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50 Forgotten Stories: The Two Bob Millers

The Hall of Fame broadcaster and the 6-year NHL veteran spent one year together in Los Angeles

by Sheng Peng @Sheng_Peng / LAKings.com

In October of 1984, the LA Kings inked center Bob Miller to a one-year contract.

That's right, center Bob Miller.

This Bob Miller would play 65 games for Los Angeles that season, primarily in a checking role.

For Hall of Fame announcer Bob Miller, then in his 12th year with the Kings, it wasn't odd at all to call his own name, "I didn't mispronounce his name. That's the good thing."

But what was awkward were the road trips.

"I'd be getting his messages. He'd be getting mine," sighed Miller. "It was really mixed up in the hotels where they had two people on the same team by the same name."

The two Bob Millers would often ask each other, "Hey, I got your message here. Did the guy get ahold of you?"

That season would conclude center Bob Miller's six-year NHL career, which included a 20-goal campaign with the Boston Bruins. But the mix-ups haven't stopped.

"Since he's retired, every once in a while, I get a letter from someone with the other Bob Miller's hockey card, asking me to sign it for them," chuckled the Hall of Famer. "I suppose I could and they wouldn't know the difference. But I usually send it back and say that Bob is living in New England and the Boston Bruins would have a way to contact him."

Talking about the other Bob Miller made the Kings announcer recall another Bob Miller.

"My favorite baseball player in the '50s was Bob Miller. He was a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. They won the pennant [in 1950]. In fact, he was 8-0, his first eight starts.

"I went up to Wrigley Field [as a 12-year-old], which was quite a trip for me because I was from the South Side of Chicago, just to get his autograph. I've got it here somewhere.

"I had no other connection to Philadelphia. That was it. I thought, 'Oh, good. I'll be a fan of his … as long as he keeps winning.'"

 

Bob's First Partner

All of Miller's partners enjoyed multi-year runs in the Kings broadcast booth -- except his first partner, Jim Minnick.

"He and I both started at the same time," remembered Miller.

"We were in Vancouver [in December], and I got a call from [then-LA Kings owner Jack Kent] Cooke's assistant, Jim Locker.

"He had called Jim Minnick and said, 'Come back to Los Angeles.' And Minnick thought it was one of the players kidding him. So I guess he was talking back to Locker.

"Locker then called me and said, 'You go down the hall and tell that partner of yours it was me on the phone and I want him back here in Los Angeles immediately!'"

Apparently, Miller wasn't the organization's only means of delivering bad news. "Cooke sent a telex message to the Canucks' front office: please tell the color man for our telecasts that he has been fired." (Verdi, Bob. "Cardinal icers get Czech-up tomorrow." Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1974.)

According to Miller, Merrick was let go just three months into his tenure because he had "very little knowledge" about hockey.

This lack of a "big hockey background" coincides with the public reason for his departure: "Minnick was fired … because he talked too much -- about other things. For instance, most of one interview … was devoted to a discussion of the upcoming Jerry Quarry-Earnie Shavers heavyweight boxing match." (Schrader, Loel. "Legend in Granite recalls Lombardi." Independent, December 7, 1973.)

Recalling Cooke's insistence that every Forum event, sports or not, be promoted on the air, Miller quipped, "Maybe they got upset over that because he was talking about it and it wasn't at The Forum!"

 

'Steamo' Was His Name

What's this Hall of Famer's forgotten nickname?

"At the start of my career with [the Kings], all the players and everybody called me Steamo," recalled Miller.

He re-traced the moniker's origin.

"We had an assistant trainer, John Holmes, who was with the Kings when I started.

"In those days, we traveled on commercial flights, not charters. In those days, on commercial flights, you got food.

"They served the food one day and John was sitting next to me. He looked over at one point and said, 'You're shoveling that food in like a steam shovel!'

"He shortened it to Steamo."

Miller laughed, "They don't know what that nickname is [today].

"But if I run into players who played in the '70s, it's always, 'Hey, Steamo, how are you?' It's just automatic." 

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Sheng Peng is a freelance hockey writer based out of Los Angeles, California. He covers the LA Kings and Ontario Reign for HockeyBuzz. His work has also appeared on VICE Sports, The Hockey News, and SB Nation's Jewels from the Crown.

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