THE BOB BLACKBURN STORY: THE DEFINITIVE RETROSPECTIVE

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    Craig_Adams
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    On October 14, 1924 at 4:55am, Robert Stanley “Bob” Blackburn was born at the Blackburn home in Los Angeles, California, to Opal Luona (Kurtz) and DeWitt “Earl” Blackburn. Bob had three sisters: Ella Mae, Doris Jean & Velma Lorraine. The Blackburn’s lived at 126 W. 79th St. in South Los Angeles. Earl worked for the famous “Dave Davis” company, making fishing tackle and earlier was a professional fishing guide on Lake Arrowhead. As Bob grew up, he spent a lot of time at Lake Arrowhead fishing, which became a big part of his life. By 1927 or 1928 the family had moved to Fullerton, Calif. and were living at: 227 Stanford Ave.

    In 1932 at age 8, Bob was bedridden with tuberculosis to 1933. While listening to college sports broadcasts, he dreamed of being behind the microphone. Blackburn’s uncle had told him his strength was in his “loud voice,” so a career in broadcasting seemed like a good idea. His health improved and he resumed his schooling, but was never healthy enough as a teen to participate in school sports, like baseball & football. Bob remembers: “I was a sophomore in high school, I knew what I wanted to be—a sports broadcaster.” He did well in English and took drama classes and appeared in some high school plays.

    Bob was the schools’ Public Address announcer at sports games and emceed various events. A side note, the P.A. system for those events was set up by famed guitar innovator, Leo Fender (Fullerton Union High class of 1928) from his Fullerton radio repair shop “Fender Radio Service” and that’s where Blackburn knew him from.

    In 1942 Bob Blackburn graduated from Fullerton Union High School and began attending Fullerton Junior College. Bob turned down a dramatic scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse, instead turning his attention to radio and sports. Blackburn wasn’t able to serve during WWII due to his tuberculosis during childhood.

    In Fall 1943 Bob at age 19, began his broadcasting career part-time at KVOE, a 250 watt station in Santa Ana, Calif. Later going full-time. His first play-by-play broadcast was Santa Ana High vs. Excelsior High, for the Southern California CIF football championship. His mother Opal recorded the broadcast on a rented shellac transcription disc recorder from “Fender Radio Service.” Blackburn remembers: “I was so nervous I became sick and had a 103-degree fever when I worked,” he recalled with a wince. “That has to be the worst broadcast I ever did.”

    Bob continued doing high school and junior college football & baseball. But also persisted, appling at other stations in hopes of getting better jobs, closer to his dream as a sportscaster for a major league team, preferably baseball, where the real money was. Blackburn was also a KVOE staff announcer. He did part-time play-by-play sports on 1kw KFOX & 5kw KGER, both in Long Beach, Calif. Bob had come to Hollywood a few times, applying at stations in the area. These were the War years and due to his early illness’s, he was 4-F.

    In late 1944 he moved to 1kw KFAC Los Angeles. Bob became the all-night disc jockey, hosting an evening “dance party”, attracting a large audience that worked graveyard shifts, in round the clock factories, during WWII’s war effort. Bob also filled in on “Lucky Lager Dance Time” some football, baseball and a bit of wrestling. Blackburn was the primary air talent when KFAC personalities went on vacation. He briefly attended classes at USC, but dropped out due to transportation hassles and a changing radio schedule.

    Steve Allen, later first host of TV’s “The Tonight Show” had substituted for Blackburn overnights on his “dance party” show. Bob remembers: ”Allen got fired for lousing up my all-night show. He was a comedian, of course, and we were on a station where they played things very straight. He put his comedy routine on the air. The boss heard it, didn’t like it and fired him. Of course, Allen immediately went to the top after that.”

    Blackburn – whose route to the top was more circuitous, departed KFAC after two years. Bob had sent out what is now referred to as “air checks” of his sportscasting to various stations, mainly on the West Coast. Blackburn remembers: ”I left LA, the mecca of radio to go to Fresno just to go out into the weeds and to pay my dues – doing sports instead of staff announcing.” Bob also took a pay cut as well.

    In 1946 Blackburn took the job at 250 watt KFRE Fresno, Calif., and began broadcasting a daily sports show as well as play-by-play for the Fresno State Bulldogs football, basketball & track, plus the class “C” league Fresno Cardinals. Bob also did two seasons of the Fresno Falcons of the Pacific Hockey League and special events.

    In 1947 Bob Blackburn became KFRE Special Events & Sports Director. It was at Fresno State that Bob met Pat, a coed majoring in physical education. She was dating one of the college football players, who introduced her to Blackburn. On June 19, 1948 Robert Stanley Blackburn age 23 married 20 year old Patricia Joan “Pat” Hardin at her parents home in Chowchilla, Calif.

    On September 25, 1948 Blackburn briefly visited Portland, Oregon for KFRE’s football coverage of the Fresno State Bulldogs, battle against the University of Portland Pilots at Multnomah Stadium, ending in a 6-6 tie. Bob stayed at the Multnomah Hotel. As a side note: KEX at 1:45pm carried the game with their play-by-play announcer, Sports Director, Barney Keep.

    Bob continued with KFRE through the 1949 season. He applied for and won the job of doing play-by-play for the Portland Beavers of the “Pacific Coast League” alongside Rollie Truitt. Blackburn remembers: “The important one to meet and get to know was Rollie Truitt, the main play-by-play man on the radio broadcast. What a lot of people didn’t know is that I was hired to ultimately take over his job as he had had some health problems and was an aging fifty year old.”

    In March 1950 the Blackburn’s moved to Portland, spending their first night at the Multnomah Hotel. The next day they found the Binford Apartments (1901 N.E. 70th Ave.) where Pat (pregnant with Bob Jr.) baby sat sisters 5 year old Susie and 3 year old Sally Struthers (later on TV’s “All In The Family”).

    On March 28, 1950 Bob Blackburn made his debut on 10kw KWJJ & KWJJ-FM with the Portland Beavers and a new partner, Rollie Truitt in his 22nd Beaver baseball season. Bob & Rollie broadcast Portland games from “Lucky Beaver Stadium” at 2409 N.W. Vaughn St. Away games were re-creations, known as dot and dash games with help from sports telegrapher Fred W. Wegner in his 33rd baseball season and Del Alney, sound effects man. The first game of the season was in Hollywood, Calif. playing the Stars at 8:30pm. The Bevos won 4-3. Additionally Blackburn took care of commercial writing and sponsor contacts.

    Blackburn remembers: “Rollie on the out of town games, on what we call a re-created game, had never used crowd noise but I got him to hear how great it was as I had used it for two years broadcasting the Fresno Cardinal’s double A league games. We had a man at the studio controls and I’ll never forget the time we introduced the National Anthem and instead of that, he played our record of the 7th inning ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame”! Oh well, he evened things up by playing the National Anthem at 7th inning stretch time.”

    “The team known as the “Lucky Beavers” but I was broadcasting for a losing team and that ‘Lucky’ adjective was used only because the team was owned by George Norgan who was the owner of the Lucky Lager Beer Company. Baseball was at the time the only sportscasting job that paid a good salary. In 1950 the PCL was trying something new and we both had plenty of time on the mike as they scheduled a season of 200 games. That lasted only one season and I believe it is a record for any team or league in the number of games played in the regular season.” Rollie and Bob split each game 50-50 and the fans seemed to accept it.

    Bob remembers: “Beaver general manager laid the law down…..”Rollie and Bob’ cannot mention dark rain clouds to the West or ever give the idea that we might have rain during the game. This was a rare time in my sportscasting life that I was ordered not to tell people what I saw. The G.M. didn’t want the people to hear about the threat of rain because then they wouldn’t maybe buy a ticket.”

    Regarding the beginning of the Beavers Sports Network (fed over a wire network), Blackburn remembers: “I had a call from owner/manager of KELS in Kelso asking if he could pick up our broadcasts. That was my springboard. I started contacting stations in outlying areas where the Portland station couldn’t be heard.” KVAS Astoria followed, picked up the Beavers. Bob did the work, lining up the network, writing all the commercial copy, then spliting the profit with Rollie.

    On July 4, 1950 a special doubleheader broadcast. The Portland Beavers vs The Seattle Rainiers at 1:45pm (ad). “Watch Rollie Truitt, Bob Blackburn and Fred Wegner re-create this important game in full view from a special booth at Jantzen Beach open air bandstand. Watch the Free Baseball Broadcast. Free Fireworks at Dusk.” The Bevos Won! 7-2 & 5-3. Another Jantzen Beach re-creation happened on Sunday August 13, 1950 and in 1951 and 1952.

