Twelve years ago, the Big Blue Nation lost its voice. Cawood Ledford passed away on this day back in 2001 after a year-long battle with cancer.
Cawood was the “Voice of the Wildcats” for nearly four decades, retiring after the 1991-1992 season, with his last UK broadcast being the classic (and tragic) Duke/UK game in the NCAA Tournament. The son of a coal miner, Ledford was born in Harlan, Kentucky on April 24, 1926 and served in the Marines during World War II. A true Kentucky boy, he went to Centre College and taught high school English before beginning his career calling UK basketball and football games in 1953. He worked 17 Final Fours, including UK’s 1958 and 1978 National Championships.
For those of us lucky to hear him call a game, Cawood was a member of the family. It was common practice in our house to turn down the TV and turn up the radio to hear his play-by-play, and to this day, my parents still say “Hey Cawood, are the Cats gonna win tonight?” when they call to talk about UK. Even though I was still very young when he retired, I remember laying on the floor and listening to him call games, and so many of his lines are still part of our Big Blue lexicon. For example:
“Hello Everybody, this is Cawood Ledford” — His signature sign-in
“The Wildcats will be moving from left to right (or right to left) on your radio dial.” — Many believe this saying originated with Ledford
“He went to war on that one.”
“The Cats are Runnin'”
For as much as Cawood was loved by UK fans, he was equally respected by his peers. His style and professionalism were unparalleled, but it was his passion for the game and his team that set him apart from the rest. As Oscar Combs said, Cawood was “your eyes, your ears, your judge, and your jury for everything that happened on the court.” Oscar’s right; at times, you could tell if the Cats were winning or losing just by the tone of Cawood’s voice. For a fanbase that is so intrinsically attached to its basketball team, he was the perfect storyteller.
Enjoy some clips of Cawood below, and please share your favorite memories below: