I have been extremely lucky in being a St. Louis sports fan that grew up wanting to be in the sports industry here, and then got that opportunity. Right after high school, I decided I wanted to be an usher and got hired by Costello Service to be a guard at Busch Stadium and a ticket taker/guard/usher at the Checkerdome. I was on the field for the 1982 World Series and 50 feet away from Mike Crombeen when he scored the double overtime winner against Pittsburgh in the 1981 Stanley Cup playoffs.
On May 2, 1983 I started an internship in the sports department at KMOX Radio, and got hired there ten months later. Ever since then, I’ve worked in radio sports in St. Louis. I have a lot of great memories. With no sports going on now, I figured I’d share some of them with you.
I mentioned my first night as an intern. May 2, 1983 was the night John Elway was traded by the Baltimore Colts to the Denver Broncos. I was a nervous kid; I was nineteen years old and had never been in a professional radio station in my life. I was a Lindenwood student. I knew sports but didn’t know I’d be thrown into the professional fire that night.
Lisa Bedian was the full-time producer working that evening, a Monday night, with the Cardinals having an off day. Lisa produced the Sports Open Line program and I observed that for a while, and then was instructed to sit in the cramped sports office and answer phone calls. As you walked into the news/sports areas of the station, you went through two glass double doors. On the immediate left was the glass enclosed office of the news director, and straight ahead was a sprawling newsroom full of cubicles for the news reporters. On the right side of a hallway was another glass encased office, probably eight feet deep and twelve feet side that housed the sports department. Faux wood countertops circled the perimeter of the office, with two black phones on the corners of the far side, and one in the middle of the near side right next to a typewriter. And as you walked in the sliding glass door just at the end of the office and turned in to the right, looking to the right, you saw a massive reel-to-reel tape recorder in the corner, and right in front of it was THE RED PHONE. The red phone was really red. I still remember the number, but won’t give it out for fear that, even after moving, KMOX still has the same number. Anyway, the red phone was used for recorded interviews. At about 4:00 every Cardinal gameday, Jack Buck would conduct a four- or five-minute interview on that phone with Whitey Herzog to be used in the 4:45 sportscast.
From the end of the 1982 football season through the NFL draft, there has been speculation that Stanford quarterback John Elway, who had been drafted by the Yankees, would play baseball. But he was the best QB ever scouted by the NFL, so most people thought the Yankees were leverage in case Elway didn’t want to play for Baltimore owner Robert Irsay. The Colts selected him first overall in late April’s NFL draft, despite Elway’s threats that he’d play baseball if they drafted him. May 2 was five days after the Colts had taken him, and at about 8:30 Lisa was checking the AP feed and said, “the Colts just traded Elway to Denver.”
I didn’t see that one coming, or what would happen that night. In 1983, we didn’t have all sports radio and ESPN was in its infancy. There was no internet or bloggers. Heck, we didn’t even have computers. There weren’t many people covering stories like this. Lisa gave me a list of people to start calling, in Denver and Baltimore, and to get reaction. She had a list too, so we were both on phones working the story. Here I am on my first night, trying to get a hold of the General Manager of the Broncos, their coach Dan Reeves (who I believe we did reach) and various media members from both cities. On my first night in radio, I’m trying to chase down the biggest football trade in years. It was exhilarating.
I already knew how to edit tape, so I made audio clips of the sound we’d collected and got to write scripts for Bill Wilkerson’s morning sportscasts. Of course, I got up early the next morning (I may not have slept) and listened to BW reading MY stories. It was incredible…and surreal.
Because the producers at that time, Lisa and Bill Conerly, allowed me to do work as an intern, I always appreciated that and have tried to help young broadcasters with a work ethic find their way. Here we are more than 37 years later, and I remember that night like it was yesterday.
So that’s how I got started. I have more stories of covering the Cardinals, the Blues, the football Cardinals and the Rams, and Mizzou and SLU among others. Heck, we don’t have anything else to talk about. I’ll pass along some stories here at 101 ESPN while we wait for sports to return.