    On September 1, 1950 Blackburn’s two memorable instances: “This happened in the Multnomah Hotel Barber Shop. I was sitting in one chair and a familiar face plopped down in the next chair and I knew the face but couldn’t think of the name. Well, it was Billy Graham who was in the early years of his speaking and preaching all over the United States. We had a nice friendly chat and I appreciated his talking with me for quite a spell.”

    “The second big thing was a call I had from a guy whom I didn’t know but he knew me as a sportscaster and wanted to know if I could spend my time between my first two seasons of Pacific Coast League baseball to announce some college sports in San Jose, California. It was Chuck Mallory, Manager/Owner of KSJO who had the rights to broadcast all of the football and basketball games and boxing matches for San Jose State College during this winter season. Since Butler and Emmett Advertising really had no job for me during the off season they were happy for me to have this opportunity. I was able to do the full season of San Jose State football, basketball and boxing matches and did a couple of midget auto races for KSJO.” Blackburn became KSJO Sports Director.

    On October 10, 1950 Bob Blackburn & Rollie Truitt appeared with other baseball broadcasters in “Look” magazine’s special issue “Look’s First Annual All-America Baseball Teams” written by Tim Cohane, with actress Jeanne Crain on the cover. On January 11, 1951 Bob and Pat welcomed their first son Robert Henry “Bob” Blackburn, “Jr.” born in San Jose, Calif. (Junior isn’t part of his real name but it is used).

    The following day…on Friday January 12th and Saturday Jan. 13th as well as Sunday Jan. 14th, 1951 Bob Blackburn announced his first network Radio broadcasts when he reported from the 10th Annual “Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur” tournament at Cypress Point” golf course in Pebble Beach, Calif. for the “Liberty Broadcasting System.” LBS had over 300 affiliates with KSJO as the originating station for this broadcast. At the time, the network was the 3rd largest in America. Crosby had $10,000 in prize money for his tournament. Blackburn remembers: “I had never heard any radio network covering a major golf tournament so mine is only the thought that this might have been the first. I was assigned to give daily network coverage.” Blackburn interviewed band leader Phil Harris. Did a short interview with singer/band leader Bob Crosby of the Bob-Cats and a quickie comment or two from Bob Hope.

    Blackburn remembers Bing Crosby: “My big touch in that tournament came on the final day with the final threesome coming down the 18th fairway and as they all hit their shots to the green just as I was about to give play-by-play, Bing Crosby without saying a word to me, grabbed my microphone and he covered the territory to which I had been assigned! It was really a rude thing by Bing but it was his tournament. He had also been very cold to me and abrupt when I had to chase him down on a fairway to get something approved and he was very nasty to me but I had to get some information and an okay from the boss.”

    On March 14, 1951 it was announced Bob Blackburn would join Rollie Truitt for another season of Beavers baseball which began on March 27th on KWJJ AM only. KWJJ-FM had shut down after the 1950 season but the 1951 season saw the Beavers Sports Network growing with KELS Kelso & KVAS Astoria back in the fold, and new affiliates KWRO Coquille, KIHR Hood River, KLBM La Grande, KFIR North Bend, KWRC Pendleton, KRCO Prineville, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook. Blackburn remembers the network: ”It wasn’t a big money thing. It mostly offered me a sense of independence and being in control of my own future. It also got me out of the business of trying to move, as quickly as I could, to broadcasting major- league baseball.”

    On April 30, 1951 Bob Blackburn took over hosting the half hour “Sports Edition” program on KEX AM/FM Monday through Saturday at 6:00pm with guests. By May 1951 Bob Blackburn was President of the Oregon Sports Broadcasters Association. On September 22, 1951 Bob began hosting the 30 minute “Football Scoreboard” Saturdays at 5:00pm on KEX AM/FM. “Sports Edition” name ended. On October 12, 1951 Blackburn began hosting “Quarterback Preview” Fridays at 6:45pm on KEX AM/FM. In addition Bob & Rollie began co-hosting “High School Football Digest” also on Fridays at 9:00pm on KWJJ. On November 30, 1951 KEX AM/FM’s “Quarterback Preview” name changed to “Blackburn Sports” and rolled into 1952.

    On March 9, 1952 KWJJ AM only began airing Beaver exhibition games with Rollie & Bob at the Beavers training camp in Riverside, Calif. On April 1, 1952 the regular Portland Beavers season began on flagship station KWJJ and the largest Beavers Sports Network yet and sponsored by the Lucky Lager Brewing Co.: KVAS Astoria, KWRO Coquille, KUGN-FM Eugene, KELS Kelso, KFLW Klamath Falls, KGAL Lebanon, KMCM McMinnville, KNPT Newport, KFIR North Bend, KWRC Pendleton, KRCO Prineville, KRXL Roseburg, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook. In terms of money, the sale of time on all stations, set a record in Oregon broadcasting. There were two games played on the Beaver broadcast. One at 1:30pm and the other at 8:00pm.

    On May 16, 1952 Bob, Rollie & The Beavers were heard once again on Portland FM radios with the edition of KEX-FM. Blackburn with his KEX ties, most likely landed KEX-FM as a Beavers outlet. May 24, 1952 ad: “As a special service for FM listeners KEX-FM now broadcasts Portland Beavers Games.”

    Between July 7th & 11, 1952 Blackburn remembers: “I was freelancing in the early fifties when the owner of KXL after listening to me re-create baseball, figured I could do it on other events so he hired me to sit in a studio in downtown Portland and for a half hour or one hour. I would pretend to be in Chicago and I recreated portions of the Republican National Convention! This was the only time my wife, Pat, helped me with notes and the sound of crowds in the background. She had done a little bit of statistics help on college but this was a new venture and, for an amateur, she did a good job.”

    On September 22, 1952 Bob Blackburn’s Sports Roundup began at 6:00pm weekdays on KEX, Fridays 6:45pm & Saturdays at 5:00pm, into 1953 where it was called “Sports Edition with Bob Blackburn” and Saturdays “Football Scoreboard.” On September 23, 1952 Rollie & Bob recreated the World Heavyweight Championship Fight: Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott in Philadelphia, at 7:30pm on KVAN. The International Boxing Club was caught off guard, no broadcast authorization had been given for blow-by-blow accounts. After the fight they banned re-creations.

    On September 28, 1952 Bob & Rollie began re-creating the entire Los Angeles Rams football schedule Sundays at 2:00pm on KEX-FM in addition to feeding broadcasts through the Beavers Sports Network: KWIL-FM Albany, KVAS Astoria, KWRO Coquille, KUGN-FM Eugene, KELS Kelso, KMCM McMinnville, KFIR North Bend, KRXL Roseburg & KOCO Salem. On October 12, 1952 Rams games began in the Portland area on the AM dial via KVAN.

    Blackburn remembers: “I contacted the LA Rams about re-creating their games. The Ram’s General Manager thought it would be great to keep the interest in the Rams sizzling in the Northwest (Rams had done pre-season practice games in Portland and were very popular.) I would recreate using Rollie Truitt as my color announcer. Contract cost me One Dollar for the entire season, but after only two years, radio and television swept over the country.” On October 13, 1952 Blackburn became a newscaster on KGW Radio, weekday mornings at 9:00am into 1953.

    On March 31, 1953 the Portland Beavers were on the air over KWJJ & KEX-FM with play-by-play reported by Rollie & Bob, sponsored by the Lucky Lager Brewing Co. Games fed through the 1953 Beavers Sports Network line up: KWIL-FM Albany, KWIN Ashland, KVAS Astoria, KWRO Coquille, KUGN-FM Eugene, KIHR Hood River, KELS Kelso, KLBM La Grande, KMCM McMinnville, KNPT Newport, KFIR North Bend, KWRC Pendleton, KJUN Redmond, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook.

    On June 12, 1953 Bob Blackburn expanded into Television, hosting “Sports Den” Fridays at 10:45pm on KPTV channel 27. It was the first live sports show done locally on TV and was the first local show to feature a well known Portland personality. “The Sports Den features one of Portland’s top sportscasters, Bob Blackburn. It is an informal show on which Bob gives a short sports summary, interviews an outstanding sports personality and gives editorial comments on the sports scene.”

    On July 3, 1953 Bob Blackburn began hosting his second KPTV program, a Summer replacement called “Safety Spotlight.” The Friday debut time was 10:00pm. Bob and police officers followed cars through traffic, making comments of drivers habits. Bob then asked the officer to pull over and presented a prize if he answered the traffic law questions correctly.

    On July 13, 1953 Safety Spotlight” moved into its permanent spot Mondays at 8:30pm on KPTV. Also “Sports Den” moved to Monday’s at 10:45pm on KPTV. On July 23, 1953 Bob and Pat welcomed their first daughter Beth Ann Blackburn and were living at 4062 S.W. Pendleton St. near Raleigh Hills. On August 31, 1953 “Sports Den” aired for the last time on Monday’s, taking a September hiatus. On September 21, 1953 “Safety Spotlight” aired for the last time on KPTV.

