Fans, Former Co-Workers Remember Bob Costas’ Days At KMOX As He Enters Baseball Hall Of Fame

It’s Hall of Fame week in Cooperstown, and St. Louis has something to celebrate.
“Bob Costas is perhaps the most influential and best sports broadcaster of this or any generation,” said sportscaster Kevin Harlan (a former St Louisan)  who was named the 2018 National Sportscaster of the year, an award Costas has won several times.

When Costas goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday his friends and fans in St. Louis will be rooting for him. He has said often that he feels like St. Louis is his hometown.

Costas will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting in a special ceremony that will be televised on the MLB Network in the 10 a.m. (central time) hour on Sunday.

“His vocabulary, his attention to detail, his smooth and effortless voice, his cadence and pace in play-by-play, his smart and perceptive views, his hosting ability and his incredible prowess when interviewing make him the best overall,” said Harlan. “Bob Costas is on the Mt. Rushmore of sports broadcasters of all time, and there is no debate.”

On June 25 the Cardinals held Bob Costas Night at the Ballpark with theme tickets that included a Bob Costas bobblehead, in honor of his induction, with a portion of each ticket sold donated to the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Costas went on FOX Sports Midwest during the game and he is shown with Dan McLaughlin in the photo, right.

Costas has so many fond memories of his time in St. Louis and still has many friends from those days and when he comes to town he enjoys going to the ballpark.

“He’s been lucky enough to call a lot of big games and events, and I’ve been lucky enough to tag along for a lot of it with him,” said his son Keith Costas, who works for MLB Network. “My memories will always go back to just being with my Dad around the game at Busch. And I know that’s what means the most to him, too…just being a part of the game.”

When Costas goes to Busch Stadium he always tries to say hi to his friends who work there.

“I always stop to see Aggie,” he said of Aggie Ceriotti, who works the desk in the executive lobby. “She’s always so warm and friendly, she represents a portion of the history of the Cardinals.”When it was announced he would be inducted into the broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in July and she wrote him a letter of congratulations.

“He is such a genuinely nice human being that he took the time to write me a thank you note. He wrote a thank you note for a congratulations note,” she said.

He said he always enjoys seeing Don Thompson, “who works at the Clubhouse Desk” Theresa “who works in the area where you walk when going towards the field” and ushers like Judy Rone, who has worked at Busch for more than 30 years.

“I love Bob Costas,” Judy Rone said. “I have known him for many years —he used to come in the lobby at the old ballpark quite often & he was always so friendly & personable. I still see him at the new ballpark and he sometimes sits in my section. The thing about Bob Costas is he is always so nice to everyone. He will talk to people, sign autographs and take photos with people. He’s a great talent and a great person as well.”

“Bob never ‘big timed’ his St. Louis friends,” said Jim Holder who now works at KTRS but was Sports Coordinator at KMOX during the Costas years.

Rone works in the section where the players’ wives and families sit and often VIPs are placed there.

“When I first heard he was going into the Hall of Fame, I was surprised that he was not already in it!  This honor is very well deserved because he is such a great ambassador for the game & so knowledgeable —it amazes me how when you listen to his broadcasts he can remember so many facts, figures and people, yet be able to explain the game in simple terms. That’s a great talent.”

So many people at Busch Stadium both the fans and employees were excited when they heard Costas was going into the Hall because to them he has always been so friendly and approachable. He is humble about the honor and turns it around on them.

“When I walk through the ballpark I see so many people who I know by name,” said Costas. “These were people I used to see on a constant basis. Everyone who worked there took their jobs so seriously and were so friendly.”

He often took his children to the ballpark with him.
“My earliest memories of baseball aren’t of a specific player, game or moment, but just being at Busch Stadium with my dad, as a kid,” said Keith Costas.  “A lot of times, we’d go down to Old Busch just me and him and sit in the press box. Sometimes with the writers, sometimes in the KMOX booth. And I could tell that being there felt like home to him, and by extension to me.”
During Costas’ full-time days at KMOX, which started in 1974 when he was 22 years old and continued until he left  the full-time radio job in the early 1980s for his network television job at NBC, it was easy to see his star was on the rise.

