The Mayor of St. Louis Sports

He goes by many names: “The Mayor,” Mo, and to paraphrase The Steve Miller Band, some people call him Maurice. KTVI’s Maurice Drummond may be known by multiple names, but one thing remains consistent, his professionalism.

A Baltimore native, Drummond is a local sports anchor for KTVI Fox 2 in St. Louis. He has put in more than 20 years in the

“The Mayor” Maurice Drummond talks to students at Lindenwood about what it takes to make it in the sports journalism business. Photo Credit: Chris Nickler

Drummond has reached his goal, getting to interview some of the best the sports world has to offer.  His list of interview subjects includes Gretzky, Ali, Jordan, and Hank Aaron.

To get to that level in the sports journalism business, Drummond worked his way up. He began his career behind the scenes making sure the talent was prepared to the fullest.

“My job behind the scenes, I almost looked at it like being a secret service agent,” said Drummond.  “When you’re behind the scenes as a producer your job is to take care of the person in front of the camera.”

As is the case with most jobs, especially in the communications field, preparation is the key to success.  Drummond has mastered this key to perform to his fullest potential.

“When you want to prepare for a story, you want to make sure you, or the person you are working for, looks in the best light possible,” said Drummond. “So you have the best, tightest, and most complete comprehensive information.”

That experience and success working behind the scenes of networks such as ESPN, BET, and the Golf Channel allowed him to gain a sense of what it took to be in front of the camera.  About a decade or so ago, Drummond got his break, going from behind the scenes to a recognizable talent.

Among the duties that go with Drummond’s job is covering the local area schools for a show called “Sports Final.”

“I do a lot of preparation for my high school stuff, and try to study during the week, because I know I don’t have a lot of time to do that when the show hits,” he said.

The job of covering high schools along with other events around town presents challenges.  Drummond handles them in a pro’s pro way.

“A typical night is to get to as many places in as short a period of time as possible,” Drummond said.  “I have to then take the tape we have and edit that to highlights, and then I have to write it and get it front of a camera to present it.”

Some people might see covering prep sports as a step down from professional athletics.  Drummond is just the opposite. One of his recent stories involved covering the first state championship for the Kirkwood football team.

http://fox2now.com/2012/11/26/champion

“I swear on ten stacks of Bibles it’s a thrill for me to interview a Kirkwood (player) because for these folks, it might be it for some of these people,” Drummond said. “To me there’s nothing like having that thrill to see kids come to together and winning a championship.”

Storytelling and bringing out emotion from a subject and audience are what drive Drummond.  The goal and vision are always the same.

“Whether its preps or pros or college, I love great stories,” Drummond said.  “It’s about people and stories, and that’s what I try to bring through when I’m doing my sportscast.”

No matter the subject, no matter the level, Drummond is going to produce an emotional, and above all, a professional finished product.

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Firefighters and Police officers go toe-to-toe for a cause Thanksgiving Weekend

Wednesday, November 23, will mark the 25th anniversary of one of St. Louis’ most fun and worthwhile sports traditions, Guns ‘N Hoses.

Guns ‘N Hoses is a charity boxing event between local police and fire department personnel. The annual event, which started back in 1987, now takes place at the Scottrade Center. Funds raised are donated to Backstoppers, which provides money to the families of those killed in the line of duty.

Program for Guns ‘N Hoses as this year’s event marks the 25th anniversary of the charity boxing event.

The event has seen tremendous growth and change throughout the years. The idea for the initial show originated with Jerry Clinton, who owned Grey Eagle distributors, the company that distributes Anheuser-Busch products. Currently Lindenwood grad Lt. John Burke of the St. Louis Police Department runs the charity event and assists with the fighters’ training.

John Burke (right sitting) organizes Guns ‘N Hoses and also serves as trainer and corner worker during the fights. He is seen talking to LU students about this year’s event.

Clinton had seen the New York Police Department hold charity boxing events of its own. The idea was to have the NYPD fight the SLPD, however, it was changed to keep it competitive.

“If we (St. Louis) fought the guys from New York, we would have gotten killed and no one wants to see that,” said Burke. “So, we hashed around ideas for a bit and said ‘let’s have the city fight the county,’ and that’s how it started.”

Later on, the show changed to include local firefighters against the police, providing the inspiration for the title of the show. One fighter from the St. Louis Police Department faces one from the St. Louis Fire Department. While no money is on the line, each fighter has no problem finding motivation to fight.

“If you’ve never been a policeman, if you’ve never been a firefighter, believe me policemen do not like firefighters and firefighters do not like policemen,” said Burke.

According to Burke, people who see the event in person see something much different than they anticipate. “When they do attend, it’s the same statement; ‘I had no idea it was like this.’” said Burke. “It’s more than boxing. It’s a show.”

It’s true that these fights are not on the same level as a heavyweight championship, but the scene is similar.

“You’ve got the Jumbotron down there. They have a great band,” said Burke. “I’m telling you, if you go to one of these events it’s like a Vegas atmosphere and a big social event.”

The crowds over the years have grown into something few expected. The show has gone from drawing a few hundred to thousands of people.

“Typically, you want 13, 14, 15 thousand people in there,” Burke said. “Sometimes we have had 16 to 18 thousand people.”
This is entertainment, but far from a joke. The men and women competitors put in a lot of work to make sure they are ready for fight night.

“Typically they train for 11 weeks,” said Burke. “There’s a lot of upside to doing this.” Several steps need to be taken to be selected to participate in the fight. “You sign up,” Burke said. “Then we register you through the state boxing commission and you take a physical and get hooked up with a trainer.”

This year’s event will see 21 total one-minute bouts, including three female bouts, something that wasn’t on former cards.

