Sunday saw some sad news from the Tampa Bay Rays. The team announced that radio play-by-play voice Dave Wills, who had been with the organization since 2005, has passed away at 58. That led to the Rays cancelling the day’s scheduled radio broadcast from spring training, and announcing they’d hold a pre-game moment of silence for Wills:
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg on the loss of #Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills. pic.twitter.com/THMLD3cMG0
— Steve Carney (@stevecarney) March 5, 2023
it is with a very heavy heart we report that @davewills34 of @RaysRadio has passed away at the age of 58.
Thank you Dave! #RaysUp @RaysBaseball @RaysRadio pic.twitter.com/T5Fuo1cOKY
— 95.3 WDAE & AM 620 (@953WDAE) March 5, 2023
Heartbreaking news: #Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills died early this morning. He was 58, had been with team since 2005, and immensely popular and well-liked. Team canceled today’s schedule broadcast, will have a moment of silence before game.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 5, 2023
More on the sad and stunning news:
#Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills died this morning at age 58https://t.co/dHiEkzxgFi
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 5, 2023
As per that last piece (from Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times), Wills was hospitalized in Toronto late in the 2022 season and missed the final two weeks of that regular season with a heart issue, but had returned for the playoffs and for this year’s spring training (where he called Saturday’s game):
Wills missed the final two weeks of the 2022 regular season as the result of “a little bit of a heart situation” after being hospitalized in Toronto. He said at the time he was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia which, per mayoclinic.org, is an irregularly fast or erratic heartbeat (arrhythmia) that affects the heart’s upper chambers.
But he rejoined the team for the playoff series in Cleveland looked to be in good health and spirits while working games this spring, most recently Saturday in Tampa.
Here’s Wills’ final call from Saturday’s game, complete with his signature “Rays win!”
Dave Wills’s final call as a radio voice of the Rays. I am absolutely in shock and stunned by his passing. Just listened to him call the Yankees spring training game yesterday. #RIPDaveWills pic.twitter.com/77VML6ZAtn
— Gershon Rabinowitz (@GershOnline) March 5, 2023
Before joining the Rays in 2005, Wills had spent 11 years calling radio broadcasts for the Chicago White Sox in his hometown. He had also been a long-time broadcaster for the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames’ men’s basketball team. And he made a significant mark on many around baseball and other parts of the sports world, as the numerous tributes to him Sunday illustrate. Here is Wills’ long-time radio partner (since 2005) Andrew Freed:
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. pic.twitter.com/pHnHAbwL2J
— Andrew Freed (@AndrewFreed33) March 5, 2023
Here are a few of the other tributes:
I just learned of the passing of Dave Wills-Voice of the Tampa Bay Rays-who grew up in Chicago as a White Sox fan, coached baseball- worked radio in Chicago-did pbp for the Rays in 2005. Dave was a great man. I am shocked and stunned. My thoughts and prayers are with his family
— chuck swirsky (@ctsbulls) March 5, 2023
The White Sox organization extends condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of radio broadcaster Dave Wills, who passed away at age 58.
⁰Wills worked 11 seasons on the White Sox Radio Network with John Rooney and the late Ed Farmer as a pre and postgame host. https://t.co/vI8RLmySJd
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 5, 2023
Very sad news. Dave Wills was a Chicagoan, White Sox Fan, and a terrific broadcaster. https://t.co/NOP7eEuoI1. #RIPWILLSY
— Mitch Rosen (@MitchRosen670) March 5, 2023
We ( his many friends) are all crushed by the loss of our dear friend Dave Wills.Dave was great person with a heart of gold and a huge talent. My heart goes out to you Liz and the family. Dave lived his dream and excelled in the toughest business to succeed in.?⚾️
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) March 5, 2023
Rest in peace Dave Wills pic.twitter.com/vPMOxaFRSU
— Ozzie Guillen (@OzzieGuillen) March 5, 2023
Absolutely devastated to hear of the passing of Dave Wills.
Just heard him sign off yesterday with his signature “Rays Win!”
If I can’t watch on TV, Dave and @AndrewFreed33 were in my ear
As fans, these guys become a part of our family
He will definitely be missed #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/8dwx8V6OuR
— AJ♠️ (@TropTop24) March 5, 2023
Awful news. Dave Wills had such a distinct radio personality. Thank you for the great memories Dave. You will be missed! https://t.co/K8FIpW14tw
— Ben Slotnick (@SlotnickBen) March 5, 2023
Absolutely gutted to hear the news about Dave Wills this morning. It was great getting to know him early on and chatting with him throughout the years and will miss his booming voice on the broadcast and in the room
— Jason Collette? (@jasoncollette) March 5, 2023
The loss of Dave Wills is truly saddening. He was one of my inspirations to become a broadcaster. He always gave me great advice. My prayers are with his family and friends, and broadcast partners @AndrewFreed33 @neilsolondz This is a sad day. Dave is resting in a better place.? pic.twitter.com/LqHgzTDeao
— Broc (@BrocD8) March 5, 2023
Dave Wills, Ed Farmer and John Rooney were White Sox baseball on ESPN 1000 for me growing up. White Sox baseball….Next! Rip Dave Wills a true south sider. Sad news this morning waking up to that. https://t.co/WlhqDa1yqy
— Jay Modelski (@JayModelski24) March 5, 2023
Stunned to hear this. Dave Wills was a terrific radio announcer for the Rays. Dave was going to turn 59 next week.
My condolences go out to the Wills family, friends, colleagues, Rays fans, and anyone saddened by this news. https://t.co/ozqJkQqMqg
— Owen (@Alakazam_428) March 5, 2023
Dave Wills called the @RaysBaseball first trip to the World Series in 2008.
— Adam Witten (@AdamBWitten) March 5, 2023
RIP to Tampa Bay Rays radio announcer and former Chicago White Sox radio announcer Dave Wills.
The man was kind to me and loved his baseball. My prayers. pic.twitter.com/LGmyHu9H84
— Vinnie Parise (@VinnieParise) March 5, 2023
Dave Wills was a warm, funny, wonderful guy. I’m so sorry to hear about this. https://t.co/fvVv6g2Gik
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) March 5, 2023
There is going to be a ton of memories about how awesome @davewills34 was
How about him taking time to visit my son for an interview with my young son
Class act and heaven now has their play by play man FOREVER https://t.co/cZvgvtMpNv
— RaysFanGio (@RaysFanGio) March 5, 2023
Our thoughts go out to Wills’ family, friends, and fans.
[The Tampa Bay Times; photo from 95.3/620 WDAE, the Tampa sports station that carries Rays’ games]