My first full day of work at KMOX (now KMOV) TV in St. Louis was June 7, 1980. I was a 25-year-old, just-hired sportscaster whose previous tv jobs had been in Tucson and Austin.
Movin’ on up to the East Side! I was incredibly fortunate and grateful. KMOX was CBS owned-and-operated.
I reported to the newsroom at 8:30 a.m. and was immediately told to high-tail it to the airport along with photographer Bob Bauer. The Cardinals had just fired manager Ken Boyer, a former Card All-Star third-baseman and St. Louis hometown fan favorite. The early-morning whacking had occurred in Atlanta, where the Cardinals were playing the Braves. My job was to get player reaction to the firing and “go live” on the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.
So, by mid-afternoon Bob and I arrived at the Sewer That Was Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Seriously. That place was NASTY!
But I digress. Keep in mind I had never met a soul on this baseball team. Hell, Bob and I had just met each other.
About a half hour later, reigning National League co-MVP Keith Hernandez came out of the visitors’ dugout to get ready for BP. Here was my chance. Hernandez was the biggest fish in that tank, and I had a chance to approach him before he was really doing anything.
I walked up, smiled and stuck out my hand. I attempted to introduce myself and got as far as, “Hi, my name is…” when Hernandez went volcanic.
“YOU BUZZARD!” I looked around. There were no avian scavengers around. I came to the conclusion he was referencing me.
“Kenny’s body isn’t even cold yet, and you tv clowns are already picking at his bones!” Again, I checked the immediate area. No clowns. Just me.
I made a business decision that could have proved disastrous.
“Hernandez, my name is Paul Alexander. I’m the new guy at KMOX. This is awkward and I’ve heard about how much you love Kenny. I respect that. But neither you nor anyone else is going to talk to me like that. If you’ll give me a chance, I hope to convince you I’m an ok guy. We might even have good conversation. But you are done screaming at me.”
Oh, shit. I’m thinking, “Well, my one day of employment at KMOX has been interesting. Wonder if I could get my old job in Tucson back. Not to mention that there’s about a 30 percent chance I’m about to get my ass kicked.”
Extended silence. Felt like 25 minutes but was probably more like ten seconds.
Finally. “OK, man. I’m sorry. Really. Paul, right? OK, let’s go.”
And he gave me a truly astounding interview.
We were good after that. Great, even. Interesting guy. Educated. Voracious reader. Bona fide Civil War expert. Who knew? Because you don’t know until you find out.
Oh, and Ken Boyer’s managerial successor became…Whitey Herzog.
It’s a groove…this life…