    On September 24, 1953 Rollie & Bob recreated the Rocky Marciano-Roland LaStarza Heavyweight Championship Match on KVAN. This despite the International Boxing Club ban on blow-by-blow accounts and the New York ring promotional group quoted as threatening to sue. KVAN was ready to defend itself against any legal action and Blackburn had sold the re-created match to 8 other stations, in a special network broadcast. Ultimately the suit fizzled.

    Blackburn remembers the broadcast: “My engineer worked sound off a big record which had been provided and it had some cuts appropriate to different sports. As Marciano and LaStarza in a corner, was getting very aggressive with his fists and a KO looked likely. I motioned to my engineer to bring on this sound effect of the crowd. He nervously put the needle down on a sound track, as I described Marciano physically whipping LaStarza with the chant of the football crowd saying, We Want a Touchdown…We Want a Touchdown…We Want a Touchdown, and I enjoyed one of my un-glorious moments of my sports radio career.”

    On September 26, 1953 Bob teamed with KOIN Radio, Sports Director, Johnny Carpenter, broadcasting play-by-play of the Oregon State-California game on KPOJ AM/FM at 1:15pm. On October 1, 1953 Sports Den” returned on KPTV Thursdays at 10:45pm. On October 5, 1953 Bob Blackburn began his “Take It Easy” program weekday afternoons from 5:00pm to 5:30pm with Bob as deejay for the first time on KEX AM/FM playing music, as well as giving the latest sports scores. On Saturdays Bob’s “Football Scoreboard” was on at 5:00pm and then Blackburn’s “Sports Edition” returned at 6:00pm.

    On October 10, 1953 it was Blackburn & Carpenter again covering the Oregon State-Standford game on KPOJ AM/FM. On October 29, 1953 Bob Blackburn was re-elected President of the Portland Local of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to December 14, 1954. On November 26, 1953 KPTV’s “Sports Den” aired for the last time. By December 1953 Bob Blackburn had the title of KEX AM/FM Sports Director.

    On January 18, 1954 KEX’s “Sports Edition with Bob Blackburn” moved from 6:00pm to 6:30pm weekdays. On January 22, 1954 Bob Blackburn made Portland TV history, co-hosting with Johnny Carpenter, the Rose City’s first Telethon. The March of Dimes “March of Talent” show on KOIN-TV Friday night at 10:30pm to 5:30am. 175 professional and amateur performers, entertained for 7 hours and pulled in a total of $10,000.

    On April 6, 1954 Rollie & Bob began broadcasting the Portland Beavers, heard on KWJJ & KEX-FM sponsored by the Lucky Lager Brewing Co. over the Beavers Sports Network: KVAS Astoria, KWRO Coquille, KIHR Hood River, KLOG Kelso, KGAL Lebanon, KNPT Newport, KFIR North Bend, KJUN Redmond & KTIL Tillamook. More stations were added during the season: KMCM McMinnville, KYJC Medford, KBCH Ocean Lake, KWRC Pendleton & KODL The Dalles.

    On September 18, 1954 Bob’s “Take It Easy” program expanded to a full hour at 4:30pm Monday through Saturday on KEX AM/FM with ABC News at 4:55pm & George McGowan local news at 5:00pm. Bob’s “Football Scoreboard” show on Saturdays at 5:00pm began in October. On December 20, 1954 KEX’s “Take It Easy” became known as the “Bob Blackburn” show. On December 25, 1954 the “Bob Blackburn” show expanded 15 minutes on KEX beginning at 4:30pm. On February 15, 1955 KEX deejay’s: Barney Keep, Moon Mullins & Bob Blackburn became known as “THE BIG THREE” on KEX.

    On March 5, 1955 it was announced Bob Blackburn & Rollie Truitt had purchased the broadcast rights to the Portland Beavers games this season. Bob handled the rights and sale of the games plus the network. Blackburn’s wife Pat remembers: “Bob came in one evening and saying no one was picking up the rights and he thought he would. I was scared but he did it and we made money as did Rollie.” Blackburn remembers before the broadcast rights meeting: “In another area of my most embarrassing life moments when I turned on a fast flowing, quick spitting faucet in my hotel bathroom in San Francisco that dampened the entire front part of my only pants just five minutes before meeting with Ben Butler and Jim Emmett. They believed my story and I’m glad they didn’t think I had an accident!”

    On April 4, 1955 Rollie & Bob began another season of Beaver baseball over KWJJ & KEX-FM sponsored by the Blitz Weinhard Brewing Co. This would be the last season at “Lucky Beavers Stadium.” The Beavers Baseball Network 1955 station line up: KAST Astoria, KOOS Coos Bay, KCOV Corvallis, KUIN Grants Pass, KIHR Hood River, KLOG Kelso, KGAL Lebanon, KMCM McMinnville, KYJC Medford, KNPT Newport, KBCH Ocean Lake, KWRC Pendleton, KJUN Redmond, KRNR Roseburg, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook.

    On May 30, 1955 the Bob Blackurn deejay show on KEX expanded a half hour 4:00pm to 5:30pm. On May 31, 1955 Bob and Pat welcomed their second son Stanley Earl “Stan” Blackburn. The 7-pound, 14 ounce boy, Bob nicknamed “Stan The Man.” On July 11, 1955 Blackburn’s KEX deejay show expanded a half hour 3:30pm to 5:30pm with “Bob Blackburn’s Sports Report” at 5:25pm to 5:30pm.

    On September 11, 1955 Rollie & Bob did their last Beaver baseball game from “Lucky Beaver Stadium.” Home of the Beavers since the park opened May 22, 1901. Baseball ended on the playing field at exactly 5:50pm. The Bevos won a doubleheader against the Oakland Oaks. The ’56 season would see the Beavers at Multnomah Stadium. On October 31, 1955 Bob Blackburn & The KEX BIG 3 became known as “THE BIG 5.” On November 19, 1955 Blackburn did a play-by-play solo for the Oregon-Oregon State game on KPOJ AM/FM.

    On December 29, 1955 Bob Blackburn was elected to the Board of Directors of the Portland Chapter of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. On January 1, 1956 following the Rose Bowl on KPTV channel 27 stay tuned for “New Years Scoreboard with Bob Blackburn.”

    On March 18, 1956 Rollie & Bob started the Portland Beaver season coverage during Spring training with pre-season games. The first had the Beavers vs. the San Diego Padres in Palm Springs. Blackburn did a recreation from Portland, with comments from Truitt at Beavers Spring training headquarters in Glendale, Calif. KWJJ/KEX-FM at 5:00pm. Broadcasts were heard over “The Blitz Weinhard Radio Network”, still Blackburn owned but Bob had sold the name for an extra fee: KAST Astoria, KOOS Coos Bay, KWRO Coquille, KCOV Corvallis, KUIN Grants Pass, KIHR Hood River, KLOG Kelso, KGAL Lebanon, KMCM McMinnville, KYJC Medford, KNPT Newport, KBCH Ocean Lake, KWRC Pendleton, KJUN Redmond, KRNR Roseburg, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook.

    On April 2, 1956 the Bob Blackburn’s deejay show expanded an hour and began a half hour later 4:00pm to 7:00pm on KEX. On June 1, 1956 Bob was Master of Ceremonies with the Rose Festival Junior Court presiding over the opening of the annual Junior Baseball Jamboree, season at Multnomah Stadium at 6:30pm.

    July 27, 1956 “KEX’s Big Five Hamburger-Eating Contest” was held Friday night at “The Speck” restaurant at 5005 S.E. Foster Rd. The KEX Big Five deejay’s participating were: Barney Keep, Russ Conrad, Bob Blackburn, Bob Adkins (aka Addie Bobkins) & Al Priddy. The contest was judged by “Miss Portland” 1956 (Patti Ann Haines). Franz bakery prepared the World’s Largest Hamburger Buns, which were three feet in diameter and weighed in at 15 pounds. First prize (a live steer) went to Bob Blackburn, who devoured the most burgers.

    On August 20, 1956 it was announced Bob Blackburn would announce all Univ. of Oregon football games this Fall. This would be the first time Blackburn had done play-by-play games on KEX after being on the station almost 6 years. In Fall 1956 Bob Blackburn & The KEX BIG 5 became known as “THE KEX SOLID 7.” On November 22, 1956 Bob Blackburn & Johnny Carpenter reported play-by-play from Corvallis for the Oregon State-Oregon game on KOIN AM/FM at 1:15pm.

    On December 22, 1956 it was announced KEX was the new Portland Beaver station for 1957 with Rollie & Bob moving to KEX as well. On December 29, 1956 Bob & Johnny reported the play-by-play Finals for the Holiday Tournament from Gil Coliseum in Corvallis. It was O.S.C. vs. U.S.C. Same day they did the Washington Huskies vs. the Univ. of San Francisco. KOIN AM/FM at 7:30pm. On February 7, 1957 Blackburn solo recreated the University of Portland-Notre Dame basketball game on KEX at 6:15pm.

