending McClatchy High School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and social studies from California State University, Sacramento.
He taught for many years in the Sacramento City Unified School District and oversaw Practical Politics, a program that placed high school students in internships at stage agencies and Capitol offices. In recent years, he was a substitute teacher at Capital City School, a Sacramento City independent studies program.
Mr. Gimblin was divorced and is survived by two daughters, Carolyn Bonanno and Jennifer. In addition to Cress, he is survived by two other sisters, Catherine Wilson and Nancy, and a granddaughter.
A memorial is set for 1 p.m. May 10 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 8701 Elk Grove-Florin Road, Elk Grove. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sacramento State, through a secure site accessed at www.csus.edu/giving.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.