He started doing games at CBS on the weekends while still working at KMOX for a while. After moving to New York, he continued his relationship at KMOX going back and forth from St. Louis to New York for a time.

While in St. Louis he usually went over to Busch Stadium for a few innings.

He worked at KMOX during what some call the “hey-day” of KMOX Radio. It was before Twitter and Facebook, bloggers, and “All-Sports” radio formats.  KMOX had “Sports Open Line” every night from six to nine p.m. or up to Cardinals  Baseball. For a while, it was the only time sports fans could hear about or talk about sports and Sports Open Line on KMOX served as  the “forums” of the day.

Most of the time the Open Lines were split between Bill Wilkerson and  Costas. Out of that small, cramped sports office came some of the biggest stars in radio or television sports, many of whom have passed away far too young. Some of Costas’ departed co-workers included Jack Buck (who was the Sports Director), Dan Kelly, Gary Bender, Bob Starr, and Bill Wilkerson– none of whom would be surprised to know Costas is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame Broadcasters wing. They were all great friends.

Also working in the corner office at KMOX during that time were Jim Holder; Nancy Drew, who moved with her husband NFL Hall-of-Famer Larry Wilson to Arizona, Steve Overbey who was a writer/producer for Costas and the rest as well as Jim Baer who supplied the High School Reports on Friday Nights. This writer was also fortunate to work in that office as a writer/producer during that time.

One of Costas’ strongpoints has always been his sense of humor and timing. He was always providing comedy to his broadcasts and the photo shown above. with Dan Dierdorf and Bill Wilkerson was one of those times as they compared hot dogs from various ballparks. (St. Louis Media History Foundation photo)

“Working with Bob was like working with a sports encyclopedia,” said Overbey, now with the Post-Dispatch.  “He knew anything and everything. When a question would arise (on Open Line), he automatically knew the answer. If I ever doubted his response, I would look it up and ultimately, he would be correct, right on the money.”

KSDK Sports Director Frank Cusumano, who hosts a radio show on 590, worked for a time at KMOX as an intern during the Costas era and he remembers Costas’ brilliant mind.

“On Sports Open Line he wouldn’t give a three sentence answer to a question,” remembered Cusumano.  “He would give a composition: introduction, body, and conclusion. He was the best there is.”

Costas could always get a sports conversation going.
“Bob and I did afternoon drive together for a time,” said Frank Absher, the former KMOX newsman and founder of the St. Louis Media History Foundation.  “The strongest memory I have is that he would drop in at KMOX even when he wasn’t scheduled. Invariably he would end up on the air talking sports with the host.”

It is obvious how much the Hall of Fame means to him and how humbled he is by both the honor and the response of people from St. Louis.

“I can’t count how many times people have said, ‘Congratulations’ to me, and I really appreciate it,” Costas told STLSportsPage.com.

“He’s one of us,” said Cusumano.
Cusumano  shared a fun memory of something Costas did for him with Rob Rains this week. Click the video player below to see.

Overbey had a million stories from working with Costas but this one came to mind.

“Favorite Costas story,” he said. “He leased a car through Jim Meagher Chevrolet – for a dollar and some on-air adds, he got a car every year.
Anyway, one night we left the KMOX building around 1 a.m. Sure enough his new car was up on blocks with the tires missing – stolen. Bob didn’t miss a beat – just went back in the building and calmly called Jim at home  to tell him he needed a new car.”

Jim Holder worked with Costas on a daily basis.

“It was always a pleasure working with Bob,” said Holder. “He had so much knowledge. Should he be going into the Hall of Fame? It’s like asking does Mickey Mantle belong!”

Bob Mayhall came to KMOX when Costas was transitioning to New York.

“I always thought his best work was basketball play-by-play on the radio,” said Mayhall.  “I never heard him do a Spirits of St. Louis basketball but his calling of Mizzou basketball was second to none.”

St. Louisans who listened to him on Sports Open Line on KMOX know, Costas has a mind like a sponge and a photographic memory. He soaks up facts and can instantly produce them.

Baer, the Sports Editor of the Suburban Journals at the time, did the KMOX High School Report every Friday night. KMOX was very regimented about their schedule– the CBS national news came on at the top of the hour and then at six minutes after, the local newscaster would read the news and about 12 minutes after the hour a sportscaster would come in. Costas’ shift was basically from 3 p.m. until after he finished his sports cast and wound up chatting with Jim White in the 1 a.m. hour.