    On February 9, 1957 Bob solo did play-by-play for the Oregon State Beavers-University of California Golden Bears basketball game on KOIN AM/FM at 8:00pm. On March 9, 1957 Johnny & Bob reported on the action with the O.S.C. Beavers clashing with the U. of O. Ducks. on KOIN AM/FM at 8:00pm. On April 11, 1957 Rollie & Bob broadcast the opening game of the Portland Beavers on KEX AM/FM at 1:30pm. The Beavers Baseball Network included: KAST Astoria, KBND Bend, KOOS Coos Bay, KIHR Hood River, KLOG Kelso, KMCM McMinnville, KWRC Pendleton, KODL The Dalles & KTIL Tillamook.

    On April 23, 1957 Bob Blackburn was elected President of the Oregon Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association. On August 17, 1957 Bob joined many volunteer bricklayers to help erect walls at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, better known as OMSI. On September 1, 1957 it was announced Bob Blackburn & Johnny Carpenter would handle play-by-play of the 11 game schedule of the Oregon State College-University of Oregon football games on KOIN AM/FM starting September 21st.

    On September 2, 1957 Elvis Presley performed at Multnomah Stadium and Rock & Rolled 14,600 of his Squealing Fans. Before the concert Elvis held a press conference at the Multnomah Athletic Club, meeting with the winner of Bob Blackburn’s “Why I Want To Meet Elvis” contest sponsored by KEX on The Bob Blackburn Show. Bob posed with Elvis and the contest winner, 14 year old Nancy Welty of Salem who got a kiss from Elvis.

    Nancy’s parents had driven her to Portland for the rendezvous with Blackburn & Elvis. Bob remembers Elvis. “He was very friendly and affable. He didn’t act like, ‘What the hell am I doing here with these two people.’ He was very friendly. It was just a wonderful time.” Bob and Nancy then walked to their front row seats for the Presley concert. {2010 Trivia: Something worth mentioning but not appropriate for the end of Bob’s story, Blackburn died on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday, January 8th}.

    On October 21, 1957 The Bob Blackburn Show on KEX was adjusted an hour earlier 3:00pm to 6:00pm. On February 21, 1958 it was announced the Portland Beavers with Rollie & Bob would move broadcasts to KPOJ AM/FM for the coming season. On March 12, 1958 it was announced Bob Blackburn would leave KEX but where Bob was going, was kept a secret. It’s surmised KXL needed to make a deejay change with it’s Rock & Roll format taking rating hits from KGW, KEX & KPOJ. KXL had the power, 10,000 watts but the real problem, its audience moved to other stations after KXL’s sunset sign off. KXL offered Blackburn morning drive and he would lose his KEX Sports Director title. Don Porter jettisoned but landed on his feet at KGW.

    On March 15, 1958 KEX was not happy with the afternoon drive hole coming and showed Blackburn the door early so his audience wouldn’t know where he was on the dial, replacing Bob with Russ Conrad doing a split shift. On April 22, 1958 Bob Blackburn began his first morning drive show on KXL 5:00am to 9:00am Monday through Saturdays. He continued Beaver baseball night broadcasts and was questioned on his working hours by other deejays. Bob admitted he only got four hours a sleep at night but then after work at 9:00am, he had plenty of time for golf! On August 30, 1958 Bob emceed the Astoria Regatta & Fish Festival Parade.

    On September 17, 1958 it was announced Blackburn would call the Oregon State Beaver football games on KOIN AM/FM and Johnny Carpenter would do the U. of O. games. On January 5, 1959 Bob Blackburn left KXL mornings for KPOJ AM/FM weekday afternoons 4:30pm to 6:00pm. Burning the candle at both ends, Bob must have re-evaluated doing a morning show and then evening play-by-play sports. On January 15, 1959 Bob and Pat welcomed their third son David Brian Blackburn.

    On February 12, 1959 it was reported: Bob was a volunteer favorite at Multnomah County Juvenile Detention monthly parties, where he emceed record functions. Blackburn remembers: “Enjoyed very much being the guest disc jockey at high school dances and several times at the imprisoned youths who had run-ins with the law.” On April 15, 1959 “Bob Blackburn’s Traffic Jamboree” on KPOJ AM/FM expanded to 3 hours, 4:00pm to 7:00pm weekdays with “Action News” at 6:00pm. On April 17, 1959 Rollie & Bob began another season of Beaver baseball describing all the play-by-play action with a double header against the San Diego Padres on KPOJ AM/FM at 3:00pm & 8:00pm.

    On May 1, 1959 a major change in Beaver baseball broadcasts. KGW-TV which had televised Beaver home games since the 1958 season, would begin with the addition of Bob Blackburn teaming up with Doug LaMear & Tom Dargan doing the commercial announcements. In addition Blackburn & Truitt continued with home and away games on KPOJ AM/FM. Bob probably left Rollie at times without telling the radio audience and then slipped into camera view with Doug. Then slipping back to Rollie. KGW-TV was using 4 cameras and had 18 people keeping the TV broadcast on the air.

    On July 25, 1959 Rollie & Bob recreated the Beavers-Padres baseball game from “Roach Homes” Park Lane addition model home at 154th & S.E. Division St. at 2:00pm. On August 30, 1959 Bob & Rollie recreated the Beavers-Rainiers baseball double header from “Roach Homes” model home at S.E. 152nd & Mill. ($10,950 includes lot. Nothing down to G.I.’s).

    On March 18, 1960 Bob Blackburn was announced as Oregon Outstanding Sportscaster by vote of The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, for his broadcasting of Portland Beavers baseball and University of Portland basketball. Bob was honored with other outstanding sportscasters from across the U.S. at an awards banquet in Salisbury, N.C. on April 12th. On March 31, 1960 it was announced Bob would again handle play-by-play with Rollie handling color for the Beavers baseball season. KPOJ AM/FM was the originating station for the Beavers Baseball Network. First game April 14th in Tacoma.

    On August 31, 1960 it was reported: “One of the busiest sportscasters around these days is Bob Blackburn of KPOJ. He’s the voice of the Portland Beavers during the Summer months. His football season starts Sept 3 when he calls the Cleveland Browns-San Francisco 49’ers game at Multnomah Stadium for WJAR Cleveland. Later this Fall Bob will do all the Oregon State football games, Portland University basketball and Oregon State basketball games.” On December 30, 1960 Bob and Pat welcomed their second daughter Bonnie Sue Blackburn.

    On January 14, 1961 Blackburn who was an avid bowler, began as emcee for KPTV channel 12’s new “Portland Bowling” program, Saturdays at 4:00pm for an hour live from Powell Lanes, 3031 S.E. Powell Blvd. On February 1, 1961 KPOJ AM/FM picked up the Portland Buckaroos hockey games at 8:45pm with Bob Blackburn doing play-by-play beginning in mid season. The Bucks had restarted up on November 15, 1960.

    On April 3, 1961 Bob Blackburn was honored as Oregon’s Outstanding Sportscaster by vote of The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association for the second consecutive year in Salisbury, N.C., following a poll of Oregon writers and broadcasters. On April 24, 1961 Bob & Rollie began another season of Beaver baseball over KPOJ AM/FM, although Truitt played a limited role because of health issues. On July 15, 1961 KPTV’s “Portland Bowling” hosted by Bob Blackburn aired one more time at 4:00pm, going on Summer hiatus.

    On September 24, 1961 it was announced that Bob Blackburn would team with Hal Wehmeier KFLY sportscaster (former KRUL Sports Director) on Oregon State football home games. Bob would team with Oregon Journal Sports Editor, George Pasero on the four away games that Fall. New to the broadcasts was a five minute pre-game show called “Football Forecast.” Another edition was a ten minute post game show. All games were broadcast on KPOJ AM/FM and on Blackburn’s new 29 station, Oregon State Sports Network, which he owned.

    On October 7, 1961 KPTV brought back “Portland Bowling” with Bob Saturday’s at 5:00pm for an hour until the last telecast on December 30, 1961. On February 15, 1962 Bob Blackburn was General Chairman of the 14th Annual Hayward Banquet at the University of Portland Commons.

    On March 31, 1962 KPTV brought back “Stump The Deejay’s” quiz show (originally aired in 1955) Saturday nights at 10:30pm. The DJ’s were: Bob Blackburn (KPOJ), Barney Keep (KEX), Sammy Taylor (KWJJ) & Bill Davis (KGW). George Sanders was emcee. The premier show took five hours to tape. Bob didn’t bring his blindfold. Instead he brought a hockey puck and a baseball and squeezed them into his eyes. It worked but Bob couldn’t see for several minutes after removing the objects. He explained, his three-year-old “David”, thought his mask would look better on the neighbor’s Labrador retriever. The dog was last seen, galloping happily down the street wearing the mask. Bob explained, “this is the same three-year-old who filled my gas tank twice from the garden hose and broke our $94.00 picture window.”

