Kathy McAnally -- reported on sports, science for radio
- Louis Freedberg, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, April 1, 2006
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Kathy McAnally, an award-winning radio journalist who pioneered coverage by women of professional sports, died of cancer in San Francisco on March 24 at the age of 55.
Known for her gifted storytelling abilities, skill at mentoring and infectious sense of humor, Ms. McAnally was one of the first female reporters to be allowed into the locker room of professional sports teams in her reporting for KQED, National Public Radio and many other outlets.
She had an unusual level of access to the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland A's, especially in the 1980s during the 49ers' triumphal years of Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. At the time she began reporting on sports, female correspondents tended to be assigned to peripheral roles, such as providing "color" from the stands.
She was in the press box at Candlestick Park awaiting Game 3 of the 1989 World Series when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. As the stands swayed, a reporter from the New York Daily News who had never experienced an earthquake said, "What the hell was that?" Ms. McAnally responded quickly and calmly, "A whole lot of people just died." According to friend and colleague Laurie Garrett, "that shut the reporter up, who was upset that the game was being delayed."
Her sports reporting extended beyond Bay Area teams. One season she noticed that the Dominican Republic had produced more major-league baseball players than any single state in the United States. So in 1998 she traveled to the Dominican Republic and reported how a love of baseball there was inculcated literally from birth on. She described that it was traditional for uncles to give a newborn baby boy a baseball mitt. Other relatives would chip in with a bat and ball to round out the package.
She also made major contributions in her reporting on health and science issues. She produced several segments in "The DNA Files," an NPR series that won a George Foster Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and several other honors.
She was born and raised in Pittsburgh, attended Penn State, and moved to California with her family in the early 1970s. Her radio career started by happenstance when she volunteered at KPFA in Berkeley to pay off a parking ticket. She stayed on, eventually becoming co-director of the station's public affairs department.
She also became co-anchor of California Public Radio, a state-funded broadcast on radio stations throughout California. It went off the air when then-Gov. George Deukmejian pulled funding for the program.
She was among those who lost their homes in the Oakland hills fire of 1991. Gone in the flames was her entire radio archive. She last lived in Benicia.
She is survived by her brother, Gerald, of Benicia.
Contributions in her memory can be made to Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, 2890 Mitchell Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.