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Monday, May 4, 2020

The night Mike Wallace cried!

I want to thank Greg Crawford for inviting me to contribute to Craw's Corner!! I have known Greg a long time and he is a superstar. Yes, we are all dealing with the Coronavirus in our own ways. I have been sequestered at home most of the time.
I was denied a chance to broadcast Oregon State Women's basketball games at the NCAA Tournament. I heart radio put me on unpaid furlough and NBC Sports Northwest put our TV show "Talkin Beavers"  on hold because the studio is closed down.
So, when Greg asked me to contribute I said  of course. While I am sitting here I want to thank Greg for being on the front lines battling Covid-19. Thank You Greg!

The Night Mike Wallace cried!

Mike Wallace - CBS News

I want to pay some respect to a giant of the TV News business Mike Wallace. I recently mentioned his name to a group of younger folks and was met with blank stares. I realized they had no idea who I was talking about.
Wallace was one of the original correspondents of the most well-known TV News show in broadcast history,  60 Minutes.  He worked for the program from its inception in 1968 through 2008. He passed away in 2012. I watched 60 Minutes every Sunday night  from the time of its debut and was also impressed with Wallace and the way he and his crews would chase a story. It didn't matter if it was an alleged crook or a world leader he treated them the same. He would interview both with no fear and would ask the tough questions.  I crossed paths with Mike Wallace twice. Both times were special and unique.

The first time was in Salem, Oregon in the spring of 1975. I had graduated from Linfield College the previous May and was in the middle of my first TV News job at KVDO-TV  Channel 3 in Salem, Oregon. KVDO  was a small independent TV station in Oregon's state capitol. My job description was pretty much everything. Anchor, reporter, photographer, editor and film processor. It was truly a perfect place to learn about the business of TV news. And Salem was a goldmine for political news. I had a chance to interview and get to know Oregon political heavyweights like Senators Wayne Morse, Bob Packwood, Mark Hatfield and Governor Tom McCall. McCall was a former TV newsman at KGW in Portland and was always welcoming to the media covering the statehouse.

McCall knew I was a one-man band and I was impressed with the way he would treat me the same as those big shots news folks from the Rose City. One day I was sitting in the newsroom at KVDO and got a phone call from a colleague at the capitol. He tipped me off to the fact that 60 Minutes was going to interview Governor McCall. The topics included the success of Oregon's Bottle Bill that he had promoted and attitude about visitors to the state of Oregon. You mightr remember a few years before in 1971 he had told Terry Drinkwater on the CBS Evening News, "Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven's sake, don't come here to live."

So, I picked up my converted Auricon film camera (16 millimeter) and headed to the Capitol building. When I arrived, McCall and Mike Wallace were chatting in his office. The door was open. The 60 Minutes crew was setting up their equipment for the interview. I stood outside the door and Governor McCall waived me in.  I had a chance to meet Wallace and his crew and they allowed me to film a fgw shots of the meeting for our newscast. The were aware having a 60 Minutes crew in Salem was a big deal. That night when I got home I called my parents and told them the story. Ace and Bette Callan who lived in Napa, California were pretty proud their son had rubbed shoulders with a broadcasting legend, even if it was just for a few minutes.

Fast forward to 1999. I was now a 25-year veteran of the broadcast business. IN 1981 after stops in Boise and Spokane I got a job in Seattle at KIRO-TV  as their first-ever feture Sports Reporter. It was the golden age in TV news and sports in Seattle and all heck was about to break loose because of the success of the Huskies in football, the Seahawks, the Sonics and eventually the Mariners.

In the early 90's I made a transition from TV to radio at KIRO. In 1992, Pete Gross, the legendary play-by play voice of the Seahawks passed away. He also was the morning sports guy and they offered me his position in 1995. (I had been filling in). By 1999, I was  reporting morning sports plus was part of the Seahawks broadcast team specializing in the pregame show and sidelines during the game. But as the AM sports director and both the Seahawks and Mariners were broadcast on the station I covered both.

