The Roman Empire can keep its First Triumvirate of Julius Caeser, Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey…We in Los Angeles had Chick Hearn, Vin Scully and Bob Miller. So take that you bunch of Patricians. Only now, after the news that Los Angeles Kings’ play by play announcer Bob Miller is hanging up his microphone, we don’t have them anymore either.
I don’t think there is another example in any other city in America where three “local” announcers for three professional sports franchises have had the careers and impact on their city the way these three have.
If you are of a certain age, you would lie awake on stifling summer nights when it was too hot to sleep and pray for extra innings as you listened to Vin Scully’s Dodger game broadcasts. Or when you were hunkered down on a cold winter night trying to solve for “y” when you had no idea what “x” was, you could be distracted by the machine gun fire delivery of Chick Hearn as he invented basketball nomenclature on the run that is still used to this day like “slam dunk” “popcorn machine” “air ball” and “Alley Ooop.”
Chick Hearn never got me closer to solving for “y” but he did paint pictures in my mind with words. Which was important, because other than the rare Dodger Stadium pilgrimages when I was kid, attending a professional sporting event like an NBA game was out of the question and far beyond the reach of our family budget. So when it came to Lakers games, it was radio, TV or nothing.
All three broadcasters are in their respective sport’s Hall of Fame. All three have a star on Ollywood Blvd. I know for a fact the late Chick Hearn was Catholic and Vin Scully is Catholic. Not sure if Bob Miller is, but if he isn’t, he should be.
Archbishop Gomez’s recent pastoral letter kind of sums up these three men when he writes, “We should live every day conscious of our God-given nobility as men and women made in God’s image. But we should also live every day with deep humility and gratitude, never forgetting where we would be without God’s mercy.” Hearn, Scully and Miller constantly expressed gratitude to the fans and to a higher power for allowing them to conjoin their passion for their respective sports with a way of making a living.
Of the three, Bob Miller is probably the least known due to the fact that baseball and basketball are so uniquely American sports and Hockey has only gained American momentum in the past 25 to 30 years; which is about the time I discovered the sport. I was hectored by friends to attend my first hockey game.The puck had barely dropped when I was hooked. But as a late bloomer I needed to educate myself so Kings announcer Bob Miller became my adult education night school teacher at a time when he did both radio and television broadcasting of Kings games. Like all great teachers, he was able to transmit his love for his subject to others and make them love it too.
Baseball is pastoral and sometimes there is need for silence. The pauses Vin Scully painted are legendary. Basketball is more hectic and the rapid-fire delivery of Chick Hearn kept you riveted. Hockey is played on ice with names like Sasakamoose, Shattenkirk and Pierre — Luc — Letourneau-Leblond so if you aren’t always on your “A” game you might incur an FCC fine or a dislocated jaw. Bob Miller navigated these frozen waters with brilliance and his love of the game and, like Chick Hearn and Vin Scully, his obvious love and respect for others, endeared him to multi-generations of Los Angeles Kings fans and engendered the love and respect from players and management throughout the National Hockey League.
All three men also had long lasting marriages with women who had to share their husbands with an adoring public. There must have times when these remarkable women wished their husbands had gone into timeshare sales or aluminum siding. But real estate sales’ loss was Los Angeles’ gain.
From the time the Los Angeles Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958 until Bob Miller calls his last game for the Kings on April 9 of this year, L.A. sports fans have been spoiled with greatness in baseball, basketball and hockey voices. Come April they will all be gone…but never forgotten.