This would have been the summer of 1981. I was working as a nightly sportscaster at KMOX (now KMOV) TV in St. Louis. My sportscasting partner was a very gracious gentleman named Tim Van Galder.
TVG had been a record-setting quarterback at Iowa State (The ‘Clones) and later spent time with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals, primarily as Jim Hart’s backup. But it must be noted that in one of his NFL starts, he led the Cards to a win over the Colts and Johnny Unitas. Yes. That Johnny Unitas.
Timmy also had a cup of coffee with the Jets. Joe Namath put TVG up at his place for a couple of weeks and they became friends. Hey, Tim is a friendly guy.
And also a generous one. Tim got into tv after his football days. He was an easy watch and listen. He called me “MON-roe!” Well, because my middle name is Monroe..but….
Anyway, one day TVG yells across the newsroom. “Hey, MON-roe! You wanna interview Joe Namath?”
Yeah, I could, you know, probably work that into my schedule.
ARE YOU KIDDING?
Here was the deal. Namath was in St. Louis starring in a stage production of Damn Yankees. He had gotten good reviews. So Tim sets up the interview for 8:30 on a Tuesday morning at Joe’s hotel suite in downtown St. Louis. The hotel was only a few blocks from our tv station.
My photographer was a delightful gentleman named Bob Bauer. Bob and I always worked uncommonly, well together. Bob was a football guy, too, so he was as fired up about this interview as I was.
So, I knock on the door of Joe’s suite. We are greeted by someone I can only describe as a Bond Girl having a good day. Impeccably and professionally dressed. Joe’s assistant. “Joe will be right down. Can I get you gentlemen some coffee?
Bob and I set up our gear and then took a seat on a couch. After about ten minutes I hear a clunking sound as Joe painfully descends a staircase. He’s wearing a white bathrobe and it is obvious his knees are killing him. He gives us that (genuine) Broadway Joe smile and shakes our hands.
“Can I get you boys a beer?
“Little early for me, Joe.” It was 8:50 a.m.
The interview? Beyond great. Joe was fantastic. Open. Friendly. Honest. Funny as hell. He seemed to be having a great time, and so were we.
Thanks to TVG for throwing that “get” to 26-year-old MON-roe. He didn’t have to do that. But he did.
My lasting takeaway from this episode?
I turned down a chance to have a beer with Joe Namath. What the hell was I THINKING?