The last time I saw the 51s special assistant to the general manager, he looked tired. Very tired. It was Thursday, before the 51s’ game against Fresno.
The reason Bob Blum looked tired was because on April 6 he fell at home and broke his hip. Then he got double pneumonia. Broken hips and double pneumonia tend to take a lot out of people who are 91.
Until April 6, he had been the indefatigable Bloomer. On March 31, he had sold a group ticket package to Cashman Field to a bunch of Kansas basketball fans he had just met at a bar in Green Valley during the Final Four. I watched him do it. It was amazing.
Now he was in the intensive care unit at Valley Hospital. He was sleeping. A nurse was going over his charts. She said he had a busy day, with a lot of visitors, but that it was OK to wake him.
And so I did and he smiled weakly and we sort of chit-chatted. But it was difficult. Difficult carrying on a conversation. And difficult seeing him so tired.
When I asked if he had been eating, keeping his strength up, he dozed off. The nurse nodded to an intravenous bag that was dripping meat and potatoes into his right arm.
He seemed a little stronger than the last time I had seen him. His color was better. He still looked tired. Very tired. And so when Bob Blum died on Sunday afternoon, it did not come as a shock.
And yet it did come as a bit of a surprise, because I was one of those who said he would outlive us all, and I had started to believe it.
To me, Bob Blum was more than the special assistant to the GM, more than the voice of the Lady Rebels, more than a guy who had done everything one could do in radio with the possible exception of having invented it, though I believe he was around then.
To me, he was George Blanda of the 1970 Oakland Raiders.
Blanda was 43 then, in his 21st professional football season. During one five-week stretch, Old Man Blanda came off the bench to win four games in the closing seconds and tie another, mostly with touchdown passes to Fred Biletnikoff and long gravity-defying field goals that barely dropped over the bar.
Maybe there are better ways to describe Bob Blum. But he would have liked that one, because he once worked for the Raiders. He knew George Blanda. He knew Fred Biletnikoff. Al Davis was his close friend.
Perhaps you knew that but you didn’t get it from him, because Bob Blum never dropped names.
I remember one day at lunch when the conversation was old-time baseball, and he said that somewhere in a desk drawer he had a recording of Russ Hodges’ immortal “The Giants win the pennant!” home run call, when Bobby Thomson hit the big one in 1951.
This was when Bloomer sold advertising for Giants broadcasts after they moved to the Bay Area. He had made these recordings from the original and put them on the kind of records you used to cut out from the back of a cereal box.
He revealed this information nonchalantly, just slid it in there like Warren Beatty might slide in that he was dating Natalie Wood or Leslie Caron or Diane Keaton or Julie Christie or Madonna, if you knew Warren Beatty.
The 51s’ Don Logan, who was Bob’s best pal and probably added another 15 years to his life when he created that special assistant to the GM gig for him, said Bloomer was like your grandfather, and that’s why everybody liked him.
Maybe he was as old as your grandfather – or your great-grandfather – but he seemed more like an uncle, a fourth uncle if you had three or a third uncle if you had two or a second uncle if you had just one. A really cool uncle, the kind who takes you to ballgames and brings you candy bars and stuff when you haven’t seen him for a while.
Bob Blum brought a lot of stuff to a lot of people.
He brought me a recording of Russ Hodges going crazy and introduced me to his friend Al Davis and picked up the tab at lunch nine times out of 10.
So when he fell and broke his hip, I went to see him in the hospital, as much as I hate hospitals. And the second time, he had shaved and was wearing a pressed golf shirt and had started therapy. He talked about going home in six weeks.
When I saw him last, on Thursday, he just looked tired.
He motioned me to him and started to speak but his voice was weak. So I leaned over, being careful not to nudge his broken hip and those tubes, and then Bob Blum whispered the last words I would ever hear him speak.
He wanted to know if there was a ballgame on TV, and could I put it on before I left.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.