Photo by Jon SooHoo
Vin Scully. Chick Hearn. Bob Miller.
For more than 152 years and thousands of memorable play-by-play calls between them, three of the most iconic figures in sports broadcasting history blessed not only Southern California sports fans with their distinct announcing style, but also the world.
As the 78-year-old Miller wraps up his final broadcast for the Los Angeles Kings, the organization he has been a part of for the last 44 years, it marks the end of an era, the final pillar removed from the sports broadcast trinity of Hearn, Scully and Miller.
Vin Scully ushered in the golden era of sports broadcasting in Southern California by moving west with the Dodgers from Brooklyn in 1958. Two years later, Chick Hearn joined the Lakers when the team relocated from Minneapolis for the 1960-61 season. Nearly a decade later, Miller was the final piece of the triumvirate, joining the Kings in 1973.
The art of storytelling and bringing sports to life was redefined through these three voices. Scully’s serenading dulcet voice, deep knowledge of baseball lore and descriptive style made him arguably the greatest baseball announcer of all-time. Hearn redefined the way fans watched basketball with his colorful phrases (known as “Chick-isms”) such as “slam dunk” or “air ball” became common basketball phrases through his staccato and rapid commentary on the air.
For Miller, he separated himself with a unique and distinctive style, one that went without catchphrases or chatter. With the speed and pace of hockey, Miller couldn’t afford the same storytelling opportunities Scully had throughout his 67-year career. He broadcasted the game as it happened with skill and professionalism.
— #LAKings (@LAKings) April 9, 2017
“I [Miller] said, ‘Well, in this sport, in my mind, there’s no taking it easy. When they drop the puck, you’re going. You’re on,’” Miller said. “And that’s what the fans expect from you and that’s the way you want to do the game. You want to be involved in it, you want to be energetic, excited. You can’t just say, ‘Well, I’ll do two periods really dull and then I’ll get excited in the third period.”
While Miller, 78, did not get the gift of being able to decide when he would leave the broadcast booth like Scully did a few months prior in October 2016 after 67 seasons, his 44 seasons behind the microphone is second most behind longtime Buffalo Sabres play-by-play announcer John Richard “Rick” Jeanneret, who started broadcasting for the Sabres in 1971-72.
Miller’s career began when Hearn recommended him to then-Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke for the Kings’ open broadcast job. Coincidentally enough, Miller’s news conference where he announced his retirement was held in the Chick Hearn press room in STAPLES Center, making a full-circle connection in a legendary career.
Within those 44 years as the broadcast voice of the Kings, he’s seen it all.
From the tough, losing seasons early on in his tenure (especially since the Kings tried to popularize and educate the game to desert dwellers starting in 1973) to the “Miracle on Manchester” in 1982 when the Kings rallied back from five goals down to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in a playoff game and the years of Wayne Gretzky, Miller saw it all.
As time continued to pass, players, coaches, owners, front office executives and generations of fans came in and out, yet Hearn, Scully and Miller served as a constant within their organizations. However, unlike Scully and Hearn, who witnessed 9 NBA championships and 6 MLB World Series titles for much of their careers, Miller had to wait 39 years into his tenure until the Kings raised their first championship in franchise history in 2012.
Miller will someday be honored at STAPLES Center with an honorary banner in the arena next to former Kings legends or a statue outside next to Hearn, who himself has a statue outside in Star Plaza and a retired microphone banner next to the retired numbers of former Laker greats.
The three broadcasting legends will always be remembered for their impact on sports, culture and life in Los Angeles and their role in the the regional growth of baseball, basketball and hockey. Although they have signed off, their legacies live on, their brilliant broadcast voices alive for future generations of fans to experience.
— Spark Sports (@Spark_Sports_) April 8, 2017
Vin Scully’s final home game: 4-3 walk-off win in 10 innings
Bob Miller’s final home game: 3-2 OT win
— Arthur Puu (@arthurpuu) April 9, 2017
Follow Arthur Puu on Twitter: @arthurpuu