    In April 1962 for the third consecutive year Bob Blackburn was announced as Oregon’s Outstanding Sportscaster by vote of The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. On April 14, 1962 Blackburn was substitute emcee on “Stump The Deejays.” Ray Horn (KGW) took Bob’s place on the panel. On April 17, 1962 the Portland Beavers switched stations to KGW. Rollie retired from the broadcast box and became the Beavers public address announcer. Bob began solo broadcasts. On May 19, 1962 Bob and “Stump The Deejays” aired for its last time on KPTV.

    On September 22, 1962 Blackburn described the Oregon State-Iowa State football game carried over KPOJ AM/FM and the West’s largest sports network. Hal Wehmeier did commentary and Bud Gibbs ex-Oregon State assistant football coach gave analysis. The broadcast included a 5 minute pre-game show and 10 minute post-game program with the latest scores. On October 5, 1962 Bob Blackburn retired as a disc jockey, performing his last afternoon show on KPOJ AM/FM from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. On October 6, 1962 Blackburn described the Stanford-Oregon game over KPOJ AM/FM at 12:15pm.

    On November 15, 1962 Bob Blackburn returned to KEX, regaining his Sports Director title after four years. He began a twice-a-day sports commentary. Bob continued his play-by-play assignments on a free-lance basis with his Oregon State Sports Network which included Oregon State football and basketball games, but wasn’t heard on hockey games. December 8, 1962 ad: “OSU Basketball, 1190 — KEX — Portland, And The Oregon State Sports Network. Every Game This Season Live and Direct with Bob Blackburn, 3 time National Award Winning Sportscaster. TONIGHT 7:55 PM OSU vs. WASHINGTON.”

    December 15, 1962 ad: “LIBERTY BOWL ON THE AIR WITH Bob Blackburn. OREGON STATE VS. VILLANOVA 9:50 A.M. KPOJ and The 30 STATION OREGON STATE SPORTS NETWORK. Presented by UNION OIL CO. of Calif. and Greater Portland Area Rambler Dealers.” This was the famous “Liberty Bowl” game from Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, where Bob announced the OSU Beavers winning over the Villanova Wildcats 6-0, on a 99 yard touchdown run by Terry Baker, Heisman Trophy Winner.

    On February 21, 1963 it was announced the Portland Beavers would move to KEX and Bob Blackburn KEX Sports Director would do play-by-play for his 14th consecutive season which began April 12th. Each game had the pre-game show “Beaver Warm-up” and post game “Beaver Bullpen.” No Spring training games were broadcast. KEX featured daily reports from Bob at Beaver Spring training camp in Daytona Beach, Fla. during KEX Sports News, mornings and at 5:45pm, continuing into the regular season.

    On March 22, 1963 a letter from Anne McCully of Eugene, appeared in the “Behind The Mike” column: “Would you like to pass along a good idea to all the OSU fans who feel, as we do, there is no game complete without the familiar voice of Mr. Oregon State, Bob Blackburn. As we watch the game on TV with the sound off, we listen to Bob’s broadcast on the radio and the combination is really great!” March 22, 1963 ad: “NCAA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS – OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY vs TOP-RANKED CINCINNATI – “See” and hear all the action on Radio KEX, with 4-Time winner of The Sportscaster of The Year Award, Bob Blackburn. Friday, 6:25pm. Saturday, 6:25pm. KEX RADIO 1190.”

    On April 24, 1963 Bob and Pat welcomed their third daughter Kathleen Patricia “Kathy” Blackburn. Pat remembers: “I was getting ready for Kathy to be born. Bob had been with me all night. He had forgotten he had an early morning sports show after Kathy made her appearance so he quickly told the nurses about the problem and they said they would bring a radio into the room while they were taking care of Kathy and me while he got on a phone to call in to the station and be put on the air. He told the radio audience that he was a new father and didn’t have time to get to the station so there would be no sports show. Bob concluded “The game is now tied 3 to 3. 3 boys and 3 girls, and my wife has told me that the game will not be going into overtime.”

    On September 14, 1963 Bob Blackburn announced that the “Oregon State University Football Radio Network” would have 26 stations throughout Oregon and Southwestern Washington with KEX as the originating station in Portland. This was the largest collegiate football network in the West. It also marked the 3rd year Union Oil Company of California and the Greater Portland Rambler Dealers would sponsor OSU games. Blackburn handled play-by-play, assisted behind the mike by Bud Gibbs, OSU Registrar and Hal Wehmeier, KNPT sportscaster.

    On October 5, 1963 “Behind The Mike” column: “KEX’s Promotions Department sent out a routine request for updated biographies from their air personalities. In due course a six-sheet bio arrived from Bob Blackburn, KEX Sports Director. The bio had been prepared in 1960 and the top line read: “Married — Wife — Patricia — five kids, 1 1/2 to 11 years—there’ll be no more!” Blackburn had inked out the same line to read: “Married — Wife — Patricia — six kids, 5 months to 13 years—there’ll be no more.” Decades later Blackburn wrote: “We came out with a family of six great children. We love and respect everyone of them and they are by far the biggest item in Pat’s and my lives.”

    On December 2, 1963 OSU basketball began on KEX with Bob Blackburn back as play-by-play announcer. On January 7, 1964 it was announced Bob Blackburn was appointed associate Portland Chairman of the March of Dimes. On March 8, 1964 it was announced KEX would once again carry all of the OSU NCAA basketball playoffs and Bob would be at the microphone for all the broadcasts. On April 17, 1964 the Portland Beavers season opener was on KEX beginning at 7:00pm with Blackburn at the mike from Little Rock, Arkansas.

    On September 19, 1964 OSU’s first football game of the season began at 11:05am on KEX at Northwestern with Bob Blackburn reporting on all the action. Then Bob rushed to “The Portland Open” golf tournament also carried live on KEX where co-host Barney Keep was filling in listeners with small talk no doubt until Bob’s arrival. KEX had 12 personnel from the station helping out as well for the two day event, beginning at 2:30pm. On October 14, 1964 it was announced Robert S. Blackburn had become Treasurer of the new “Pacific Northwest Life Insurance Co.” in Portland. Blackburn had been on the Board of Directors of “Centennial Life Insurance Co. of Portland.”

    On November 27, 1964 Bob began a weekend series of ski reports on KEX every hour starting at 5:15pm on Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 6:15am. As they say, imitation is next to flattery. KEX’s mid-day deejay Ted Rogers began a spoof sports routine based on Bob Blackburn, called “Bobby Heartburn”, taking a cue from KEX Barney Keep’s sports spoof “Four-Yard Frank Ferguson.” On December 1, 1964 Blackburn started the OSU basketball season on KEX at 7:55pm from Corvallis.

    On New Years Day 1965 Bob Blackburn was heard across America on the NBC Radio Network broadcast of the Rose Bowl, providing the color coverage of the game. On March 20, 1965 KEX carried the OSU NCAA basketball championship games with Bob calling all the action. On April 17, 1965 the Portland Beavers began a new season on KEX with “The Voice of The Beavers” Bob Blackburn and the addition of Russ Conrad with color.

    September 2, 1965 Oregonian “Behind The Mike” column: “Bob Blackburn with sidekick commentary from Russ Conrad broadcast all the Portland Beavers baseball home games and re-creates most of the Beavers road trips. It takes a trained ear to tell the difference. “We never try to fool our audiences when we re-create a ball game. We never pretend we’re “there.” We begin by identifying the program as a “wire re-creation” and we mention this several times during the broadcast.”

    “We then proceed to make the illusion as convincing as possible. I’m certain the fans want it that way,” Blackburn said. A Western Union operator, at the distant ball game, teletypes the starting lineups, weather conditions and incidental information to KEX about 30 minutes before the game actually begins. When Blackburn begins the play-by-play, armed only with scorebooks, spotting charts and his intimate knowledge of the game, his commentary runs 10 to 15 minutes behind the “Live” game.

    If anything goes wrong with the transmission, the time lag allows a margin to correct the fault—with Blackburn ad-libbing all the while. (Once this happened and Blackburn had a batter whacking foul balls for ten minutes). Various background noises, the National Anthem, cheers, boos, are recorded at the ballpark at home games and played back at appropriate spots during the recorded games. Deejay, Steve Davis, whose show is preempted by the game, handles the chore.

