Saturday, February 06, 2016

one more season for Don Robbs

The idea was so revolutionary that Bob Berger, owner of radio station KHVH, repeated it slowly and with emphasis to make sure he’d heard it correctly.

College baseball? On the radio?” Berger recalled, the incredulity still tinged in his voice years later.
These days University of Hawaii is a staple on the radio dial, where it returns next week, but in 1977 it took some persistent and determined lobbying before Berger would consent to what was then viewed as an outlandish “experiment.”

It was Don Robbs who did the convincing, and vindication was long ago his in what this month marks the start of his 40th season behind the microphone as the play-by-play voice of UH baseball.

Robbs, 79, says it will be his last season in a role that was originally supposed to last just the weekend of the 1977 NCAA Regionals at Rainbow Stadium. Instead, when he walks away at season’s end, it will be with the memory bank of more than 2,300 games and a place in its history.

“Don is an institution in college baseball,” said Lou Pavlovich Jr., publisher of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. “I don’t know of anybody who has been at it longer. He’s done so much for the sport, especially in Hawaii”

“To tell you the truth,” Robbs recalls, “I wasn’t sure it (UH baseball on the radio) would work either, but I thought it was worth a try.”

The timing, it turned out, was prophetic. The rise of a young left-hander from Aiea, Derek Tatsuno, who was a freshman in 1977, and the ’Bows’ subsequent march to the College World Series in 1980 made UH baseball a hot ticket on campus and a money-maker for KHVH.

Though Robbs did baseball as a sidelight to his other media jobs, taking vacation days for road trips, UH baseball forever became his calling card, to the point where he was recently elected to UH’s Circle of Honor. UH coach Mike Trapasso has announced plans to name an annual award for Robbs.

“He’s given a lot to UH and baseball in particular,” Trapasso said.

*** [5/30/16]

While acknowledging Don Robbs’ remarkable 40-year run as the radio voice of University of Hawaii baseball, it’s good to remember that’s not all he has done here. This was actually his night job.

“He’s a lot more than a guy with a silky voice,” Jim Young said. “In my opinion he saved public television in Hawaii.”

Young was the executive director of PBS from 1980 to 1993 and hired Robbs as operations manager. Later, Robbs returned as director, with the difficult task of converting PBS from a state-funded entity to a non-profit because the state had cut support.

***

Don Robbs all-time Rainbow team

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