An overdue honor: KDIX sportscasting legend inducted into hall of fame
When Robert "Bob" Weiler started working at KDIX the station was about a year old, the building was located in the Park Square Mall, and the on-air talent wrote all the advertising by hand.
Initially, Weiler's job was centered on the ads, as he worked as an announcer after graduating from Joe Beck's School for Radio in Minneapolis. In 1953, when the play-by-play broadcaster left ahead of basketball season, Weiler was plopped behind the mic.
"My boss called me in, and he said, 'Have you ever done play-by-play?' and I said well, 'I did when I was in broadcast school a little bit,'" Weiler recalled. "He said, 'Would you like to try it?' and I said, 'I'll try anything.' So, that turned out to be a 30-year job."
Since that unexpected game, Weiler was the voice of Dickinson sports on KDIX until 1983.
Now, many years removed from his 30 years of broadcasting, Weiler was inducted into the North Dakota Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in June of 2018.
On Monday, April 22, Weiler received his official plaque at St. Luke's Home in Dickinson with the support of his wife, children, friends and longtime figures in the athletics community.
Upon receiving the plaque, Weiler drew laughter from the room by saying,
"The only reason I've lived this long is I've been waiting for this award!"
The 90-year-old was honored by the man behind Weiler's late but deserving induction: Rod Kleinjan.
Kleinjan has been doing play-by-play for KDIX since 1974 when Weiler hired him, and was inducted into the NDAPSSA Hall of Fame in 2009.
After being co-workers for years, Weiler and Kleinjan have been close friends and Kleinjan decided it was due time his predecessor was honored for his years of work behind the mic.
"I've been thinking for a long time that he should be in the hall of fame. There's a lot of people in that era where Bob was broadcasting that are in and he should definitely be in with that group," Kleinjan said. "It's a very deserving honor. I mean, he definitely deserves it."
Weiler is the 28th member of the NDAPSSA, and with he and Kleinjan both inducted, KDIX is the first radio station to have two sportscasters in the hall of fame. KDIX and the NDAPSSA Hall of Fame, located in the Jamestown Civic Center, will have matching plaques honoring Weiler.
"He was my boss, then he was like my mentor, then he was a really good friend. He was almost like a father-figure. He did a lot of stuff for a lot of people at KDIX, including me," Kleinjan said. "He's just a good person, a good man, a good boss."
When Weiler first arrived in Dickinson, he spent five years as an announcer, starting as many newbies do, on the night shift. After that first game in 1953, Weiler began his long and illustrious broadcasting career, working high school basketball, football and baseball games, as well as Dickinson State Savages athletics. When Dickinson was home to the Queen City Packers, a semi-pro baseball team, Weiler called games for them as well. Over his years at KDIX, he amassed more than 4,000 games on air, most of which were basketball games.
Region 7 is filled with co-ops now, but Weiler recalls a time when every little town had a team, including Medora, Lefor and Sentinel Butte. When it was tournament time, he was busy, but he said he didn't mind at all.
"It was kind of like Christmas for me because I got paid extra to do ball games," Weiler said with a chuckle.
Weiler loved the long days so much that he didn't even let an appendectomy just days before the tournament get in his way. Thankfully, that year, a snowstorm postponed the start of the tourney, so two days later, Weiler was recovered enough to do play-by-play.
On the stranger end of the scale, Weiler helped broadcast a speed boat race on Lake Sakakawea. It was the only race of its kind in the state of North Dakota, as loose lumber in the lake caused them to second-guess having it annually.
"There were about five of us sportscasters from different stations. We were all at a site around the race area," Weiler said. "As the boats would come by, we would report which one was ahead and how things were going."
Wrestling isn't broadcast on the radio in Dickinson but is a fairly common sport these days. Back when Weiler was on air, grappling was just becoming a popular high school sport, so he was left scrambling trying to describe what he was seeing.
"We didn't have any idea what to call the holds or any of that stuff," Weiler said. "It was just brand new, so it was kind of a hard thing to try to cover."
He also vividly recalls covering the Dickinson Trinity Class A football state championship in 1979, as well as the Dickinson State basketball team's trip to Kansas City, where they won two games at the national tournament.
"That was one of the most exciting, because I know everybody was listening to that ballgame," he said.
In 1983, Weiler stepped down from play-by-play and became the manager of the station. He worked at KDIX for another 18 years, until 2001.
He didn't leave the Dickinson sports world right away though, as he became the public address announcer at Dickinson Trinity basketball games until about three years ago.
Through his years on the radio, Weiler is well known among the community, and is a bit of a celebrity at St. Lukes. While his health may be declining, he still has his voice, so he will occasionally lead the rosary at church, or perform similar acts.
"After I retired, I wrote some, I call them 'mingettes.' They were designed for use on radio, about the way things used to be when we were young and growing up," Weiler said. "I wrote those and I read those once in a while here to the people because it brings back memories of when they were young."
Guided by God
Weiler, originally from Lisbon, arrived in Dickinson on a whim.
"I believe that God plays with your life. I was offered two jobs out of broadcast school. One was in Mandan, and one was here in Dickinson," Weiler said. "I don't know why I chose Dickinson, because it was further away from home. I'm sure the Lord led me here, because this is where I met my wife. If I hadn't come here, I never would have met her."
In April of 1950, when Weiler was working on the third floor of the building, a woman named Beverly worked downstairs.
"She didn't like me very much, I was Catholic and she wasn't," Weiler said. "She was very religious, but she was a Lutheran."
After some convincing, Weiler won her over.
"I'm still amazed," he said.
Shortly after meeting Bev, Weiler took a break from radio to spend time in the service, doing radio, of all things. He spent two years in Alabama, communicating with Bev by letter. On his first leave, he came home, and they wed. She then went with him to camp in Alabama before they both returned to Dickinson where the new KDIX building awaited him.
They had seven children, two of which still live in town. This spring, the two will have been married 67 years.
Bev and Bob live together at St. Luke's and share a room, but Bev suffers from advanced Alzheimers, so she doesn't remember Bob is her husband.
"Once in a while she'll have a day where she perks up and she knows I'm somebody that she knows, but I don't think she knows who it is," Weiler said. "It's hard. It's very hard."
Still, Bev was holding hands with Bob on Monday, smiling as he received his plaque.