During three decades as a beloved Louisville TV and radio personality, Ed Kallay
was truly a jack-of-all-trades. From hosting the popular children’s show "Funny
Flickers" (where his nickname "Uncle Ed" originated) to serving as WAVE-TV and
radio sports director, Kallay could do it all and he did it with style.
His long list of jobs included: statistician, engineer, exercise show host,
radio play-by-play and daily sportscasts on WAVE Radio 970. Kallay even served
as the master of ceremonies for the inaugural Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame
banquet in 1963, allowing his son Mike to introduce the youngster’s baseball
hero, Stan Musial.
Edwin Kallay was born November 23, 1917, in Detroit, Michigan. He became the
first television sports broadcaster in the state of Kentucky when he signed on
with WAVE in 1948.
In his day, Kallay seemed to have every local sports team covered on the radio
waves. During his career he did play-by-play for Louisville Colonels baseball,
University of Louisville football and basketball, Kentucky Colonels ABA
basketball, Louisville Blades ice hockey and the annual Male-Manual football
game on Thanksgiving Day.
With a vibrant and playful personality, Kallay quickly became a Louisville icon
and those who got the chance to work with him still call it a privilege.
"It was a thrill to be around him," said Kallay’s former intern, 84WHAS Radio
sports broadcaster Paul Rogers. "I learned more from him that summer of 1973
than I did in four years of college."
What made Kallay so memorable in Louisville sports history may have been his
willingness to try it all and give it everything.
In Kallay’s early years, radio broadcasts of baseball road games actually were
produced at the local studio. Kallay would get basic information on the game
from a ticker tape and act out the rest, pitch by pitch. Listeners thought he
was actually at the away games.
Former WAVE-TV meteorologist Tom Wills fondly remembered the home games Kallay
broadcast for TV. "He would shoot film and talk at the same time, calling the
game play-by-play," Wills said, "You could hear the film camera underneath (his
call of the game)."
Wills remembered why viewers kept coming back for Kallay. "He was the ultimate
sports fan and he loved being involved as much as he loved reporting on the
teams he covered," he said.
Kallay’s son Mike agreed. "What I remember most about dad was his brutal honesty
and being a complete homer," he said. "Whether it was his love for the Cardinals
or Colonels, he was unabashedly for them. One time, he didn’t like a call and
said ‘horse----’ on the air. Dad thought he was getting fired."
Fortunately for the listeners, Kallay’s boss had no intention of getting rid of
The viewers also cherished Kallay the showman. Wills said when baseball season
began, Kallay would memorize the classic, "Casey at the Bat." He would light a
match on set and recite the poem, trying to finish it before burning his
fingers. And when he broadcast the University of Louisville away games, Kallay
would take time on the air to say hello to all the basketball players’
Kallay had some high-profile friends in the sports world. He ran track in high
school in Cleveland against the great Jesse Owens. Said Kallay’s daughter,
Kaelin Rybak, "Dad knew it was never a race for first!"
Kallay hosted a weekly broadcast of youth boxing called "Tomorrow’s Champions"
on WAVE-TV. It was during the production of that show that he became fast
friends with 12-year-old Cassius Clay. After Clay rose to stardom and became
heavyweight champion as Muhammad Ali, the friendship only grew. Kallay attended
many of Ali’s fights.
During a Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in Louisville, Ali was honored with
the "Man of the Year" Silver Bowl Award. What happened next is legendary in
Louisville. According to Ed’s son, Mike, "Muhammad turned right around and gave
it to dad!"
Longtime sportswriter Earl Cox remembered Ali’s words to Kallay, quoting the
boxer as saying, "Back when I was scufflin’, wasn’t no Chamber of Commerce doing
nothin’ for me, but Ed Kallay and Tomorrow’s Champions did!"
And when Louisville native and Green Bay Packers star Paul Hornung and Detroit
Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were forced to sit out the 1963 NFL season
after being linked to gamblers and betting on NFL games, Kallay scored the first
interview with Hornung. Although the two were friends, Kallay reportedly
conducted a straightforward and fair interview.
Kallay suffered a heart attack in 1973, a few months before Rogers became his
intern. Rogers still calls him the nicest man he ever met. "Everyplace we would
go," he said, "all the people would come up and ask how he was doing, and that’s
when I realized how loved he was."
That same year, WAVE hired Bob Domine, adding him to the sports staff to help
the recovering Kallay. "When I first started," Domine said, "someone called to
complain about me and Ed walked over, in his standard mock turtleneck, put his
hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry about it kid, it don’t mean nothin’."
year later, when Domine had become confident and started boasting about his
success, Kallay made the same move toward him and said with a laugh, "Don’t
worry about it kid, it don’t mean nothin’."
Four years later, in April, 1977, after serving as (ironically) grand marshall
of a heart fund parade in neighboring Clarksville, Indiana, Kallay suffered a
second heart attack and died. Domine said it was especially painful after
Kallay’s death when people congratulated him on doing such a good job of taking
Kallay’s place. Domine said, "No one could take Ed’s place. He was special."
Kallay was married to his love, Jane, for 31 years. They had four children:
Daughter, Kaelin (at right), and sons Mike, Paul and Tom.
Now, long after the death of a Kentucky television pioneer, the stories of
"Uncle Ed" live on, inspiring the work of another generation, including those of
us lucky enough to follow in Kallay’s historic footsteps at WAVE-TV.