Friday, March 11, 2022
Born OTD in 1933, Ed Bouchee. He was still on probation (for indecent exposure) when the Cubs inexplicably traded for the 1B in 1960. Bouchee’s time in Chicago was uneventful. He hit 17 homers over two seasons and was left unprotected in the 1962 expansion draft. #EveryCubEver pic.twitter.com/OJubFb9vun— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) March 7, 2022
Today would have been legendary Chicago sportscaster Les Grobstein's birthday. Unfortunately, Les passed away very unexpectedly earlier this year. In honor of Les, I've decided to re-post a portion of the interview I did with him in 2009. The entire interview is here at Chicago Radio Spotlight.
Rick: I almost don't know where to start with you because you've done so much and been involved in so many interesting radio moments. But there is one thing I don't think I've ever heard you speak about: your first job in the business, with Sports Phone. That wasn't technically radio, it was a phone recording, but it was done as if it was a radio broadcast. For people that are too young to remember that, would you mind talking about what that was, and give us a few of the names of people that worked there?
Les: Dick Gonski, the former Bulls color commentator, was our GM. I had the daytime shift. Ron Gleason was the nighttime guy. Tom Greene, who later did sports huddle on WMAQ, was also there. Pat Benkowski was there. Ted Robinson, who went on to be a big time play by play guy, was there. We also had George Ofman, David Schuster, Fred Huebner, geez, I know I'm leaving some people out, but the list goes on and on.
I was on the daytime shift by myself and didn’t have to alternate like some of the other guys. I got to do quickie quizzes every day, which I’ve always been good at it. We even had a quickie quiz hall of fame. The others at nights and weekends were basically a scoreboard. During the daytime there wasn't as much going on, the Cubs were the only ones playing day games, everyone else played at night, so I was given much more leeway.
Some days I would go to the game and do the updates from the game, but what really helped me was I was allowed to do creative stuff. It really was more like a show. When Rick Talley left for the LA Times, they went looking for someone to replace him at WLS, and Bud Miller said that hearing what I was doing on Sportsphone helped me. I also knew two people at WLS--Bob Sirott and Tommy Edwards, who was already doing the Bulls public address. So, they asked me to come into the station. I met everyone else there, including the program director John Gehron, and they all liked what they heard, but Bud told me, yeah, we’ll get back to you. We’re looking at 50 other people.
I didn’t think I had a chance. In the interim, I was called in by Reed Pence at the Loop and a couple of other people over there, and they were interested in having a sportscaster too...and we were in the same building as they were (the Hancock)...so that seemed like it could really happen. That chance died when they put together their deal for Disco Demolition. Part of the deal was Mike Veeck would come in and do what was basically nothing more than a promotional announcement for the White Sox. He did that for about a week and a half before the actual event. Obviously after it blew up in their faces, they dumped the idea. Mike Veeck was out.
Now we're in early fall, and I'm traveling to cover the 1979 World Series; the Baltimore Orioles against the "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates. I got a call from Bud Miller saying "we want to put you on the air tomorrow with Lujack and Sirott, and we’ll see how it goes for a few weeks." I did those first few reports from the World Series. When I got back from the World Series, the very next morning my son was born. At his wedding a few years ago they played “We are Family," as a sort of remembrance of what was happening when he was born.
As for WLS, I did my first in-studio thing with Bob Sirott (photo), and they called me into a meeting right after that, and offered me a 5-year-contract. I stayed there for the next ten years.
Today, by the way is officially Les Grobstein Day in Chicago, in case you missed this item in yesterday's Robert Feder column...
Les Grobstein would have celebrated his 70th birthday this Friday. To honor the incomparable Chicago radio sportscaster who died in January, Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week officially proclaimed March 11 “Les Grobstein Day in Chicago.” (Here is the link.) The tribute recalls that Grobstein “was known as a walking sports encyclopedia who had an ironclad memory of even the smallest details and who equally loved all Chicago sports from high school, college, professional and everything in between.” It even mentions Grobstein’s historic role in recording Lee Elia’s infamous eruption at Wrigley Field in 1983. Capping a legendary 50-year career in his hometown, “The Grobber” hosted overnights on Audacy sports/talk WSCR 670-AM.
*On this day in 1961, the Ken Doll was introduced. Nearly 30 years later, as he began to bald, The Balding Handbook author David Stern, in stage 2 of his grief (anger) over his hair loss, took out his wrath on innocent Ken Dolls everywhere. This photo (from the book) says it all.
Thursday, March 10, 2022
Chicago #WhiteSox batter Michael Jordan hits a double during an exhibition game vs. the Chicago #Cubs at Wrigley Field! Harry Caray with the call! (1994) #MLB #MLBPA #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/PxackUYSb3— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) March 10, 2022
Today is Chelsea Football Club's birthday. They were founded on this day in 1905. My co-host for Free Kicks, Adam Howarth, grew up a Chelsea fan is still one of the their most loyal supporters. A few years ago, we were lucky enough to visit the club, and see a game live at their stadium. I'll never forget it. The latest news, by the way, is that the Cubs are interested in buying Chelsea.
