Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By RON GONDER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When my sportscasting friend Bob Brooks passed away last Saturday he left me with a lot of good personal memories. Like the first time we really got to know one another.
I had casually met Bob and talked to him a few times before that occasion when I first came to the Midwest in 1959 and was doing Northwestern football and basketball play-by-play and then after that in the early 1960’s as play-by-play for the University of Illinois.
By 1965 I was working at KRNT Radio-TV in Des Moines and I still only knew Bob casually. On a Friday night in February,1968, I called a high school basketball game on KRNT Radio and afterward caught a flight from Des Moines to Detroit to broadcast the Iowa-Michigan basketball game the next afternoon. By the time I got transportation from the Detroit Airport to my motel in Ann Arbor it was 4 a.m. so I got a short night’s sleep.
Before a mid-morning breakfast I made a taxi cab reservation to get me to the Michigan basketball arena, but the cab was 35 minutes late from the appointed time it was to pick me up. I got to the arena just 30 minutes before air time.
KRNT had made arrangements through an Ann Arbor radio station to provide broadcast equipment and an engineer to run the broadcast. When I got to the arena, there was no equipment nor any engineer in sight. The Ann Arbor station had apparently goofed up.
Bob Brooks was set up to do his broadcast for KCRG Radio in Cedar Rapids in the broadcast position next to mine and when he learned of my predicament he offered to loan me his backup amplifier. We located an off-duty radio engineer, who was at the game, and he checked me through and got me on the air with Bob’s amplifier just minutes before broadcast time. I’d now personally gotten to know Bob Brooks, and I was deeply in his debt.
As a thank-you when Bob and his wife Susie came to the boys state high school basketball tournament in Des Moines a few weeks later my wife Pat and I took the Brooks out to dinner. Now I had really gotten to know Bob Brooks. It took me more than 20 years, though, to be able to truly pay him back for saving that broadcast.
By that time I was in Cedar Rapids at WMT and Bob and I one night had concluded our Iowa basketball play-by-play broadcasts at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and were getting ready to do our postgame segments with coach and player interviews that we had recorded in the postgame room.
Bob approached me as I was about to go on the air with my show and said, ‘Ron my tape recorder malfunctioned and I have no interviews for my postgame. When you finish your postgame will you lend me your recordings?’
When he handed me my recordings after he’d finished his postgame I said something like, ‘Bob, it took a while but I finally got to save a segment of a play-by-play broadcast for you like you did an entire game for me all those years ago in Ann Arbor.’
From the time I came to WMT in 1969 for the next 30-plus years Bob Brooks and I competed against one another for audiences on sportscasts and on Iowa football and basketball play-by-play broadcasts on competing Cedar Rapids radio and television stations. Over that time we became good friends, and I often joked during basketball seasons when we were traveling with the Iowa team that I had as many meals with Bob Brooks as I had with my own family.