    “He’s the best crowd in town,” Blackburn cracked. A ball hitting the catcher’s mitt is Blackburn’s cupped hand slapping his thigh. The “Crack” of the bat is a miniature bat tapped on a real one. The game account is coded and abbreviated on the teletype. This is what the teletype read during Portland’s half of the third inning against Spokane Tuesday night — the inning in which the Beavers won the old ballgame:

    Kelly up … S1C (strike one, called) B1 Hi (ball one, high) S2C … B2OS (all two, outside) B3IS, B40S … Kelly Walks. Morton Up … Hit … Morton hits blooper single … short left center … Barbieri dives for it but can’t reach … Kelly scores … Griffith’s throw to the plate is late … Morton goes to 2nd … Curry up … B1HI … S1 foul back … Hit … Curry hits long drive … over right center fence at 370 sign scoring Morton ahead of him …

    Obviously, this could be read like a grocery list. What really makes Blackburn’s games sound real is his closeness to the game and the players. He keeps book like a pitcher, knowing what a player will most probably do in a given situation. He actually “sees” the game as he reads the tape, he said. His enthusiasm is sincere. He doesn’t reach to create his illusion. “It’s the toughest job in radio, for even a veteran “Live” announcer,” Blackburn said. “The secret is pacing the game, timing the plays realistically, and good background noises.” Blackburn, at 40, has 22 years in radio. He still handles (produces, broadcasts and distributes) the Oregon Sports Network programs.

    On September 15, 1965 KEX carried “The Portland Open” golf tournament live at Portland Golf Club with Bob Blackburn & Barney Keep reporting the stroke-by-stroke action. On September 18, 1965 OSU first football game of the season got underway at Illinois with KEX’s Bob Blackburn.

    January 2, 1966 “Behind The Mike” column: “Oregon State and KEX broadcaster Bob Blackburn learned overtime games are costly as well as thrilling. OSU’s three-overtimer at Navy and one extra period battle with Villanova at Philadelphia meant additional line costs totaling nearly $300. “Do you know,” Blackburn said with a chuckle, “when Ed Fredenburg missed a free throw at the end of the first overtime against Navy—it would have won the game—it cost me $90, boom, that quick.” That, obviously, is the season’s most expensive free throw missed which should open the way to a whole new vista in basketball records…”

    On March 12, 1966 Bob was at the mike again for the OSU NCAA Championship games on KEX. Also in 1966 not known inside media, Blackburn had submitted air checks, narrowly missing the play-by-play position at #2 The Boston Red Sox or doing color for Chicago White Sox. On April 15, 1966 Bob Blackburn & Russ Conrad began their 2nd season together broadcasting Beavers baseball on KEX with the opener against the Seattle Angels at Multnomah Stadium. On September 14, 1966 Bob & Barney broadcast the yearly “Portland Open’ golf tournament live on KEX from the Columbia-Edgewater Country Club, Wednesday through Sunday.

    On September 20, 1966 it was announced KEX & Bob Blackburn would continue to air OSU football games. It was later said in the “Behind The Mike” column: “This is one of Blackburn’s best years at describing football action.” On October 15, 1966 Bob, not wanting to disappoint listeners, ran into a big obstacle. Blackburn turned to frantic construction for a broadcast of the OSU-Idaho game in Moscow, Idaho. There was no radio booth for the occasion, so he combined apple crates and planks which he found outside the Boise College stadium into a shaky facsimile. “I was the only one of the broadcast crew sitting,” he remembered. “Then there was Beaver coach John Easterbrook sitting two feet from me on the press box phones and shouting at the top of his lungs. It was a pretty difficult afternoon.”

    On December 9, 1966 Bob began the OSU basketball season on KEX. On January 4, 1967 Bob Blackburn was elected Vice-President of Portland Local of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. On March 17, 1967 KEX began broadcasting the OSU NCAA Western Regional’s with Blackburn at the mike. In April 1967 Bob Blackburn was honored for the 5th time as Oregon’s Outstanding Sportscaster by vote of The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. On April 13, 1967 The Portland Beavers began their baseball season. Bob Blackburn & Russ Conrad had all the play-by-play action on KEX. On May 6, 1967 Bob & KEX broadcast the OSU Spring Alumni-Varsity football game at 3:50pm from Corvallis.

    On August 31, 1967 it was announced that the new Seattle SuperSonics NBA team had signed Bob Blackburn as play-by-play announcer, chosen from 105 to 110 applicants including Bill Schonely who auditioned. “I’m happy my new job keeps me in the Northwest,” Blackburn said. “I was born and raised in California, but I’ve grown to love the Northwest and prefer not to leave it. This wasn’t my first chance at the majors, but it was my first good chance.” Sonics games would be broadcast on a radio network of 17 stations with flagship KOMO Seattle and affiliates in Spokane, Yakima, Wenatchee, Aberdeen, Bellingham & the Tri-Cities. Plus 12 games on KING-TV. Bob would continue to broadcast OSU football for the 1967 season but the family would move to Bellevue, Wash.

    On September 5, 1967 Bob Blackburn broadcast his last Portland Beavers baseball game after 18 seasons. A sign held in left field recognized the fact: “Stay Here Bob.” Blackburn called 1967 “my most enjoyable season with the Beavers even though the team didn’t win the pennant.” In the 1968 season Art Eckman, KEX’s new Sports Director, took over the broadcasts.

    On September 30, 1967 Bob began coverage of the OSU Beavers (KEX) on his 32 station OSU Football Network in Oregon, Washington, Idaho & California with long time sponsor Union Oil Company. Blackburn remembers decades later: “It was really an interesting time, putting these networks together and when I left to go to Seattle, the people who followed me used my same formula for their network operations on all Oregon State, University of Oregon, and Portland’s NBA Trail Blazers! While my time in Portland was spent on many other sportscasts, I have always felt that when I was honored by being voted into the State of Oregon’s Sports Hall of Fame that a lot of the emphasis was on my development of sports networks.”

    On October 13, 1967 the Seattle SuperSonics debuted as did Bob Blackburn as the Radio Voice of The Sonics on KOMO. The San Francisco Warriors won 144-116. On an Eastern road trip during the Sonics’ first season, an overly enthusiastic slam-dunker shattered a backboard. Blackburn ad-libbed 45 minutes while the backboard was replaced. For the first 16 years, Blackburn was a one-man production. Play-by-play announcer, color man and engineer.

    On October 20, 1967 Bob Blackburn wore a black tuxedo while announcing the SuperSonics home opener. Tux had been the order of the evening but it didn’t stop the new San Diego Rockets winning their first game 121-114. Pat Blackburn remembers after the game: “I rushed him to the airport so he could get to Purdue to do the Oregon State football game, and he didn’t have time to change out of his tuxedo.”

    On October 21, 1967 Bob interviewed coach, Dee Andros before the game. “Dee told him that if they won, he would have to rent a tuxedo for every game” Pat said. OSU won in an upset against #2 Purdue 22-14. Next they beat WSU in Corvallis. Traveled to L.A. Tied #2 UCLA 16-16. Then on Veterans day 11/11/67 the legendary 3-0 victory upset over #1 USC with a young O.J. Simpson 3-0. And finally OSU beat the U of O in the “Civil War.” The tux was then retired. [OSU/USC Additional: During halftime Bob interviewed Governor, Tom McCall and Gov. Ronald Reagan]

    On October 24, 1967 Blackburn was back in Portland with the SuperSonics, as the Rose City got their first peak at the new NBA team in action at Memorial Coliseum against the Baltimore Bullets at 8:15pm. The Bullets romped 136-125. This was the first of four Portland Sonic games that season. The next being November 1st.

    On April 2, 1968 it was announced Bob Blackburn who had held the OSU football & basketball Radio rights for the past 9 years, was the successful bidder for another three years under contract. The plans called for Blackburn & KEX new Sports Director, Art Eckman to do the football games while Eckman would do all of the basketball games while Blackburn did Sonics games. In April 1968 Bob Blackburn was voted Washington State Sportscaster of the Year. On April 20, 1968 Bob handled play-by-play of the Portland Buckaroo-Seattle Totems, Lester Patrick Cup playoff finals from Seattle on KPOJ at 7:55pm. Jimmy Jones picked up the rest of the Bucks schedule.

    On July 28, 1968 it was “Bob Blackburn Day” at Multnomah Stadium where he was honored in recognition for his efforts as the Radio Voice of The Portland Beavers and building a heavy fan following. This took place between a doubleheader of The Portland Beavers vs. The Seattle Angels. Blackburn received a complete set of golf clubs and accessories from the Portland Beavers Club; sports clothes from concessionaire Paul Ail; a trophy in the form of a microphone from the Beaverooters, baseball booster group; and the Key to The City from Mayor, Terry Schrunk. Mrs. Blackburn was presented a bouquet of roses and a charm bracelet by the Beaverooters, who hosted the event. Jimmy Jones was M.C. of the presentations.

    On September 21, 1968 Bob Blackburn with Art Eckman began the OSU football season but Bob underestimated his time with the Sonics and was heard only half the time with Art on OSU games. However Bob had put together the biggest network yet, 32 stations, the largest collegiate sports network in the Western United States. On March 9, 1969 it was announced Bob Blackburn had been appointed National Athletic Institutional consultant for Vita-Ped Co., of Beaverton. On September 9, 1969 it was announced KEX would continue carrying OSU football with Bob & Art. This was Blackburn’s 12th season as The Voice of The Oregon State Beavers.

    In April 1970 Bob Blackburn for the second time was Washington State Sportscaster of the Year. On May 16, 1971 it was announced Bob Blackburn had been awarded another three-year contract to air OSU football and basketball games over his OSU Radio Network. Additionally Blackburn was traveling about 75,000 miles in the Sonics season, taking along an adequate supply of books and crossword puzzles in case of delays at airports. He also slept on planes – a habit that once left him wondering where he was. Blackburn remembers:

    ”I was sound asleep in a plane bound for Chicago that overflew that city because of bad weather and landed in New York,” he recalled. ”The players knew I had no idea what city we had landed in and they conspired with everyone else on the plane to keep it from me. I had to go to a phone booth in the airport and look at a phone book to find out where I was.”

    In April 1978 the Sonics announced they were switching stations from KOMO to KIRO next season. KIRO then announced Bob Blackburn, The Voice of The Sonics, would not be retained. “I’m very thankful for what I had for 11 years,” said Blackburn. “But I can’t do anything about what happened.” The Sonic fans could though. They protested with Mail and telephone calls, an outcry for Bob Blackburn deluged KIRO, convincing it’s management that “Mr. Sonic” should return. Bob said, “Thank You and added, “My kids are happy, too.”

    On June 1, 1979 it was Bob Blackburn calling the action when the Seattle SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets 97-93 in Landover, Maryland, to win the NBA Championship. A few days after, an estimated 300,000 fans lined Fourth Avenue for a parade to honor the Sonics. Bob Blackburn, remembers: “just a tremendous outpouring” of affection for the team. I usually hate getting into a crowd of people, but that day it was a big pleasure,” he said. “It just meant so much to the fans to be part of something like that. Those things are so rare.” Blackburn received a championship ring with a large diamond in the middle and his name engraved on the side.

    On October 14, 1983 the Seattle Supersonics were sold to Barry Ackerley by owner Sam Schulman. Ackerley was owner of KJR Seattle and didn’t like his new team on rival KIRO. He imposed a unique restriction. Sonic players were not allowed on Blackburn’s pre-game or post-game shows. On October 28, 1983 Blackburn, 58, with a string of 1,375 consecutive Sonic’ broadcasts, broke the streak. Bob had complained of shortness of breath and some chest discomfort on game day, entering Overlake Hospital in Bellevue. Tests revealed an artery blockage.

    On October 30, 1983 Bob Blackburn had triple bypass open-heart surgery at Providence Hospital. He checked out in 7 1/2 days thinking he could be back on the air in mid-December. Doctors thought he probably could. He returned after 43 days and three of his five major arteries unclogged. For exercise, he walked the stairs of arenas before each game. Meanwhile, back in Portland on April 11, 1986 it was announced the Portland Beavers would not be heard on Radio for the coming season. No station would pick them up. This was the first time in 57 years the Beavers were not broadcast.

    Also in 1986 Bob Blackburn was voted into Fullerton Union High School’s “Wall of Fame” reading: “Radio and television network broadcaster, Voice of Seattle Supersonics.” This was the high school Bob graduated from in California. On September 11, 1986 it was announced KJR would broadcast 18 Sonics basketball games live, which KIRO would not be able to carry live because of time conflicts with its coverage of Mariner baseball or Husky and Seahawk football. It was also agreed to allow Bob Blackburn, KIRO’s play-by-play announcer, access to Sonics team members for post-game interviews.

    On March 6, 1987 it was announced the Supersonics had bought out the broadcast rights to their games from KIRO Radio in a deal that would shift Sonics broadcasts to KJR a year early. The Sonics also bought out the remaining three years of Bob Blackburn’s contract. ”My relationship with Barry and the Sonics has always been a good one,” said Blackburn. ”At no time was I ever told that they wanted a change. I’m very pleased that I will be able to continue my relationship with this team. I think this is an exciting and talented young team that is going to be a lot of fun for me and the fans.”

    On August 18, 1987 it was announced Veteran SuperSonic broadcaster Bob Blackburn would be joined by new color commentator Kevin Calabro next season. Blackburn started his 21st season as the Voice of the Sonics. On February 9, 1988 it was reported that Blackburn had said he welcomed sharing the KJR microphone with newcomer Kevin Calabro. The expanded coverage now a four-hour marathon, began a half-hour before game time and signing off at 11:00pm. ”I’ve never in my life had an ego problem, and I’ve wanted this for a long time,” Blackburn said, ”and the pre-game, post-game and coach’s show are just too much for one man.”

    On March 29, 1988 Blackburn missed the Sonic game broadcast because of laryngitis. On April 11, 1988 Bob’s mother Opal Luona Blackburn died at age 86. Just 28 days later on May 9, 1988 Bob’s father DeWitt “Earl” Blackburn died at age 88. On June 5, 1988 Bob Blackburn was the subject of a celebrity roast benefiting the University of Washington heart-transplant fund and the Garfield High School scholarship fund. Roasters included, former Sonics: Fred Brown, John Johnson and Gus Williams. The event was held at Parker’s Restaurant.

    On August 15, 1989 after 22 years and 1,807 Sonic games, Bob Blackburn, popular play-by-play announcer stepped aside, ending a career that was the third longest in the NBA among his active peers. Blackburn, 65, was the last person connection to the 1967 Sonics. “Obviously, it’s not easy to do this,” Blackburn said. “But when you get to be my age, perhaps it’s time to make a change. Either me or someone else was going to make the change. The decision was mine. I have no qualms about Kevin taking over my seat. He is a fine broadcaster and a good friend,” said Blackburn. “There are many memories in my 22 years here. I hope that I brought some enjoyment into the lives of those people who have listened.” Blackburn became KJR Sports Director and signed a two-year agreement to continue his morning sports show on KJR, including a commentary at 8:30am and assisting Calabro in the new evening talk show ”Callin’ All Sports.”

    On October 9, 1989 KJR’s “Callin’ All Sports” expanded from one hour, to two hours and Bob Blackburn took over for Sonics play-by-play man Kevin Calabro, who was getting ready for the NBA season. Blackburn was joined by rotating co-hosts.

    On October 24, 1989 it was announced Bob Blackburn would make a comeback before even leaving. Blackburn, said he would be part of 52 Sonics radio broadcasts on KJR. He teamed again with Kevin Calabro. Blackburn said his return, as a color commentator, had been the result of a conversation with team president Bob Whitsett. “We were chatting about a week or two ago, looking into possibilities, maybe just home games,” said Blackburn. “I don’t even know how it came up, but the light bulbs flashed and I thought maybe I can do home games.” He did home and about a dozen road games. I’m happy to be back on. I didn’t want to leave completely,” Blackburn said.

    Besides color, Blackburn did the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows. His lighter schedule allowed him to remain as host of KJR’s sports talk show ”Callin’ All Sports” on weeknights from 6 to 8 p.m. On March 28, 1992 “The Bob Blackburn 3-On-3 Basketball Tournament” was held at Juanita High School in Kirkland.

    On May 14, 1992 Bob Blackburn broadcast his last Sonics game. The SuperSonics had decided not to renew Blackburn’s contract. Seattle Times columnist: “I have listened to him for 25 years. Through the good times and the bad, he has been the one Sonic constant. The Voice. “But Ackerley won’t renew his contract. He has silenced The Voice. Why?” During Blackburn’s career in Seattle, he covered more than 2,300 Sonic broadcasts.

    On June 12, 1992 Several players from the SuperSonics’ 1979 NBA championship team played current and former Seahawks in a charity basketball game at 7:30pm at Interlake High School. Bob Blackburn, the Sonics’ longtime broadcaster, was honored at halftime.

    On April 17, 1993 the Sonics/Rockets halftime ceremonies were dedicated to Bob. “Blackburn masks” were passed out to 10,000 entering the Coliseum. He was greeted with a standing ovation. Accompanied by his wife, Pat, and six other members of his family, Blackburn listened to taped messages from the Lakers’ Chick Hearn and other NBA broadcasters, then spoke to the crowd. His microphone was officially retired and he was honored with a banner bearing his name beneath the mic, hung from the rafters at KeyArena where it remained as a salute to the first major-league sportscaster in Seattle history. This was near the retired jerseys of Sonics: Fred Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Jack Sikma and others.