IN 1999, I was very fortunate to cover the Major League Baseball game in Boston at Fenway Park.
It wasn't only the 70th all-star game but the TEAM OF THE CENTURY was going to be introduced before the game. To get a chance to go to Fenway Park for the first time in my life was exciting. Ken Griffey Junior was in the Home Run Derby so that was the perfect local angle for KIRO listeners. And thank you Ken for winning that Home Run Derby. That created even more excitement for the historic all-star game.
I remember so many things about my night at Fenway. First, sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were hitting moon shots over the Green Monster and beyond during batting practice. (of course now we know why those baseballs were traveling so far) During batting practice I went out onto Landsdowne Street behind the Green Monster and was amazed by the thousands of fans waiting for some of those moon shots to get a momento of the all-star game.
Earlier in the day, I had a chance to attend a Team of the Century reception and remember spending some time chatting with a childhood hero. Growing up in Napa, we were big Giant fans and I was able to talk to Juan Marichal. The "Dominican Dandy" was so generous with his time and looking around the room it was great to see Willie Stargel, Reggie Jackson and others.

When the pregame ceremony was about an hour away I thought it would be good to get to my seat. I mean Pete Rose was going to be introduced who was banned from the game because of gambling. I mean, I couldn't miss that!  He was given a one-day reprieve because he was part of the Team of the Century. I headed for my seat in the auxilary press area which was located just a few rows behind Pesky's pole in right field.
Fenway Park - Wikipedia

When I got to my seat it was already occupied by a reporter from a New Hampshire newspaper. I think it was the Union Leader. I asked him to move our of my seat but he was going nowhere. Not really wanting to push the point, I went to the Media Relations Director handing the all-star press corps. He said, "Don't worry about it, a seat in the press box behind home plate has opened up."

Now, what was a stroke of good luck. I followed him up to the classic baseball press box. My seat was in the first row. Ok, I rhought this is working out great! I sat down and the person on my right said, "CBS affiliate eh?" It was Mike Wallace! He shook my hand and we briefly chatted about the fact KIRO was a long-time CBS station. He introduced me to his friend and fellow newsman Morton Dean of ABC news who was also sitting in the first row. Dean also a well-known newsman and reporter.

All of a sudden as we waited for the pregame ceremony to begin Wallace was interviewing me about Seattle and the life of a sports reporter covering a game like the one we were attending. Then I flashed on our meeting in Salem back in 1975. I asked him if he rememberd his trip to Oregon. He smiled and then went on and on about Tom McCall and what a maverick politican he was.

During our chat , I learned that this was a special night for Wallace, He was born in 1918 in Brookline, Massachusetts and was a huge Red Sox fan growing up. As the ceremony began, all of us enjoyed seeing the legends of the game. Me the Giant fan was happy to see Marichal, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey being introduced. Every player on the list was at the game.

The most famous Boston player of all-tme is Ted Williams. He not only was part of this special night but he would be throwing out the first pitch. Williams was 80-years old at the time and in failing health. He came out on the field in a golf cart.  What I didn't realize until later was that Williams was Mike Wallace's childhood baseball hero. Suddenly, the tough guy newsman started to weep and actually collapsed in my arms. His producers and others scampered over to see what was wrong. I just held him and got him to sit down and he quickly regained his composure. He was fine but said he was just overcome by the emotion of the moment. He knew Williams was a special player in his life and in the life of Boston fans. He still is the last player to hit .400 in a season back in 1941. Arguably, the most impressive player to ever don a Boston Red Sox uniform.

After that, the game started. I watched with Wallace and the rest of the folks in the pressbox. By the fourth inning, I had to head to the media room. All-Star starters were being replaced on the field and they were being made available to the media. Former Mariner Randy Johnson was available so it was time to say my farewell to Mike Wallace. He was so gracious and I think he like the fact I knew who Bill Mombouquette was. He had pitched for Boston from 1958-65.

After the game I went back to the hotel and called Ace and Bette Callan again. I said to them, " guess who I ran into again???"

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