Photo courtesy Mark Wasik
Sunday, July 22, 2012 | 5:36 p.m.
One of the most important voices in Southern Nevada sports, longtime UNLV announcer and Las Vegas 51s front-office assistant Bob Blum, died Sunday. He was 91.
On April 6, Blum fell and broke one of his artificial hips after attending a home 51s game. He was admitted to a local hospital and then moved to a rehab center in May as he attempted to regain his health. Blum had good days and bad days, just like any one in his position would, but last weekend his condition worsened and he was moved to an intensive-care unit.
He spent his final days surrounded by those close to him. His radio color man on UNLV women’s basketball games, Adam Candee, visited each day this past week, last seeing Blum on Friday. Candee said that every day there were about six or seven people waiting to come and say hello.
“Every time I went I found myself getting kicked out to the other waiting room because there were so many people to see him,” Candee said. “He had a lot of support even in his last days.”
UNLV announcer Dick Calvert, who knew Blum for about 40 years, remembers having dinner with Blum on the night he fell at home. Calvert and Blum had dinner at Cashman Field, just like they would regularly do for each of the 51s’ 72 home games.
“It was Bob Blum like normal, telling the same stories we’ve heard 800 times,” Calvert said. “He just got new hearing aids, and he had them turned up so much he was yelling.”
Chuck Johnson, the 51s general manager, said Blum was still working hard and trying to sell advertising for the team before he was hospitalized. Blum’s first hospital room got poor radio reception, which didn’t sit well with a man who was upset he had to miss even a single game. Thankfully his subsequent rooms had radios that picked up games just fine.
“He’s a legend in the broadcast industry. He’s done everything in this town,” said Johnson, who met Blum about 18 years ago. “You lose a dear friend, and that’s hard.”
Blum moved to Las Vegas in 1973 after a long career in California. Blum began broadcasting several UNLV sports, including football and men’s and women’s basketball, but it’s the Lady Rebels that current fans associate with him. Blum was the voice of the Lady Rebels for the past 27 seasons, the last four of which he called alongside Candee. Blum often had to put up some of his own money to make sure the women’s basketball games got on the radio.
"Bob was not only a great announcer, but also a great friend and supporter and so much more to UNLV and the Lady Rebel family," UNLV women's basketball coach Kathy Olivier said in a statement. "I've known him ever since he called my games when I played for UNLV (1979-81), and we are going to miss him so much. He's almost like part of the uniform, everyone knows 'Blummer.' Bob always took so much pride in his work and how he represented the Lady Rebels. It will be a huge void in our family not having him around."
Added UNLV Athletics Director Jim Livengood: "On behalf of our entire UNLV family, this is a sad day for all that knew Bob Blum. He was a true Rebel and a true gentleman. Bob put his heart and soul into our programs for many years. He will be missed by all of us."
Candee shared a telling story in June about Blum, whom he once described as a “fiercely independent person,” which was part of the reason physical rehabilitation could be especially difficult for him.
It was two years ago and Blum, then 89, had just bought a TV. He called Candee to come over and help him get it out of the car and into his house. After they got it inside, Candee offered to get the system all set up, to which Blum replied that Candee’s services were no longer required. Blum needed help to get the TV in the house, but he intended to finish the job himself.
Blum wanted to help others. And while those others would almost always be willing to return the favor, Blum never felt comfortable asking for help.
In addition to his work with UNLV, Blum was involved with the 51s from their start nearly 30 years ago. He held several different roles with the team, most recently special assistant to the general manager. Johnson said it was odd for several at the games, including longtime season-ticket holders, to look in the press box and not see Blum’s familiar face.
“It’s going to be a pretty rough adjustment over these next 18 games, knowing that he attended his last game in April,” Johnson said.
Blum was born in South Bend, Ind., and attended the University of Notre Dame. He served in the Air Force before moving to California, where he worked in the Bay Area for 23 years. Blum called games for the Major League Baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, as well as two National Football League teams, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. He also worked with both San Jose State University and the University of Santa Clara football and basketball teams.
Blum called his 1,000th career UNLV event on Feb. 4, 2006, a women’s basketball game at Wyoming. He has received several career accolades for his work, most recently in 2007 when he was inducted in the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
Previously he was named the Nevada Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscaster and Sportswriter Association (2002), he was inducted into UNLV Athletics’ Hall of Fame (2000) and in 1998 he received the Lindsey Nelson Sportscaster Award, which honors lifetime achievement in the field.
Calvert gave the introduction speech at both hall of fame receptions. He credits Blum for teaching him the radio business back at KLAV and said UNLV must come up with a proper way to memorialize his longtime friend.
“He was an icon,” Calvert said. “He’s a part of this valley.”