Baer would be at the station hurriedly trying to compile all the scores and put together  his report with the help of the sports producers.

“It would be midnight on Friday and at about two minutes after twelve and the national news was well underway,” said Baer.  “We would look around and there was no Bob Costas on the news room floor at One Memorial Drive to do the local sports report, and we were in a near panic. Bob would bound off the elevator and greet everyone with “hi fellas,” go back into the sports office, get some sports copy and head into the studio with whoever was doing the news. Without even as much as looking at the headlines, he read it flawlessly, as if he’d reviewed the copy for hours.”

The producers knew Costas would show up and do his sportscast with his usual flair, not missing a beat. Though they spent their time doing interviews for him to play on the air, and writing copy for him to read, they knew he would just glance down at it and adlib as he did the sports and introduced the sound bites.

On a normal night if there was a sporting event, Costas would head over to it and then come back to do the late-night sports report including the  midnight sports — an expanded and much anticipated sportscast back then listened to by many who kept their radio dial at 1120. They would fall asleep after that broadcast on their radio and wake up for work the next day to the “Morning March” on the show with Bob Hardy and Rex Davis.

Costas was known for showing up right on time and he had a saying that he got from the Spirits of St. Louis basketball player Marvin Barnes who was late once and said, “GAME time is ON time.” Those who worked with Costas on a daily basis never worried about him not showing up or being unprepared. He spent his days reading The Sporting News– which in those days was the Bible of sports, Sports Illustrated and any sports publication he could get his hands on.. Though to some it looked like he was unprepared, he was the most prepared, constantly reading, talking to people, and preparing for broadcasts that seemed like they were off the cuff.

Costas was born in Queens, N.Y, and attended the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He came to St. Louis in 1974 when station manager and CBS Vice-President Robert Hyland hired him to do the Spirits of St. Louis of the old ABA play-by-play

The station used the ad shown to the left and Costas quickly became a fan favorite. Everyone who worked with him liked the positivity he brought to work. He made sure to talk to everyone, whether it was an intern in the newsroom to the producers and engineers to Miss Blue, the cleaning lady who he loved talking to.

He once gave a young co-worker some valuable advice,” Don’t ever talk about anyone you work with to anyone else at work. It’s a lesson to learn, don’t badmouth your co-worker to another.”

“Bob Costas, while only five years older than me, quickly became an inspiration for me and many other young broadcasters coming along,” said Mayhall who replaced him in the Sports Office.

Even though he was young he took the time to help the younger employees or interns. Once he received a particularly negative letter from a listener and when a co-worker felt bad for him, he shrugged it off and told her not to worry about things like that. “When someone who doesn’t even knows you takes the time to write you a mean note don’t let it get you down. I hang those letters on my bathroom wall.”

“Bob was always fun to be around,” said Overbey. “Upbeat, always in great spirits.”

“Bob Costas, all of age 22 and much younger than I was treated me great,” said Baer.  “We often chatted prior to the start of Spirit of St. Louis basketball games  at the Arena on Oakland Avenue. He did the games without headphones because he didn’t want to mess up his hair,”
Fondly called “Young Bobby Costas” by the legendary talk show host Jack Carney who took a liking to him immediately inviting him on his show frequently and even involving him in comedic sketches.

“I remember Jack Carney was an integral part of Bob’s development as a broadcaster,” said Fred Zielonko, now a regional manager for Bott Radio but back then Zielonko was Carney’s producer.  “I believe Bob learned a lot about interviewing people from Jack and how important it was to engage them in conversation, not merely ask questions.

“I believe that Jack helped Bob be more well-rounded as a broadcaster by encouraging him to display more of his personality on the air and to be himself. Prior to that, Bob was known as a fine play-by-play guy with a phenomenal memory for sports trivia and statistics but his appeal was limited to the baseball card crowd steeped in statistics. To Bob’s credit, he took to heart what Jack Carney & Jack Buck taught him both on the personality/interviewing side and by showing a diversity of knowledge on a variety of subjects, that ultimately made Bob more widely accepted and appreciated.”

