Spike Todd likes to tell a story about his brother Bob.
When they were kids in Southern California, Spike says, the two brothers shared a bedroom and a small black-and-white television. They were devoted Angels fans and devoted Lakers fans.
Spike, the owner of Mammoth Liquor, swears that Bob used to do sports play-by-play in his sleep. This when Bob was about 10 or 11.
He might very well have been mimicking the late, great Chick Hearn, remembered for his rapid fire, staccato broadcasting style and for inventing colorful phrases such as “slam dunk,” “air ball,” and “no harm, no foul” — three of many terms that have become common basketball vernacular. Hearn broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers games starting on Nov. 21, 1965, so Bob had plenty of practice.
“I really don’t know if that’s true or not, but Spike has been telling that story for years,” Bob said.
People who have never met Bob Todd would recognize his voice, certainly.
He is all over Sierra Wave television and radio in Bishop, doing news, advertising and most especially sports.
He will be at the microphone next Friday night in Mammoth, when the Bishop Broncos come calling on the Huskies at Gault/McClure Stadium.
Todd, 49, speaks in a machine-gun cadence, each sentence loaded with information, some of it incredibly obscure.
“You know that in the last 10 years, Mammoth has beaten Bishop only twice?” he said.
He might throw that factoid between plays or coming out of a commercial. It’s almost as if the game is more interesting if you’re listening to him as the game is going on.
Fortunately, if you miss the broadcast, Sierra Wave repeats it during the week.
It is a bit of a mystery, even to Todd, where this talent comes from.
“I think I was kind of rough at the beginning,” he said, “but I’ve always been both an extrovert and introvert in a way.
“I can talk when I want to, but I’m also kind of shy when I’m around a big group of people.
“Talking into a microphone when there’s nobody in the room, that’s pretty easy for me.”
Radio and television was not his first love, though. For years Todd was a newspaperman.
“The reason I got into the sports stuff was because I needed a job,” he said.
“There was a job at the Green Sheet, a weekly that was part of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian.
“I worked there for over 10 years and was the sports editor for the last five years. It was a Scripps Howard newspaper, and it was great.
“But then Scripps sold it to another chain and every middle manager like myself, we all just got fired.
“I thought I was done with newspapers by then,” he said.
Where Todd really wanted to be was in the Eastern Sierra with his dogs.
He and his two brothers (Randy and Spike) used to come up to Mammoth all the time back in the day. For a while, they were classic Mammoth ski bums, walking from their rented A-Frame on Forest Trail to Canyon Lodge, then called the Warming Hut.
“The reason I came back (in 1995) was because both my brothers were here. Spike lived in Bishop, and because I had some money left over from the Watsonville job, I basically played golf for six months. I got my handicap down from about 18 to about a 10, too.”
Todd worked for the Inyo Register for about two years, when Benett Kessler walked in and became editor of the paper.
They still do, now on radio and television.
“I love it here. I grew up in SoCal, so I saw that and I’ve been down there enough, and it’s not exactly where I want to live, with the all the freeway traffic and that kind of thing.
“After living in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, which is a nice area, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not the same.
“I like the small town friendliness of everybody here, and I’ve done the big-city thing. But here, it’s more relaxing.
“Plus, it’s a great place to have a dog.”