Set to retire this September, the sports news hall of famer reflects on a rich life & career.
Rob Bromley has stories to tell. A lot of stories. He recalls them so eloquently as if it was yesterday, yet Bromley’s stories date back more than six decades. He grew up in upstate New York. Bromley was the younger of two sons. His father was an electrical engineer at Griffiss Air Force Base and his mother was a teacher. It was the 1950s.
“I remember the day that the TV came to the apartment. I remember the weather was good. The sun was shining,” Bromley recalled. Bromley was just a wide eyed five-year-old when he sat on the living room floor of their five-room apartment in an old mansion, watching his dad take the TV out of a big box. There were three stations that would come in pretty clearly, if you adjusted the rabbit ears just right. “That’s where the memories started,” Bromley said.
Bromley’s parents weren’t interested in sports, but he and his older brother were. “I owe a lot to him. I always had him to lead the way. We grew up sitting on that rec room floor on that old couch, watching black and white TV. That’s how we got interested in sports together,” he said.
Sports viewing was limited to weekends. Typically, pro football and baseball were the go-to teams to follow. “This wasn’t Kentucky after all,” Bromley joked. That’s where the vivid memories were made and are etched in his mind, ready for recall. Historic memories.
There was the 1958 Colts-Giants NFL championship–regarded as the greatest game ever played. Bromley remembers that. He has a vivid memory of a 1959 major league game in Cleveland. It was his first. “It was a real thrill. That old stadium. It was a weeknight. Indians and the Yankees,” he recalled. It was one of only two years between 1949-64 that the Yankees had not won a pennant. “There were 50-thousand there that night. I will never forget it,” he said. And like that, Bromley has instant recall, like an announcer, taking you there. “The Yankees got up four to one lead and then Minny Minoas hit a grand slam home run over left field fence. I never heard a crowd erupt like that,” he remembers. Cleveland won that night. Bromley was just 9-years old. By then, the memories were being formed in the families dream home, on the rec room floor.
“I was sitting on that rec room floor glued to that TV when Roger Maris hit 61 in October of ‘61. He hit it early in the game. I have that memory,” he said. It was a historic one, as it was the moment Maris beat the record set by the legendary Babe Ruth. 1962. “I remember seeing Jackie Robinson from a distance outside the exhibition game. The only reason I remember was he had greying hair. That was pretty unusual to see. The Braves–Yankee game got rained out which was a big disappointment,” he remembered. There was the 1964 AFL National Championship game in Buffalo. The Bills versus the San Diego Chargers. Bromley remembers that. He was there. “I was as close to Jack Kemp as you could get,” he said.
The memories are endless. “There are things you remember,” he said. But Bromley admits he wouldn’t be as good at recall these days. But when you see something that’s a first, that’s different. “First time sticks with you,” he said.
Whatever it was about sports, Bromley and his brother we were intrigued even though his parents weren’t. But they cultivated their son’s interest. “They didn’t have an interest in sports. They knew we were so they took us to games,” he said.
As Bromley’s interest in sports as a spectator blossomed, thoughts of a career connected to it were not on the radar until high school. A part in a school play gave Bromley the confidence to participate in a public speaking contest. That confidence continued to build. By the time he was a junior in high school in the late 60’s he considered a career in sports broadcasting. Wanting to move away from upstate New York, Bromley applied to Butler University in Indiana and was accepted. He packed his bags, sight unseen. “I’d never set foot in Indiana. I’d never been to Indianapolis. It was one of the smarter things I ever did in my life,” he said. He learned a lot at the student run radio station. His senior year Bromley was hired part time to work at a local radio station. After graduating Bromley was hired for his first full time job in Lima, OH at the rock station, WCIT radio.
Bromley approached the owner of the station about letting him cover high school games. He liked the idea and that was the beginning of Bromley’s career in sports broadcasting. Bromley’s first week on air at WLIO in Lima as a TV sportscaster was memorable for more than his career advancement; it was also the week President Nixon resigned.
A phone call in December of 1976 was a game changer.
A phone call in December of 1976 was a game changer. WKYT sports director, Denny Trease, was visiting his family in Ohio and Bromley was on the air. He liked what he saw and the timing was perfect. Channel 27’s sports department was growing from a one-man staff and a part timer to two full timers. “That’s how I ended up here. I started January 17th, 1977 filling in for Denny on a Monday night. It was cold. The basketball team was playing in Florida that night,” he remembers. “That’s how I got from Rome, NY to Lexington KY. Eighteen years in New York. Four in Indianapolis. Four and a half in Lima and forty and a half in Lexington.” The timing was great. When Bromley arrived at WKYT, the station had the contract for games and the coaches’ shows. Bromley made many wonderful connections during his 20 years working on the those programs, and even more covering basketball for 30 years. “It was a special ten years with Tubby. I think I can credit some of my longevity to the fact he was here and I had a good relationship with him. I was very lucky with the coaches show,” he said. In 1988, he married his wife Diane Scanlon of Lexington and in 1991, they had their only son, Robbie. “No matter what I have done or how many years I’ve lasted or how many games I have seen, he remains the biggest accomplishment of our lives,” Bromley said.
His son never asked about a career in sports and Bromley never pushed. Instead, he is enjoying a career as a mechanical engineer in Frankfort, a source of great pride for Bromley. “Seeing him mature, it’s more than I could’ve done,” he said. Bromley is modest about his own accomplishments. This past June he was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame. “You never set out to be in a Hall of Fame,” he said. “It’s overwhelming. I’m very humbled by it. It never would’ve happened if I hadn’t come to this station and been able to move into the position I was in,” he said. Bromley credits the WKYT management with letting him be himself. He embodies a straightforward, credible approach. He doesn’t try to attract attention by blowing horns. “That style has been accepted and appreciated,” he said. He also believes it was the key to being accepted into the Hall of Fame where there are only eight other announcers who have been inducted. “’I’ve been lucky. I was lucky where I grew up with the people I grew up with. My parents let me do what I wanted to do,” he said.
Bromley will retire and sign off one last time on Friday, September 29th. He will take the rich memories he made working at WKYT with him. The list includes more than a hundred NCAA games, three world series, the championship Coach Cal won, Tubby’s team coming up from 18 down to get to the Final Four, and the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla. “To be able to experience that, I tell any media person they should experience that event. It’s a very, very special event,” he said.
There is one big event Bromley has not attended, a Super Bowl. “I don’t feel like anything is lost. I’ve seen my share of games,” he said. “I’ve been there. Done that.” So many memorable moments. Too many great people to name who made a difference in his career and life. “It’s been good. People have been wonderful. It’s hard to get in names. I have been treated so well by people,” he said.
Bromley has advice for up and coming sportcasters: “Get ready for long hours. Get ready for a business that is changing. I could not have predicted eight or nine years ago the addition of social media. I can’t predict what it will be in eight or nine years from now,” he said.
It can be a hard road. “It’s a young person’s business. A lot of businesses are. It’s a young person’s country. Not all societies are like that. I will be 67 in the fall. There are reasons to stay, being around the action and the people,” he said. But he also appreciates the benefits of retiring now.
“It’s been a good run. It’s time to turn it over to somebody who is a little younger. It will be in good hands here,” Bromley said. •