Costas was so personable and friendly– while always trying to learn and better himself– that all of the hosts loved having him on their shows.

“The late, great Jim White followed the news and sports for the rest of the night on KMOX,” said Baer. “White was famous for soliciting and receiving fabulous late-night food from famous restaurants and bars, the likes of Trader Vics and Roscoe’s Ribs. Roscoe McCrary, an institutional raconteur around town would personally deliver his hot-sauced, fall off the bone ribs. Everyone would sit around the studio and chow down. White and Costas would banter the rest of the night, bringing in listeners to the conversation from some nearly 40 states, this side of the Rocky Mountains. It was priceless and we could barely get our overnight recordings done.”

Because he worked nights, Costas would be hungry and there were many restauranteurs who were happy to oblige.

“My greatest memories is working in the KMOX newsroom, and here comes Costas with freebies he got from Ted Drewes and Woofie’s,” said former KMOX newsman Ron Barber.

Talayna’s even had a drink named after him, the Bob Costas Egg Cream.

“One day I was doing the news during afternoon drive with Jack Carney,” said Barber.  “In comes Costas to update the sports. He and I were constantly gigging each other and I decided to challenge him to a reading contest. I said: ‘Costas, the first one of us who makes a mistake on the air has to buy dinner at Charlie Gitto’s.’  I thought I had him cold, because I took pride in my reading ability. So, I went first and didn’t make a mistake. Then, it was Bobby’s turn. He pushed aside his copy, looked up towards the ceiling and proceeded to ad-lib the sportscast without benefit of a single note. Flawlessly, We did go to Charlie Gitto’s, and I forgot who paid.”

When Art Fleming, the original host of Jeopardy came to do Afternoon Drive time at KMOX, Fleming took to Costas, as did Dr. David Hoy, Jim Whte’s late-night guest who had ESP and did readings on the air, as well as David Strauss– Mr. Trivia.

While in St. Louis, Costas became friends with Dr. Armand Brodeur of Cardinal Glennon Hospital. Brodeur had performed the first surgery at the hospital and was well-known and appeared on KMOX on their “Ask the Doctor” segments. Later as Costas moved to New York permanently he kept ties to St. Louis by lending his name to and doing a lot of work for an annual fundraiser for Cardinal Glennon

For 26 years he would bring sports stars, movie stars and singers to St. Louis for performances benefitting the children’s hospital, and helped raise more than $16 million dollars. The pediatric cancer center bears his name with a sign on the door that says Bob Costas Center.

In 2000 when organizers of  Rainbows for Kids put on their first party at Cardinal Glennon, Costas pitched in. He also came to the charity’s first fundraiser– and has supported it throughout the years. Whether it was a small charity like Rainbows for Kids or being named an honorary trustee at Webster University he continued to be a part of the St. Louis community even as his career soared upward.

After doing regional telecasts for CBS, Costas started with NBC in 1980, while still at KMOX. In 1982, Costas was paired with Sal Bando on the backup broadcast of NBC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week package, then teamed up with Tony Kubek, the 2009 Ford Frick Award winner in the same role from 1983-89. and eventually Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan

He did “Costas Coast to Coast” a national radio show, produced by a local production company and broadcast on KMOX. But his love was doing play-by-play of a baseball game.

“As he rose to fame, he always remembered his friends,” said Holder, shown with Costas in the photo, left.. “He never failed to ask me how my wife Mary was doing and always responds to any requests I have for an interview.”

It is pretty much impossible to live in the United States and not know who Bob Costas is. He has done work CNN, HBO, MLB, the NFL Network and more.

He was the face of the Olympics for 12 Olympic games starting in 1992 until he announced in 2017 that he was stepping down as the prime time host.

He told USA Today at the time, “I am going to be like the rest of the country, watching Mike Tirico, who will be an able successor in Korea for the Winter Olympics” a year from now.”

Being the host of the Olympics required Costas to have a large amount of knowledge about every aspect of the games. He would take a portion of the year and concentrate on learning all he could about the country, the athletes, the rules, and everything there is to know about that particular Olympics.

He has done the Kentucky Derby for years, as well as boxing, golf, Nascar, and along with his St. Louis Spirits basketball broadcasting he did other basketball including Mizzou and the NBA.

