Former White Sox, Cougars broadcaster Wills dies at 58
Dave Wills was the face of the Kane County Cougars in the early days of the franchise, when he served as a broadcaster while the team set minor-league attendance marks.
He then fulfilled a childhood dream by working the pregame and postgame radio shows for the White Sox for 11 years.
Since 2005, Wills served as a radio voice of the Tampa Bay Rays. He was on the air Saturday working a spring training game, hours before dying at age 58. The Oak Lawn native is survived by wife Liz, son Alex and daughter Michelle.
"Dave was the classic Chicago South Sider: friendly, welcoming, big voice, big character, caring and die-hard when it came to his sports," White Sox communications vice president Scott Reifert told the Tampa Bay Times. "The Chicago genes never completely left him, and he was celebrated each time the Rays visited. Dave loved baseball and his voice and presence will be missed in ballparks and by fans across the major leagues. A sad day."
Wills' longtime broadcast partner Andrew Freed shared thoughts on Twitter.
"Yesterday was like every other day for the last 18 years. Sharing. Laughs. Baseball. Fun. No way to know it was the last time. Sadness beyond words today. It always felt like we were actual brothers. Will miss him forever. Love to him and his family," Freed wrote.
According to the Times, Wills missed the final two weeks of the 2022 regular season, was briefly hospitalized and diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He was back in the booth for the Rays' playoff games.
Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon spent nine years in the Rays' dugout, beginning with Willis' second season on the job. Current Rays manager Kevin Cash had a similar experience.
"Shocking, sad, heartbreaking covers all of it," Cash told the Times. "The amount of conversations you have over the course of nine years, every day for six, seven months, and to be able to call him one of your closest buddies that you see every single night, it was an honor to have known him for that stretch."
After graduating from Oak Lawn High School, Wills pitched for Elmhurst College. During the early part of his career, he did play-by-play for UIC men's basketball games and was media relations director for Arena Football's Chicago Bruisers.