March 08, 2023

Wyden Delivers Floor Speech on Bill and Dottie Schonely

As prepared for delivery

M. President, I rise today, on behalf of all Oregonians, to honor the late Bill Schonely – the Portland Trail Blazers’ radio voice for the better part of three decades — and his late wife Dottie.

Bill passed in January, leaving a timeless legacy for all of us Blazers fans in “Rip City,” the name that Bill coined for my hometown.

And Dottie passed last month, leaving her own legacy as an accomplished woman who radiated smarts and kindness to everyone she met in Oregon.

Bill and Dottie were the ultimate teammates as the “First Couple of Rip City” so perhaps it’s fitting they could not be separated for long.

In fact when Bill and I spoke last before his passing in January, he made sure to ask me if I was doing my level best to protect Social Security for his wife Dottie and millions of seniors across America.

Just like storied broadcasters Johnny Most for Boston Celtics fans or Chick Hearn for Los Angeles Lakers fans, my friend Bill was much more than an NBA play-by-play guy for all of us Trail Blazers fans in Portland and throughout Oregon.

As the Blazers’ first broadcaster starting with the team’s inaugural season in 1970 – in a world long before ESPN or even before all of a team’s games aired on local TV – Bill became the soundtrack for generations of Portland fans. 

He connected our state’s first big-league franchise with Oregonians in every nook and cranny of my state.

I’ve logged lots of miles getting around Oregon for 1,040 town halls. In fact, I have two more scheduled this weekend in Jefferson and Deschutes counties in Central Oregon.

But I bet Bill covered just as many miles as the Blazers’ ambassador to every part of Oregon.

I can’t tell you how many times I go into a radio station in a small Oregon town, and I’ll see a photo of Bill there from back in the day on a local golf course or some local community function.

Any elected official in Oregon will tell you how fortunate we were that Bill never ran against any of us.

In addition to coining the phrase “Rip City” that’s forever tied with my hometown of Portland, Bill had an expansive hoops lexicon in his unofficial role as a professor of basketball English for Blazers fans.

In his baritone voice, Bill taught all of us how rebounders “climbed the golden ladder,” and how point guards dribbled “lickety brindle up the middle.” 

And as a former player myself long ago, I always nodded my head in agreement whenever Bill would intone, pausing theatrically with each word, “You’ve … got … to … make … your … free … throws.”

As Rip City prepares to say goodbye to Bill and Dottie at a public memorial service in Portland on Monday, March 13th, I’ll close with this …

Oregon is said to have “Seven Wonders,” including Mount Hood and Crater Lake. 

In my scorebook and in the scorebooks of Blazers fans everywhere, The Schonz and Dottie are our state’s “Eighth Wonder.”

My condolences to all of Dottie’s and Bill’s loved ones.

I’ll always remember both with a smile and be forever grateful that they leave so many wonderful memories as part of their unforgettable legacy for our community.

On behalf of all Oregonians, thank you Bill and Dottie Schonely. I yield the floor.