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From Cooke to the ‘Mainstay’ of the Kings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Miller’s career as the voice of the Kings got off to a dubious start.

In 1973, he left Madison, Wis., where for nine years he had done University of Wisconsin football and hockey, for Los Angeles and the big time. And he would be making $22,000 a year.

He was hired by King and Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke through Chick Hearn, but Larry Regan, then the Kings’ general manager, set Miller’s salary.

Miller already had heard stories about Cooke and his penurious ways, and on his way to meet Cooke at his Bel-Air home, Regan told him to not let on that the rental car he was driving was being paid for by the Kings.

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“If he asks, tell him it’s your car,” Regan told Miller.

Well, first off, Cooke had a tantrum when he learned how much Regan was paying Miller.

“I told you $20,000,” Cooke screamed at Regan.

After calming down, Cooke told Miller, “Well, OK, but don’t let anyone know how much I’m paying you.”

“No problem,” Miller thought. “I’m more embarrassed about it than you are.”

Cooke then looked outside, saw Miller’s rental car and said, “Whose Plymouth Omega is that in the driveway?”

“That’s my car,” Miller said.

Said Cooke: “A nice small car. I like small cars. In fact, I have two small cars: a Maserati and a Mercedes.”

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Says Miller today, “I’m thinking I can’t tell him he’s paying $14.95 a day for my rental car, but he’s got a Maserati and a Mercedes.”

Miller endured those early years with Cooke, carved out a career and went on to join Vin Scully and Chick Hearn as one of L.A.'s three announcing icons.

Miller, 59, is in his 25th season with the Kings and will be honored today during the first intermission of the Kings’ noon game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Great Western Forum.

The first 10,000 at today’s game will be given a 24-minute cassette tape of Miller talking about his career with the Kings--the highlights, the stars and the characters.

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King President Tim Leiweke, in calling Miller “the single most important person to the Kings” said, “Great King teams and players have come and gone, but Bob has been a mainstay in Los Angeles.”

Miller has had one job, two homes--both in Woodland Hills, about 1 1/2 miles apart--and one wife in his 25 years in L.A.

“I guess for L.A., the surprise is one wife,” Miller says of Judy, his bride of 34 years.

They have two grown children--Kristin Gonzaga, 32, a special education assistant, and Kevin, 30, of Calabasas, a photographer.

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Miller, had he wanted to, could have had a network job along the way. He certainly has the broadcasting skills. But he’s content with what he has.

“If a network job had been my goal, I wouldn’t have chosen hockey as my sport,” Miller said. “There just aren’t network hockey jobs.

“The thing I like about being a local announcer is, you have a rooting interest. We have to do a truthful and credible job, but we want the Kings to win. I just can’t imagine announcing games where you don’t care who wins. The enthusiasm and intensity wouldn’t be the same.”

Miller says he’s certain at this point that he will be with the Kings until he retires.

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And when might that be?

“It will be before I’m 81, which is what the DMV says Chick is,” Miller said. “It will be long before that.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Bob Miller at a Glance

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* In his 25th year as “Voice of the Kings.”

* Called his 2,000th Kings game on Nov. 24, 1995, in Boston.

* Is one of six inaugural members in Kings’ Hall of Fame.

* Resides in Woodland Hills. Is the father of two children.

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