Not a great way to spend your birthday...this statement was just released today by the club...
*On this day in 2020, Eckhartz Press author Lauren LoGuidice held the first copy of her book in her hands. Inside Melania came out just as the pandemic hit, which unfortunately deprived Lauren of her nationwide tour as a Melania impersonator. The book is still available at Eckhartz Press, and it's pretty darn funny.
Wednesday, March 09, 2022
Every week I send my Minutia Men Co-Host Dave Stern a list from our audio archives for this week's Studio Walls feature. These are the possibilities for this week. Which one will he choose?
*March 6th was Ed McMahon's birthday. Johnny Carson's famous sidekick once recorded a promo for our advertising agency (AUDIO)
*March 6, 2018, the Loop signs off for good. Rick appears on WGN Radio to discuss the legacy of the once-great radio station. (AUDIO)
*March 7, 2011, Harry Teinowitz is arrested for DUI. The Chicago sportscaster appeared on our show to discuss that event, and how it led to his play When Harry Met Rehab (listen to the entire interview here)
*March 8, 1996, the movie Fargo is released. We spoke to actress Michelle Hutchinson, who appeared in the movie (listen to entire interview here)
*March 8, 1974, the last episode of The Brady Bunch aired. We spoke to the man who played Cousin Oliver (who appeared in that final episode), Robbie Rist. (Listen to the entire interview here)
*March 8 is International Womens Day. We interviewed the woman who gave her fellow ladies all over the world the moxie to create their own she-shed. That's right, She-Shed Sheryl. (Listen to the entire interview here)
*March 10 is Toupee Day. We have audio of Hall of Famers Harry Caray and Ron Santo discussing Ron's wig. (AUDIO)
*March 12, 2014, Dave was on Steve Cochran's show (WGN) discussing his book The Balding Handbook: 5 Stages of Grieving for your Hair Loss. (AUDIO)
*March 12 is Rich Koz's birthday. The star of Svengoolie was a guest on Minutia Men just a few years ago. (Listen to the entire interview here)
*March 12 is also Kevin Matthews birthday. We talked to Kevin about his great career less than a year ago. (Listen to the entire interview here)
Tuesday, March 08, 2022
Some of the treasures in Joel Daly's book "The Daly News" are the television commentaries he sprinkled throughout the book. Joel delivered nightly commentaries on Channel 7 News for a decade, and it just happened to be the most tumultuous decade of all-time. This is his commentary from March 8, 1972; a time when bombings were becoming commonplace worldwide--including Chicago. This particular commentary led to death threats that were so specific, Joel checked his car for bombs every night before driving home.
Commentary - March 8, 1972
Some powder, a fuse and a spark…such are the basics of a bomb. But of what is the bomber made?
Without courage or compassion, without feeling or concern, the bomber is foremost and first…the worst kind of coward!
With his pliers and wires and cheap little clocks, he’s a shadow of a man with “little boy” thoughts.
Playing hide-and-seek with people’s lives, he’s less likely to be feared than despised.
Some powder, a fuse and a spark…how simple to build a bomb…how difficult to understand the bomber.
He knows not his victims; how many or why. They may be innocent, unsuspecting, but still they may die.
Coward! Coward! Who would kill without cause: shoppers in Belfast; passengers in tourist-class.
Coward! And cursed, that person who would threaten, extort and indiscriminately destroy for money, vainglory, a red glow in the sky.
Sick minds, it’s true, feed on headlines, drool at the damage and laugh at the frightened. But, we cannot ignore nor defer the fact that madmen walk our streets; the worst of assassins, paranoid and plotting.
Some powder, a fuse and a spark. These are the basics of a bomb, but of what is the bomber made?
He is hollow, without soul, an empty shell. The bomber is humanity’s “dud”.
*Today would have been Mark Gelinas' 59th birthday. The courageous Gelinas wrote the book Gel-Strong about his struggle with pancreatic cancer. A portion of the proceeds for that book still go to pancreatic cancer research. I miss Mark and think about him all the time. He and I were friends for nearly 40 years.
*Today also would have been Dick Allen's birthday. Dick is the subject of the great new Eckhartz Press book Chili Dog MVP, which has been getting wonderful reviews in the press. Kudos to authors John Owens and Dr. David Fletcher for the incredible job they did on this book. The pre-sale resulted in the biggest pre-sales totals in Eckhartz Press history.
*On this day in 2017, Bobby Skafish appeared on WCIU-TV to talk about his great book We Have Company.
