Greg Peters column: The amazin' Bob Burrows
River Falls Journal sports reporter/photographer Bob Burrows likes pizza, but he does NOT like it cut into squares. Bob likes his pizza by the slice. Big slices. New York style. Other than his geometric pizza preference and his New York accent now in second gear, Burrows is as "River Falls" as it gets.
During a recent Wildcat boys basketball game, the Cat's Den student section started yelling, "Bah-ahb Burr-ows! Bah-ahb Burr-ows!"
There stood Bob, camera in-hand, off in the corner of the gym, just shaking his head with a smile.
"It was that Joey Davis kid that got 'em started that night," Bob said laughing, "he's a good kid and a great catcher, so I'll let it slide."
Bob grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, a short distance from Shea Stadium in New York. Bob's
mom died from brain cancer in July 1969 when he was just 8 years old. His favorite team, The Mets, were still 10 games back of the first place Cubs on Aug. 14 of that year. The Amazin' Mets proceeded to go on a historic 38-11 run the rest of the way and ended up winning the division by eight games; still the largest turn-around during the same span in MLB history.
"My dad took me to a lot of Mets games in August and September after my mom died," said Bob. "I guess the Mets gave me a chance to forget about all the bad stuff that was happening. It just gave me a chance to escape and just enjoy the games. I fell in love with the Mets and sports in 1969."
The time with his dad. The hot dogs. The people watching.
"That's why I loved the Mets and all that came with it," said Bob.
Bob not only watched baseball, he played it, too. He was the starting centerfielder for the Bayonne Royal Knights until a kid from Puerto Rico moved to town and took his favorite spot.
"I was mad," said Bob. "I went home and complained to my dad and my dad just said, 'it sounds like you have some work to do.' I didn't like it, but I needed to hear that. I played, but just not in center."
After high school, Bob went to Marquette for a year and then joined the Navy. While serving, he met a girl from Spooner. They continued a long distance relationship until he moved to Wisconsin.
"My last year in New York, I worked at Chase Bank in 1986 and the Mets won the World Series that year, too,"said Bob. "I was at the ticker tape parade and was knee-deep in ticker tape when it was over. My office was a block away."
Bob moved to Wisconsin at the beginning of 1987 to be closer to the "Spooner girl" and enrolled at UWRF, while working at Bo's N Mine and Lund's Hardware. He also wrote for the school newspaper and worked in the Falcon's Sports Information Department.
"I moved out here for a short blonde and ended up with a tall red-head," said Bob.
Bob is married to Kellie Burrows, Community Relations Manager for The American Cancer Society in River Falls.
"My mom and my dad passed away from cancer," said Bob. "Kellie is doing her part to help find a cure and she does a super job. I'm proud of her."
After working for three years at the County Ledger Press in Balsam Lake, this month will begin Bob's 22nd year at the River Falls Journal covering local high school and college athletics. Bob is a human conduit for our town, archiving the heartbeat of River Falls' sports. His career work is displayed in thousands of trophy cases, each with some connection to River Falls. We call them scrapbooks. Bob calls them job security.
It's question and answer time for Bob Burrows; the first time the roles are being reversed and Bob is in the hot seat:
Favorite sport to cover: "Whatever is in-season. I love all of them and I really mean that, but I will say the growth of baseball with the new ballpark has been really cool."
Biggest change in your job from 1993 until now: "The internet and not having to develop the film anymore. There's two classes down the drain."
Coolest job perk: "I did get to hold the Stanley Cup when Davis Drewiske from Hudson had it, but I love getting to know the families. That's the coolest part."
Most unexpected part of your job: "The photography part of it. I've really gotten into it. I love taking emotion shots. We call them 'jube shots,' short for jubilation."
Funniest moment: "A streaker ran onto the field at a UWRF homecoming football game and the only thing he had on was his tennis shoes. He went to jump a chain-linked fence and you could hear the ENTIRE crowd go 'oooooohhhh' when he jumped over it."
Story affecting you most: "When Don Page died. I had known him for so long and know his family well. I lost a friend and had to report on it, but it was therapeutic. It's very cool to see the new arena named after him."
You've also been covering sports for the Hudson Star for the last nine years. How tough is that covering two towns? "I don't have a tough job. It's busy, but not tough. I've learned to be Switzerland with the rivalry. I get to go to games all the time. The high school coaches have the toughest job. They have to teach life lessons and deal with the parents."