Born: January 18, 1953
Died: August 4, 1974
5 ft. 8 in. 135 lbs.
Bob had no children
Survived by one brother
Had three previous crashes and got up and walked away from all three. No broken bones.
66 professional jumps from New York to Florida.
Bob jumped with "Joie Chitwood Thrill Show" on several occasions (including Birmingham International Speedway, Montgomery Speedway and the Alabama State Fairground).
First jump was at "Sunset Dragstrip" for a flat rate of $500.00.
Bob Pleso — United States
From the beginning Bob displayed all the traits of a daredevil. He quickly learned to ride his bicycle on one wheel as easily as two and like many kids of the "Evel"era, started jumping his bicycle over ditches, water barrels and trusting friends. Being one of those people who could play any instrument that he picked up, much of his time was spent with music until later in High School when he got "the bug". Soon he was driving the principal crazy "wheel walking" his 250 Suzuki X6 Hustler past the school busses flashing a big "V" sign to the admiring crowds of students. It got to where the kids would wait after school every day knowing there would be a show. It didn't stop there though.
Naturally he had to start jumping over things, anything. He seemed to thrive off the attention and decided to go "Pro". He wanted to make sure that the odds were in his favor, so he consulted with a Physics professor at Kent State University about ramp angles, studied with a ski jumper to learn about body position and learned "how to fall" from a martial arts instructor. After watching one of Bob Gill's shows, he decided to do away with the landing ramp. He had some how talked the owner of a drag strip into letting him use the track to practice.
When he thought he was ready to give the people a good enough show, he got himself booked at Sunset Dragstrip for a 10 car jump. The wheel stand show was flawless and the jump went off without a hitch. Now he was pumped and ready to go on the road. He felt that Florida would serve as a better home base than Ohio, so he and his wife Denise moved to Ocala. Being an accomplished pilot since the age of 16 allowed him to fly to the jumps, while his crew (consisting of his younger brother) drove the truck loaded with the bikes, ramp and props. Long hours of practice, hours on the phone, sleeping in little track side trailer and eating in greasy spoons soon taught him that the life of a struggling young stunt man is not the Glory Trail that the public perceives.
Over the next couple of years the wheel stand shows got better and the length of the jumps grew from 110 ft. to over 165 ft. The only thing that was missing was the national publicity that has eluded so many talented stuntmen. During a jump in Atlanta, he miscalculated his speed and over shot the cars by so much that the jump measured an amazing 212 ft.! Confident of his abilities, he decided to recreate the jump for an official World Record. He would jump a greater distance over more cars than any one else! The jump was to take place at a drag strip in Phenix City, Alabama. To compliment his jump, he brought in Tuck Henderson, a gutsy little 12 year old who would jump his bicycle over 4 cars.
The scene was set for a jump that, no matter how it went, the crowd would never forget. After completing his wheel stand show, he made three speed runs past the ramp, then road his bike to the top of the ramp and stared across the seemingly endless line of cars. This not only served to get himself psyched up for the jump, but also to ready the crowd. You could hear a pin drop as he backed the bike down the ramp and took his palace at the end of the track. When the American flags on the take off ramp settled showing him that the winds were calm, he began his approach. He hit the ramp at speeds approaching 100 mph. Everything looked perfect until halfway over the cars. A strong head wind suddenly hit him causing the bike to stand up nearly vertical. In an effort to keep the front end down, he was standing up on the pegs with the handle bars against his chest. This slowed him down enough that he did not have enough speed to clear the line of cars. He went through the windshield of the 27th car and cart-wheeled through the air over 150 ft. past the cars before hitting the track surface. Conscious and alert, he was rushed to a nearby hospital.
In the past he had only had three crashes and had walked away from all three with only bruises. This time he was not so lucky. Bob Pleso passed away in the operating room two hours later. One of the people at the hospital anxiously waiting to hear how he was doing was Bob Duffey, another accomplished stuntman. It seemed only fitting that Bobby was laid to rest in his jump leathers. Bob Pleso died as he lived, giving the crowd one hell of a show.
Special thanks goes to Bill Pleso (Bob's brother) for all his help. Due to a tragic fire, most of Bill's pictures of Bob were lost. If any jumping fan out there has any pictures or newpaper clippings of Bob's jumps, please email Bill at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Wert, OH
Ann Arbor, MI