Wednesday, September 23, 2009


-All sports this time...first Cardinals, then Blues, and last...of course...Rams.

-Cards--It seems to me that the Birds have what it takes to win another World Series. What worries me the most though is the recent struggles of the closer. Ryan Franklin seems to be cut out of the same sort of cloth that Izzy was. He is very good when he's on...but doesn't have the sort of "blow away" stuff that gives you confidence that he can still get guys out when he's not. When he's in command of his pitches he puts them in places where the hitter either can't hit it...or hits it on the ground to someone. But lately he's been leaving the ball in other places...where the batter can drive it. Unless he finds his command in the last few weeks of the season I'm afraid we might have a very nervous time in the playoffs...and possibly short too.

I would hope that we might hear something about a new contract for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and/or Joel Pineiro before the post-season. It would be nice to know that at least one or two of them will be around for more than just the rest of this season. It might keep them a little more focused on the job at hand as well.

Shame on you if you take what Albert Pujols is doing for granted. The guy is an absolute baseball magician and we are lucky to be watching him on a regular basis.

-Blues--The excitement of last season's playoff run, and the ownership fans have taken in the young Blues roster, has definitely carried over to this year. The crowd at FanFest this past weekend was unbelievable...especially when you consider the apathy of a few years ago. The concourses at Scottrade were packed with autograph seekers and hoards wanting to be a part of the Blues family. It was great to see.

From what I've seen so far, I have a hard time believing that The Note won't make another playoff appearance in the Spring. Of course I'm not expecting the kind of major injuries that were part of the mix last season. There will be some injuries of course...but you have to believe that we won't be devastated like we were in '08-'09. Paul Kariya looks great so far. And Erik Johnson has started to flash some of that amazing ability that we were getting used to two seasons ago. If we get even average production from the usual places...and add a healthy Kariya and Johnson to the mix...well, you know. Keep your eye on David Perron. He seems to have a different, more determined, look in his eye on the ice so far. Could be a breakout year for this guy.

I've accepted an invitation from the NHL and am excited to be making the trip to Sweden to do the p.a. announcing for the two Blues-Wings games there. I've never been to Europe...and they say Stockholm is a beautiful city. I was surprised to get the call actually. I figured a local announcer would be handling the microphone...being in Sweden and all. But apparently the idea is to provide Swedish fans with the "total NHL experience" so this English-speaking fellow will be part of that. So when you're watching, or listening to, the games on October 2 & 3, listen for yours truly making the announcements in the background. I'll bring back pictures.

-Rams--It would be easy to say that these guys are embarking on another lost season at this point. 0-2 is what most people figured they would be. I see predictions of 0-5 before they have a chance to win at Jacksonville in week 6. I may be overly optimistic here, but I believe these guys are just about to start clicking a bit. I base this only on a feeling...mostly about the way they played against Washington...and I think some of Steve Spagnoulo's ideas and strategies should start bearing fruit about now. The defense, if they could ever get someone to the quarterback, should be OK. The offense seems to be starting to get a bit of traction. If they can avoid any more major injuries, I'm thinking they might actually win 6 or so. I'll go out on a limb and say they will start with a win over Green Bay this Sunday....let's say 24-14. (2 offensive defensive)

How 'bout this--4-4 by the bye week.
Losses--Seattle, Washington, at S.F., Indianapolis
Wins--Green Bay, Minnesota, at Jacksonville, at Detroit it's optimistic. I would rather be that way.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Pro's Pro

-As a mass-comm senior at SIU-E, I was fortunate to land KMOX for my broadcasting internship. Others chose music stations or television. My request was the Mighty MOX. And with the perseverance of faculty coordinator Jack Shaheen, I got it. I didn't much care what sort of work my internship would bring with it because I would be inside the hallowed halls of Robert Hyland's radio behemoth and frequently be in the same room as my hero Jack Buck. And that's all I really cared about at the time.

In January of 1972 I reported for duty for the first time. It would be 3 months of "gofering" and whatever some staff member wanted me to do. That's all I knew going in. It turned out that I was assigned to Jim White as his Friday. Jim...who passed away yesterday at 73...(read obit here)...was already established as a radio superstar on KMOX's clear channel signal. His man or woman Friday was referred to often on the show when he needed some task performed behind the scenes. Being assigned to The Big Bumper...his on-air nickname for himself...was a bit intimidating at first. Jim's crusty, on-air personality bled into his real one enough that I tip-toed around him a lot at first. I came to learn it was because he didn't suffer fools, laziness, or unprofessionalism very well. Once I made it clear that I wouldn't fit into any of those categories, we worked well together and I had a comfortable friend and mentor.

My job usually was to arrange "call-outs" for that night's show. Jim would scour the news and decide what topics, or people, were worthy of pursuing as interviews. He would give me his ideas and I would set about tracking down call-outs...usually one per hour of that night's 4-hour show. So my people skills...especially on the phone...grew exponentially during that 3 months. It always helps to line up interviews when you can drag out the phrase..."This is Tom Calhoun calling from CBS News in St. Louis". We pursued interviews with everyone from winners of the hog-calling contest to the highest officials in government. It all depended on what sort of mood The Bumper was in...and what day of the week it was. Friday night shows were always lighter than the others. I'd say we had about an 85% success rate in lining up who we wanted.

One night's efforts stand out in my mind. The details are a bit fuzzy, but 1972 was a Presidential election year. Early that year, the battle for party nominations was beginning to take shape and primary elections were looming. As part of that, Jimmy Hoffa, the long-time head of the Teamsters, was flying into St. Louis for a "union gathering". He had been in prison for several years for bribery and jury-tampering. He was pardoned by President Nixon in December of '71 and told not to engage in union activities as a condition of his release. He was basically thumbing his nose at Nixon by appearing at a highly political, and highly Democratic, event that night. His appearance in St. Louis was something of a surprize and Jim told me to "get Hoffa on the phone". It was not..."try to". It was "get him". After a number of calls to people who might be able to help...and leaving our hotline phone number with all of them, I received an amazing call during that evening's show.

"Hello...this is Jimmy Hoffa", said the voice on the other end. "I'm at the airport and I have about 5 minutes for an interview."

"Yes sir Mr. Hoffa", I said. "We'll get you right on with Jim White".

The Bumper was pleased. I can't remember ever seeing him quite so satisfied. He knew, and he made it clear to me, that it was a huge "get" for him and KMOX that night. Of course, Hoffa disappeared, never to be heard from again, a few years later.

It was that sort of "we can do anything" attitude that made Jim White, and KMOX in that era, so special. The nighttime signal brought information and entertainment to hundreds of thousands of people all over the continent before the advent of the internet and cable television. Jim was the king of the genre in mid-America. The ratings were off the charts.

I'm proud to have known, worked with and for, Jim White. A very, very Big Bumper in our profession. Rest well my friend...and thanks from this Friday.