Guns ‘N Hoses attracts a who’s who of St. Louis celebrities year in and year out, to support the cause and enjoy the fights. Jim Edmonds, Kelly Chase, Jackie Smith, Devon Alexander and Joe Buck are just some of the names that have attended this event over the years.

Guns ‘N Hoses is a time to cheer on those who sacrifice on a daily basis. It shines a spotlight on these public servants and places them center-stage, something they never ask for but richly deserve.

Earl Austin Jr.: Jack of All Trades

Writer, broadcaster, and perhaps most important, fan, are some of the words that describe Earl Austin, Jr.

Austin is St. Louis through and through, having graduated from both McCluer North High School and Lindenwood University. He now broadcasts Saint Louis Billikens basketball.

Earl Austin Jr, talks to Lindenwood students about his 25 plus year career covering local sports. Photo Credit:Chris Nickler

 

Despite his St. Louis background, the reason for the traditional local question, “where did you go to high school,” eludes him. “Yeah, I don’t know where that comes from,” Austin said with a smile. “I’ve been asked that, too, and now find myself asking that to people.”

Broadcasting puts Austin in unique situations that allow him to go places and see games that are special.  Among these events is the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, better known as “March Madness.”

“March Madness is fun because it’s the best part of the season,” said Austin. “That one month there’s nothing like it in college sports. You have Selection Sunday, sitting, watching, wondering where you’re going or if you’re in.”


 

What makes the tournament exciting is the little schools that get to participate. “You have that first weekend with the Davids and the Goliaths,” said Austin. “Sometimes David gets up there and bites Goliath.”

Also, there’s a difference when seeing the tournament with a school that does not get in on a yearly basis.

“To have a team in it is great,” said Austin. “It’s one thing if you’re Kentucky or Kansas, you’re used to going. But if you’re a Saint Louis U, a program that hasn’t gone in 12 years, it’s another level of excitement and an amazing feeling.”

In addition to broadcasting SLU, Austin covers local prep sports from across the state of Missouri.  In high school it’s equally exciting and a different level, said Austin. “I’ve had my brother and sister both win state championships, which is crazy.”

The state championships in Columbia remind Austin of the big stage of March Madness. “You go to Columbia and every school, every town is there representing,” said Austin. “I’ve been covering those games for 25 years and it’s March Madness at the high school level.”

Although Austin might be more recognized for his broadcasting of games, he is still a writer at heart.  “When I was younger I had notebooks in school, whether it was social studies or math class,” said Austin. “But I always kept a separate notebook and was always writing down the lineups of my favorite teams, and I still do that to this day.”

With all of his different aspects of media, it comes back to writing. Writing is something he enjoys and helps him stay organized through all the games he has seen. Austin believes it is vital, not just for him, but for young people also to always write.

“Whatever you’re going into, know how to write,” said Austin. “If you know how to write, then you are ahead of the game.”

These are not just words, they’re a philosophy of sorts that has helped Earl Austin, Jr., become truly “awesome” when it comes to covering St. Louis sports.

Lee Thomas and the 2012 Baltimore Orioles

At age 76, baseball executive Lee Thomas proved age is just a number as he helped the Baltimore Orioles reached the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Thomas, from Peoria, Ill. and graduate of Beaumont High School in St. Louis, began his career with the famed 1961 New York Yankees featuring Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.  Thomas was lucky enough to have fellow outfielders the M&M boys show him the ropes throughout spring training and with the big club.

“I was fairly close with Mantle and Maris,” Thomas said. “They took me under their wing. They were great guys. One liked to go out and have fun and other one never left his room, and you know which ones I mean,” Thomas said with a smile.

Lee Thomas, executive with the Baltimore Orioles talks to students at Lindenwood University about the teams playoff run among other things. Photo Credit: Chris Nickler

Thomas wouldn’t stay in pinstripes for long.  Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Angels at the beginning of the ’61 season and was not with the Bronx Bombers during the home run race that summer.

He ended his playing career in 1968, after which he worked in the front offices of the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. Thomas was the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies during 1993, when they won the National League pennant before losing in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.

Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in the ’93 World Series for the Blue Jays was disappointing for Lee Thomas and the Phillies. However they earned rings for the National League Championship. Photo Credit: Chris Nickler

In 2011, after four years away from the game, Thomas joined  new GM Dan Duquette in the Oriole front office to help get the O’s to the playoffs in the tough AL East division.

“I got a call from Dan Duquette saying I’m going in for an interview with the Orioles,” said Thomas.  “Then later I got a text saying we are back, and I knew we got the job.”

The team responded with an infusion of young players and newly acquired talent, and won 93 games making it to postseason play.

“We brought up Manny Machado at 20 years old,” Thomas said.  “He turned our team around.”

“We’re thrilled to death in Baltimore with the success now,” said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Legends Museum at Camden Yards.  “The decision to bring up (Manny) Machado before most teams would have paid off big. This team is stacked with young arms now for the future.”

Jordan Tuwiner, founder of the blog “Orioles Nation,”  noticed the difference Thomas and the GM made on the ’12 team.

“The trades and signings made by Thomas and Duquette throughout the entire year are what really made this team special,” said Tuwiner. “Duquette and Thomas traded for Jason Hammel and signed Wei-Yin Chen, who served as the team’s most reliable pitcher.”

Thomas gets a rush when a new piece is added to a club. “It’s an exciting thing when you can pull the trigger on a player,” Thomas said.

With this front office group, the Orioles could be flying high in the years to come.

“The mindset of the team is greatly different than it has been at any point over the last 15 years,” Tuwiner said. “Thomas and the rest of the front office demonstrated that they fully understand what kind of pieces and players a team needs to succeed in the toughest division in baseball.”