Sportscaster Starr Yelland began his Denver career at KOA-Radio in 1940, moved to KLZ Radio and TV in the mid-1950s and still was producing features for 5 p.m. newscasts in the early 90s. His broadcasting record then was the longest in the history of Denver Radio and TV.
Iowa-born, Yelland graduated from the University of Iowa with a journalism degree in 1937. Right out of college, he traveled with professional table tennis player Coleman Clark, who gave demonstrations nationwide with Starr providing play-by-play and color. Yelland’s first radio job was with WHO in Des Moines, IA, doing play-by-play of Chicago Cubs baseball games over the wire from what he heard on the wire. Future U.S. President Ronald Reagan also was working for WHO at the time.
Yelland made his KOA debut covering major-college football, AAU and high school basketball, and PGA golf. His budding career was interrupted by World War II in the spring of 1942 when he enlisted in the Navy as an Ensign and saw action at Iwo Jima. His group went in after the Marines landed to help hold the island.
Returning to KOA, Yelland served as sports director for 14 years. In 1946, he commenced 28 years of continuous University of Colorado football coverage, followed by seven years of Colorado State football, and also did University of Denver football. He was the play-by-play announcer for the first baseball broadcast from Bears Stadium (later Mile High Stadium), and was part of KOA’s first television newscast. Subsequently, he worked “both sides of the hall” with nightly radio and TV broadcasts.
At KLZ-Radio and TV (now KMGH Channel 7), Yelland’s 5 and 10 p.m. sports shows were
part of Denver’s #1 TV package for more than 20 years. A KLZ associate of 25-plus years said Yelland was the first sportscaster to pay attention to so-called minor sports, like bowling, tennis and running, as well as women’s sports. “He always found time to report a 300 game or a hole-in-one and even asked high school kids to call in scores,” Dan McCloskey recalled. Yelland’s “Party Line” also was the first regular radio talk show by a local Denver broadcaster.
Known for his professionalism, hard work and community cooperation, Yelland earned public and peer esteem. When the Broncos had a ticket drive to save the franchise, he sold ducats nightly on his sports segment. When a fire hit Lakewood Country Club in 1948, he assured listeners that members’ golf clubs were unharmed. In 1972, Yelland and KLZ photographer Steve Kady went to the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, and provided daily coverage. In 1976, when figure skater Dorothy Hamill won a gold medal at the Innsbruck Olympics, Yelland organized a homecoming parade for the then-Denver resident.
Yelland’s life was not without trial and tribulation, however. His son, Sherman Starr, passed away in 1965 after being critically injured in a 1962 accident. His wife, Helen, with whom he shared 43 years of marriage, died in 1985. But Yelland persevered.
“As far as we can remember, he continued to do special features until age 77,” said Yelland’s daughter, Leslie. Being his daughter was “interesting,” she stated, but the most rewarding aspect is having his name recognized by long-time Denver residents. “Many still say how much they liked and admired him, and remember his sportscasts,” she added, proudly.
Yelland died in October, 1994, at age 79.
Known for his professionalism, hard work and community cooperation, Yelland earned public and peer esteem.