Costas was involved in several famous events including a 2011 live interview with Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant coach during the time the charges were brought for sexual abuse of minors; he was broadcasting the 1994 NBA Finals when the telecast was interrupted by the O.J. Simpson “white bronco chase” and the famous “pink eye” episode when he contracted the painful conjunctivitis during the Olympics.

Many have said Costas’ strength was in his interviewing. He has had several television shows including Later with Bob Costas, Studio 42 With Bob Costas, and he even guest hosted the Larry King Show at times. Another strong point for Costas (shown in the USA Today Sports Photo to the right) is his sense of humor.

His quick wit and abundance of funny stories made him a sought-after emcee and speaker.

“Mary and I threw a mid summer, patio party, sometime in the 80’s when we lived in Kirkwood,” said Holder. “BC showed up and proceeded to entertain the 40 or so gathered with a Johnny Carson routine that had everyone in stitches. It was unbelievable…Still makes me laugh just thinking about it.”

Costas had a frequently requested comedy routine inspired by Carson’s “Tea Time Movies” sketches where he would rattle off names of local people (“Nancy Drew, Ted Drewes”) and streets (Get off at the Murdoch Cut-off, cut off your murdoch”) to the amazement of all watching.

He has won too many awards to count including being named as the National Sportscaster of the Year eight times at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

There was a time when baseball experts were suggesting Costas to be the Commissioner of Baseball, and he’s been involved in writing books including Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball in 2000.

When Stan Musial died his family thought so highly of Costas that they asked him to give the eulogy. He also gave the eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral which made his life come full-circle because Mantle was his favorite player as a child growing up in New York and for years he carried his baseball card in his pocket.

When Costas got the news that he won the Ford C. Frick Award and would be inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he said, “I love baseball…it’s always been my favorite sport to broadcast. I am well aware and humbled by the company I’m joining.”

The 2018 Hall of Fame weekend festivities include a parade and the induction ceremonies. On Saturday, Costas will receive his award and Sheldon Ocker will receive the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for writing.

The induction of players in this year’s Hall of Fame Class – Allan Trammell, Jack Morris, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones – will follow on Sunday.

The ceremonies for the broadcasters and the writers awards are on Saturday and then they will show it on Sat. July 28th in the program preceding the Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Harlan can’t say enough about Costas.

“His love of baseball and his ability to infuse every broadcast and conversation with the passion he has for it are remarkable,” said Harlan. “His knowledge, as with all sports he speaks, and attention to detail are without peer.”

“I have used Bob as an example many times over the years in teaching young broadcasters what it takes to be successful,” said Zielonko.  “When I produced a Sports Open Line that Bob hosted, he was the only talent I worked with that continually asked me for the cassette of the broadcast he just completed. He would listen to it on his way home from the radio station.”

Costas used to watch every television broadcast he did, going over what he did right and how he could improve for the next time. He took nothing for granted.

“I tell young broadcasters that to become successful you have to do what Bob did and that was to: ‘always remain a student of your craft and work hard to improve. No matter what level of success you achieve in your career, you can always get better. But, you have to develop the ability to take a step back and be analytical about your work. You have to get comfortable with hearing your own voice and critiquing your own performance in order to improve.’

“Bob is fanatical about that like no other. Even when he reached the heights of great success in radio and TV, he always wanted to know how he was doing and he never took for granted that his work was outstanding just because people said it was. I always appreciated that about Bob.”

Zielonko also had the pleasure of working with the great stable of broadcasters at KMOX .

“I probably did not realize it at the time because we respected each other as colleagues, but looking back, I feel blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Bob and consider him among the great broadcasters and masterful communicators that I have ever had the the pleasure of working with. I’m thrilled for Bob to be going into the Hall of Fame. No broadcaster deserves it more than him. He’s worked hard to get there.”

“The Baseball Hall of Fame has inducted broadcast legends like Scully and Buck and Barber,” said Harlan. “And the induction of Bob Costas is as perfect a selection as the Hall has ever made.”

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Photo credits:  St. Louis Media History Foundation- http://www.stlmediahistory.org/, Frank Absher, USA Today Sports

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