Ken Beatrice, a talk-radio host who entertained and informed Washington sports fans for more than 20 years with his heavy Boston accent and trademark exclamation to callers, “You’re next!,” died Dec. 6 at a hospice center in Aldie, Va. He was 72.
The cause was complications from pneumonia, said his wife, Lyn Beatrice.
As the host of WMAL-AM’s “Sports Call” from 1977 to 1995, Mr. Beatrice was a leading figure in sports talk radio in the Washington area, renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of NFL draft prospects and his friendly rapport with the callers who kept his show going.
“I don’t have a show without callers,” he once said. “And I treat each one just as if I’d invited them into my house as my guests — really, they are my guests.”
His knowledge of pro football players, current and potential, was nonpareil. Call in to ask about the third-string quarterback at a second-tier college, and Mr. Beatrice could tell you the player’s height, weight and 40-yard dash time.
He was so attentive to the game, a sportscaster once told The Washington Post, that he was able to recite a team’s depth chart off the top of his head, naming both the starters and the second- and third-stringers who would eventually replace them.
His knowledge extended to such sports as basketball, boxing and baseball. In 1981, Washington Bullets general manager Bob Ferry called Mr. Beatrice “the most knowledgeable sportscaster I’ve ever heard.”
Mr. Beatrice’s propensity to recite all manner of statistics and stories — to “create the impression that he was the ultimate factotum,” as ESPN commentator Tony Kornheiser, then with The Washington Post, put it in a 1981 profile — sometimes got him into trouble. The publication of the Kornheiser story in The Post nearly ended his career.
Kornheiser noted several minor factual errors (“piddlers,” Kornheiser acknowledged) that Mr. Beatrice had made in a recent broadcast. He then divulged that Mr. Beatrice had inflated or outright lied about several aspects of his background.
Contrary to his public claims, Mr. Beatrice had not played on the varsity football team at Boston College, Kornheiser wrote. He had received not a PhD but rather a mail-order doctorate from what Kornheiser determined to be a dubious institution. And he had not been instrumental in an effort by the Boston Patriots, now of New England, to draft future Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the early 1960s.
Shortly before the story was published, Mr. Beatrice announced he was taking a leave of absence to spend time with his family and think about his career.
“When you’re on the air as much as I am,” he told Kornheiser, “when you say so much, you’re bound to be wrong a few times. I think you’ll find I’m 95 percent accurate.”
Listeners seemed to agree, as did WMAL, and he was coaxed back onto the air five weeks later.
Kenneth Edward Beatrice was born July 28, 1943, in Boston. He graduated from Boston College in 1965 with a degree in political science.
Mr. Beatrice was working for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, studying football scouting reports in his spare time and occasionally appearing on WBZ-AM sports shows as a guest, when the Boston station invited him to host the weekend edition of “Calling All Sports” in 1975. He briefly served as the program’s weekday host before being replaced by Bob Lobel, a future commentator for the station’s television affiliate.
In 1995, Mr. Beatrice took “Sports Call” to what is now ESPN 980. He retired in 2000 amid health problems, although he later did part-time broadcasting for WBIG-FM during football season.
Wherever he broadcast, Mr. Beatrice performed memorable advertisements for Arby’s, telling listeners to order the roast-beef-and-cheddar sandwich and the caffeinated Jamocha Shake.
“I don’t eat the curly fries,” he would say, referring to a history of heart trouble. “But I’m told they’re quite good!”
Mr. Beatrice lived in Haymarket, Va., with his wife, the former Lyn Smith. Other survivors include two children, Robert Beatrice of St. Louis and Lisa Driscoll of Washington; a brother; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Beatrice worked the microphone even in retirement, volunteering as a lector at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Warrenton, Va. He also trained other lectors.
“When you want to address the two apses, you gotta turn your shoulders,” he advised in an interview with the Arlington Catholic Herald in 2011. “That I got from doing . . . [the talk show] from restaurants where there’s chaos and babies crying and people dropping glasses. You have to stay on mic.”