Ron Jacober Rope-a-Dopes With Muhammad Ali, others: Interview Part II

From amateurs to the Olympics; KMOX's Jacober has covered it all.

Last time, Jacober talked about induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and family life in the broadcast business. More today with the 42-year-broadcast veteran Ron Jacober.

See Part 1

Patch: What were some of your best interviews?

Ron Jacober: I interviewed Muhammad Ali several times. That has to be one of the all time best.

Once late at night, I got a call in the KSD newsroom and the caller on the other end told me Ali would be up on Page Avenue tomorrow morning. He wouldn't identify himself. He said Ali was going to march to support the hungry people of the world. I said this is probably bogus but I piled the boys into the car and said 'lets go.' They wanted to know where we were going. I just said 'lets go.'

We drove to this address on Page Avenue and it was a vacant lot with weeds growing. A few people were milling around. There were two people in the lot. The activist/comedian Dick Gregory (from St. Louis) and Ali.

I said hello and Ali shadow boxed with the kids. My camera crew showed up and he said he would only talk about the hungry people of the world. I said fine. He needed money. He was going to fight a Japanese wrestler. I told him 'champ, this guy weighs over 400 pounds. He’s going to kill you.'

He said, 'who are you, Howard Cossell’s kid? Do you get paid for being stupid?'

At the end of the interview, he said: 'I like your show and your interview style; but your pay is so cheap, I won’t be back for a while.' I found him witty and charming.

Patch: How about your interviews with Bobby Knight?

RJ: He told me where to shove that microphone one time and that would have been very painful where he meant. 

He was not a nice person but he’s mellowed over the years. He hated the media. Norm Stewart was no fan of the media, but I had no problems with Norm.

Bob Gibson is a classic example of how these guys mellow over the years. He told me stories of the racial problems he had when he came up with the Cardinals. At spring training, he couldn’t stay in the same hotel with the white players.

Patch: Who were some of your favorites to interview?

RJ: I always loved Brett Hull because he had something to say. Whether they won 8-1 or lost 8-1, he always had something to say. Sometimes, he’d say some things he wasn’t supposed to say.

The hockey players were the most cooperative interviews. They were Canadian kids and many were farm kids and they had a father and a mother. They just appreciated what they had.  They were just happy to be what they were doing.

Patch: What was it like working for Robert Hyland (Regional Vice President and General Manager of KMOX)?

RJ: He was the most interesting man I’ve ever known. He had such a huge presence. If he thought he could intimidate you, he would. I went eyeball to eyeball and we got along fine. There were people at KMOX who worked their 25 years that if they had to talk to Mr. Hyland, their knees would shake.

He told me once day he wanted me to take over running the sports department. I said sports director? He said yes, but you can’t have the title. Jack Buck is our sports director. How about manager of sports operations. He said “that’s fine.”

He treated me good. There were guys he didn’t treat fine. I called him boss. You couldn’t call him Bob. Dan Kelly said he called him boss. I was not going to call him Mr. Hyland. That worked for me.

Patch: What was the key to your success?

RJ: It was the people I worked with. I treasure every minute I worked with Jack (Buck). He was special. I did hockey with Dan Kelly, the best hockey announcer God ever put behind a microphone. I did college basketball with Oscar Robertson, the Big “O,” one of the top 5 players of all time. I did soccer with Ty Keough one of the best American players ever and shared many studio hours with Bob Costas.

I told Joe Buck one time at a banquet: “I take full credit for all your success but I haven’t seen any residuals yet.”

It's been a great ride and absolutely, I’ve had no regrets.


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