This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Al Helfer (1912-75)

George Alvin Helfer was born in 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played football and baseball as a student at Washington and Lee University. In 1935, he was playing baseball when Connie Mack tried to get Al to play for the Philadelphia Athletics, but he said, no. His heart was set on broadcasting. Al had already been broadcasting recreated games for the Pittsburgh Pirates on WWSW radio in Pittsburgh beginning in 1933.

After graduation, Al joined Red Barber in announcing games for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1937, he joined CBS and traveled all over Major League Baseball to cover games. Red Barber joined him for Brooklyn Dodgers games in 1939. In 1941, Al was drafted into the US Navy and was honorably discharged in 1946. At that time, the Dodgers position was taken by someone else.

During his service time, he met and married the actress simply known as Ramona (born Estrild Raymona Myers, 1909-72). They would have one daughter named Ramona.

Al went back to work for CBS until he was called upon by NBC. He broadcast every domestic radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl game from 1951-64, for NBC. Al stayed with NBC radio until his retirement in 1969, at the age of 57.

He had a voice similar to Keith Jackson (ABC Sports). In fact, listening to him give the play by play for the 1953 Rose Bowl, it's hard to believe it isn't Keith Jackson. Al was the first man to give the on air commercial for Gillette Razors, "Men, how are you fixed for blades?" This phrase is heard over and over in that Rose Bowl game.

After retiring, Al and Ramona moved to Sacramento, next to a golf course, to live a quiet life. Ramona became ill with ovarian cancer in April 1972 and died in early December.

A few months later, Al married a young lady named Margaret. He died less than three years later at his home in Sacramento, on May 16, 1975, at the age of 63, the same age as his first wife when she died.

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