Monday, March 07, 2022
This month marks the end of my tenth year as the media columnist for Illinois Entertainer. Every month I interview someone from Chicago media. Every month, that is, except for April of 2018. Because on March 6, 2018, the legendary Loop signed off for the very last time. The editors of IE asked me to write about my Loop recollections in my column that month, and this is what I wrote...
I was 23 years old the day I walked into the Loop offices for the first time. After getting rejections from the other rock stations in Chicago (and there were quite a few at the time), I had thrown a Hail Mary pass to the biggest of them all, The Loop. I wrote a letter to the promotion director of the station, Sandy Stahl. I was absolutely shocked when she called me in for an interview.
I vividly remember sitting nervously in the Loop lobby on the 37th floor of the Hancock staring at the giant portraits of the biggest stars in Chicago radio–Jonathon Brandmeier, Steve & Garry, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish, and Patty Haze. These people were my heroes. I listened to them every day, and I was about to walk in the same hallway they did.
The door behind the receptionist opened up, and a blonde lady with short hair poked her head out. “I’m Sandy. Come on in.” I was surprised how small the station was. There were a few small studios with “ON AIR” lights, a room full of tape cartridges that also housed an AP wire machine and a desk, a record library/office, and maybe two or three other offices. Sandy led me to the end of the hall to her office and asked me to take a seat. My head was spinning.
I have zero memory of what I said. I only remember her warm, comforting smile made me feel at ease. I have very good radar about people, and I could tell immediately that I was dealing with a very special person. After I gave her my spiel, she broke the news to me. “We are in talks to buy an AM station, and there might be a spot there for you. It may be a year or more before we go on air, but here’s what I suggest you do. You should start coming out to our events and get to know everyone. That way, when we start hiring, you will be top of mind.”
She brought me around and introduced me to everyone. I met program director Greg Solk, production director Matt Bisbee, GM Jimmy deCastro’s friendly assistant Geri Wells. She even took me into the air studio, and I met Bob Stroud. I was in heaven. I think I flew to my car after I left.
After that, Sandy would call me every few weeks and tip me off to Loop events. I went to an event at the Hard Rock Café and met the new overnight guy they just brought in from St. Louis. His name was Kevin Matthews. Sandy also introduced me to Gehrig Peterson, Steve & Garry’s manager at the time. He was looking for help running Steve and Garry’s fan club and wondered if I wanted a job.
Are you kidding me? I went to all of Steve & Garry’s appearances (and Kevin Matthews’ appearances too–Gehrig was also his manager). Within a year, Steve & Garry’s producer Roman Sawczak decided he wanted to leave the show, and they gave the job to me. For the next few years, I worked for Steve and Garry and learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons. I learned everything through trial and error, mostly error. Every mistake became on-air fodder for Steve and Garry’s sharp barbs. Talk about motivation not to screw up!
It was an incredibly wild ride. I met the biggest stars in the world. Rock stars, comedy legends movie stars, politicians, and athletes were on the show every day. I also met a cute redhead in the news department named Bridget who later became my wife. One day shortly after I was named producer, Greg Solk called me into his office. “Rick,” he said, “Would you like to try doing a shift on the FM?” Are you kidding me? I was on from 4-9am on a Sunday morning. The first time I cracked the microphone and said “The Loop” on the air, I almost fainted.
When I decided it was time to leave Steve & Garry’s show, I couldn’t bear to leave the only station I cared about, and the management was kind enough to let me stay for a few more years. The GM at the time Larry Wert gave me a weekend show on AM 1000 with Stan Lawrence called Ebony & Ivory. Sandy Stahl introduced me to the editor of Chicago Advertising and Media, who gave me a regular column writing about the media, and a foot in the door for a second career as a writer/author. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
My last show on the Loop was right before Steve & Garry’s last show together, although nobody knew it was their last show at the time. I still have the tape of Garry’s character Cliff talking to me about Garry’s upcoming wedding, and wishing me luck in my future ventures. The year was 1993.
All of those memories were flooding through my mind when I heard the news a few weeks ago that the Loop was signing off. I walked down memory lane for a good week or two with my former friends and colleagues on social media and the phone. I could tell that everyone was getting as emotional as I was.
Throughout all the reminiscing, I kept thinking about one thing. The radio station that I listened to as a youngster, and gave me a career and a wife and a life, is gone forever. I have no idea how to convey my thanks sufficiently.
*On this day in 2013, The Living Wills becomes first Eckhartz Press book to be used in school curriculum (Marist High School in Chicago). It will not be the last. Co-author Brendan Sullivan (a Marist alum) was on hand to talk to the students about the book.
*On this day in 2014, Cubs author ("Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography" and "Wrigley Field: THE LONG LIFE AND CONTENTIOUS TIMES OF THE FRIENDLY CONFINES") Stuart Shea wrote this review of the Eckhartz Press book Lost in the Ivy by Randy Richardson: