When news hit that longtime Washington State University radio announcer Bob Robertson had passed away, it was yet another gutpunch to the collective culture of the Evergreen State. Many people, as they usually do when someone passes away, took to social media to talk about the broadcaster who spent a half-century calling games in Pullman as well as calling baseball games for the Spokane Indians and Tacoma Rainiers.
And a thousand social media posts about how great the guy was wouldn’t come close to explaining how good a guy Bob Robertson was. While I worked for the Spokane Indians out of college, I got to be in the same press box as Bob Rob and experienced this Washington legend first hand. All those good stories you’ve read about him, all true. He was just a great individual.
First off, he was a consummate professional. He attacked a game while calling it, bringing out every detail and setting the stage for his radio audience. Sitting next to him and listening to him call a baseball game was something else. Baseball is tough to call because there is quite a bit of downtime between action, but Bob Rob would turn into Bob Ross and paint a picture with words. He’d mention the smallest details of what he was watching and then keep rolling with it.
Bob Rob also kept his own stats. If he wasn’t a broadcaster, he would probably end up being some kind of engineer because he was a master of numbers. From football to baseball, he was rarely off from the official stats. Taking a look at his baseball scorebook, it was a marvel of efficiency and stat keeping. When a play was questionable, we would regularly just ask Bob “uh how would you score that?” and go with it, because are you really going to argue with the voice of the Cougars?
As a person, Bob Rob was one of those people who brightened up a room. He was a generally cheerful guy who had a geniune interest in making friends. He would always ask you how things were going and tell you how he was doing like you were old pals who went to college together. There was no ego to be had; he seemingly treated everyone like a coworker and not a subordinate. He would always tell you how his wife was doing and, for someone who was always on the road or traveling, it was so refreshing to see a guy who put in a lot of hours working but was also very connected and concerned about his family.
While sports are a distraction, and could be considered nonessential, I think it’s important in this age to point out the exceptional people in the industry. Regardless of accomplishments, he was just a good person.
Everyone in the WSU community loved Bob Robertson and for very good reasons. He had three press boxes named after him and made a mark on the teams he covered. Not because he was a big personality but because he was a pleasant personality.
One time, an injured bird flew into his broadcast booth at Avista Stadium, and live on the air, Robertson had friended the bird and gained its trust.
Another time, during a lightning bolt hit a light tower near the press box. While broadcasting at the time, the pro Bob Rob took approximately 15 seconds to sign off the air, pack up his stuff and put in a WSU wide-receiver-like 40 time-out of the press box and down the scaffolding. While he blurred by us, he still waved to us, said “I think this game is cancelled! You all have a good night!”
He always made time for the people around him, despite being one of the busiest and most active broadcasters in Washington. He thanked you when you brought him food in the booth, and heck, he would even offer you a seat to sit down and snag a bite to eat with him.
When an icon passes away, there is usually lots of fanfare, but when it comes to Bob Rob, it’s well deserved and frankly not enough for a guy who was WSU Cougar football for decades and an example of how you can live your life doing what you love.