    On May 9, 1993 The Seattle Times ran a letter from a Blackburn fan: “As the season draws to an end, I feel the necessity of reporting to you the void my family has felt this year. Every time we listen, which is frequent, we realize how much we miss Bob Blackburn. We miss Bob’s voice; his knowledge of the game; his fantastic memory, which adds a historical perspective, and his sportsmanship. This has been sadly lacking this season. – Mrs. Robert T. Bragg, Mercer Island.

    On June 7, 1993 the Kids Auction Salute to Bob Blackburn. Among the celebrities roasting Bob were members of the Champion ’79 Sonics team. Meanwhile back in Portland September 2, 1993 the Portland Beavers played their last baseball game. They were sold to Salt Lake City. The Beavers began in 1903. Starting in 1994 Bob and wife Pat worked for a travel agency as tour directors on cruise lines, traveling the globe until 2001. The couple worked 28 international cruises to 83 different countries. “The only continent we didn’t cover was Antarctica,” Blackburn said. On January 30, 1995 it was reported Blackburn was now also an auctioneer.

    On June 14, 1996 former Sonics star Jack Sikma chaired the annual Ultimate Sports Auction at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, benefiting Evergreen Hospice and Health Care Foundation. Bob Blackburn served as auctioneer. Both Sikma and Blackburn went on the block with a gourmet dinner and went for $2,000. The total take was $94,000. On April 15, 1997 it was reported Bob was now doing about 30 auctions annually. Spring was his heaviest auction period.

    On September 5, 2001 Bob Blackburn was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Pat Blackburn remembers: “We had six children and they all kept stats for their Dad, I even kept stats for a little bit. We still call Bob, ‘Voice,’ that’s his nickname. In fact our license plate is ‘Voice1.’ The whole family loved every minute of it.”

    On January 29, 2002 Blackburn reported that a year ago, he hadn’t been to a Sonics game in nearly a decade. He didn’t feel part of the organization, having been unceremoniously shoved out the door by then new owner Barry Ackerley. It didn’t matter that Blackburn had been with the club for nearly a quarter of a century and was the original voice. Today, Blackburn is back in the fold, part of a “Legends” program instituted by new owner Howard Schultz and club President, Wally Walker, to connect Sonics fans with old franchise mainstays. He will make 20 appearances on behalf of the team, 15 at games, greeting fans coming in the door and signing autographs.

    In Spring 2002 Blackburn survived several days of intensive-care treatment at Swedish Medical Center/Providence and blood transfusions after a bout of internal bleeding. “Like the doctor told my wife, it was serious but not life-threatening,” Bob said. On August 10, 2002 Bob Blackburn was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon. Blackburn said: “It is just nice to be remembered.” He had mixed emotions about the party, held in the Tiger Woods Auditorium on the Nike campus in Beaverton. “I think sports halls of fame should be for athletes, but they (Oregon) have a special category for broadcast,” he said.

    On December 22, 2002 it was reported Blackburn was working with the Sonics, signing autographs and greeting fans at games among other duties. “I’m getting up (in age),” Blackburn said. “But a lot of people call me a young 78 because I still get around and do some things,” said Bob before his trip to the Galapagos Islands. “It’s a wonderful way to spend a retirement.”

    On January 20, 2005 it was reported Blackburn, 80, has four part-time jobs: auctioneer, directing tours, making appearances for the Sonics, and as a spokesman for a senior citizen community, Timber Ridge at Talus in Issaquah. “A lot of people are ashamed to say they’re 80, but I’m proud as hell and having a great time,” said Blackburn. On June 1, 2006 at the FSN Stars Night Out, gathering at Fox Sports Grill, showing unified support of charitable causes, Blackburn, talking to Kevin Calabro, telling him that he and his wife, Pat, will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary. “We have never raised our voice to each other,” Blackburn said, “and I was thinking, you’ve got to be kidding.”

    On July 19, 2006 Blackburn commented on the Sonics moving from the Emerald City: “If it is as it suspiciously looks like it will be, that the team would be in Oklahoma City and not Seattle, I don’t like it very much,” he said, “I’m very sorry. I’m kind of surprised, but not surprised. I did think something was going to happen that was going to keep it in Seattle. I really had that feeling it would be the Seattle SuperSonics. It is hard for me to feel anything about them going to another city, to be honest. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

    On February 8, 2007 it was reported Blackburn underwent quadruple bypass surgery. In Fall 2007 the Sonics gave Blackburn a commemorative leather jacket for the franchise’s 40th anniversary. On January 23, 2008 it was reported Bob, 83, walks two miles a day. “That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “Exercise is going to keep me alive.”

    On December 7, 2008 Blackburn suffered a head injury after a fall inside the Timber Ridge retirement community. He was recovering at an Eastside hospital. On January 20, 2009 at the “Seattle P-I Sports Star of The Year” banquet, Kevin Calabro reported Bob Blackburn wasn’t doing well. Blackburn remained in an area health-care facility, attempting to recover said Calabro. “His son David told me that good wishes and prayers from everyone are definitely welcome.”

    On June 19, 2009 the Blackburn’s renewed their wedding vows on their 61st anniversary. Nearing the end, Blackburn’s wife Pat said to Bob. “I told him ‘I just want to tell you what fun it’s been to ride on your coattails all these years.” On January 8, 2010 (Friday) Bob Blackbrurn died of pneumonia, peacefully at Timber Ridge Way N.W. in Issaquah. He was 85 years old.

    Slick Watts’ remembers running afternoon errands listening to the radio that caught his attention. Fellow Sonics legend Lenny Wilkens — was talking about their longtime announcer, Bob Blackburn. A reporter then said Blackburn died Friday at age 85. “I pulled over, took a deep breath,” Watts recalled. “I said, ‘Not Bob.'”

    Pat Blackburn remembers: “He had battled to come back from so much for over a year. We’re lucky to have had him for as long as we did.”

    On January 22, 2010 (Friday) there was a wake at Issaquah’s Gaslamp Bar & Grill at 7:00pm, featuring video and audio of the Sonics’ 1979 NBA Championship series victory over the Washington Bullets along with other replays of Bob Blackburn’s work. On January 23, 2010 (Saturday) the Blackburn family held a private memorial service. On January 24, 2010 (Sunday) a formal public memorial service was held at 3:00pm at First United Methodist Church, at 1934 108th Ave. N.E. in Bellevue.

    Slick Watts: “He made me feel better than I was. Just hearing him announce was always a thrill for me.” Kevin Calabro: “When you work next to a guy like that with such great command, you can’t help but take some notes. Blackburn’s words painted pictures that kept listeners intrigued.”

    Steve Kelley: “If he ever got tired, we never heard it in his voice. He had as much energy at the end of a six-game East Coast swing as he did on opening night. And he could make a ho-hum game in Kansas City as exciting as Game 7 of the Finals. Whether it was on the tennis court, at an auction, at one of his favorite fishing spots or courtside in front of a microphone, Bob lived his life at full throttle. More than anything, he was genuine and I can’t think of a better compliment to give a person. He believed he had the best job on earth, and that belief came across every time we listened to him call a Sonics game. In a business full of cynics, there wasn’t an ounce of cynicism in Bob Blackburn. Bob was everything we wanted our sports heroes to be, and make no mistake about it, Bob was a sports hero. Bob Blackburn is as Seattle as the Space Needle. He always will be ours. And his voice will continue to be heard in this town for eternity.”

    Bob Blackburn commented in 2006: “It was hard for me to believe I was that important. I hate the word `celebrity.’ I just had a wonderful job connected to the public.”

    Special Thanks to Bob Blackburn, Jr., Pat Blackburn & Joel Miller for their help to make this Radio biography more complete.

    References: Alan Hanson, The Beavers-Rollie Truitt’s Scrapbook, Bob Blackburn’s memoirs “By The Dawns Early Bite” (un-finished), Broadcasting Yearbook, The Fresno Bee, HistoryLink.org, Look magazine, The Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, Spokesman Review, TV Life magazine, TV-Radio Prevue magazine, Wikipedia, Yesterday’s KPTV.

    #5497

    MarkAndrews
    Participant

    Simply amazing, Craig! Thank you (and your contributors) for this wonderful chronicle. I started listening to the radio in 1959. Became aware of Bob on the Beaver Baseball broadcasts with Russ Conrad. I couldn’t tell a live game from one re-created. Also remember his work on Oregon State games and Sonics broadcasts on KOMO at night heard on skywave from Portland. He was simply the best at his craft…

    #5509

    mike_kolb
    Participant

    Bravo…. another fantastic glimpse back. Thank you Craig.

    #5517

    Dan Packard
    Keymaster

    Yes, incredible write-up Craig! Steve Allen of Tonight show fame, Sally Struthers, Bing Crosby, and I’m only thru the first 1/5th of the Bob Blackburn story.

    Bob was absolutely the best play-by-play announcer I heard in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up listening to his deft work bringing Seattle Supersonics basketball action alive.

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