Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bob Robertson, WIL Broadcaster

To me, Bob Robertson's the guy I saw do the sports on Channel 11 out of Tacoma when I was, well, a little younger than I am now. Today, he's the play-by-play voice of the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League.

When doing some research on the WIL, I stumbled across the following column that I've transcribed HERE:

Bob had mentioned once upon a time he was in school in the Lower Mainland in his boyhood years, had played outfield and signed a pro contract lo those many years ago and I wondered if he was the young man mentioned in the column. Pat Karl, the long-time official scorer and former P.A. announcer at Nat Bailey Stadium, and I were talking about this, so when Bob arrived in town for the Vancouver-Spokane series, he asked Bob about it. And Bob confirmed it was him.

We chatted about it during the rain delay yesterday. He had been told about, but had never seen, the article. He had been shopping his services around and Bob Brown was one of the people he hit up. It turns out the Portland Beavers signed him to a Salem Senators contract but he decided not to play after all so they put him on something like the voluntarily retired list.

Bob eventually played semi-pro all over the Pacific Northwest, but got into broadcasting in 1949, doing the Wenatchee Chiefs games on KHQ. "They got so short of players, they wanted me to come down from the broadcast booth and go into a game. But my rights were still held by Portland. They called and asked if they would give a waiver to let me play. The club was told they could trade for me, but they didn't have anyone to trade, so that ended my pro comeback."

Bob asked if Keith Matthews was still alive because "he mentioned an apology." I have no idea if Keith's still around. He may be; after all, Clancy Loranger was on the WIL beat back then (for the News Herald that year) is still with us, no doubt puffing on those thin cigarellos of his. For that matter, I understand former Caps broadcaster Hal Rodd is, too. So, Keith, if you're reading, please send Bob an apology. After all, he is a Hall of Famer. And Bob and his wife Jo are some of the most genuine people you can meet.

His skills as a play-by-play announcer are a marvel to many aspiring broadcasters; Rob Fai, the current Canadians radio man, remarked about Bob's broadcasts the other day. Bob's style is really basic. He doesn't yell into the mike. He doesn't use a phoney Ronnie Radio voice (why in God's name do others?). He doesn't engage in Dave Niehaus hyperbole (where a routine ground ball is made to sound like the most amazing play in baseball history). He simply describes what's going on in a conversational way and makes sure he is prepared to go on the air with relevant things to say about the players, the game, the batting/fielding situations, the park, whatever. In that way, he's very much like Jim Robson who, as we all should know, was the play-by-play voice of the PCL's Vancouver Mounties when I was, well, yes, younger than I am now. And Jim's the best play-by-play guy this city will ever have.

The Spokane Indians are quite fortunate to have him. Bob suddenly discovered he wasn't going to be back doing the Tacoma Rainiers games in one of those atypical radio management bonehead decisions that happens to everyone if you're in the business long enough. He called the next closest club, the Everett Aquasox, who had re-signed their current guy but suggested he call Bobby Brett in Spokane, who had been looking for someone. And that's how Bob landed in the Northwest League.

You may wonder why Bob, with all his baseball play-by-play experience, never ended up doing the Seattle Mariners on radio. Because I think he should have. But he'll have to tell you that story.

1 comment:

baseballart said...


Great blog. I saw you are a SABR member, but I can't find your email address anywhere. Drop me an email at