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.

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.”

Rick Zombo: A Pro On and Off the Ice

Rick Zombo is the consummate professional in the world of hockey and has been at nearly every level, both coaching and playing. Now this man, who has a self-described “PhD in hockey,” is entrusted with moving Lindenwood University’s program to prominence

Coach Rick Zombo “the PhD of hockey” coaches his Lindenwood Lions at the Lindenwood Ice Arena in Wentzville, MO. Photo Credit: Don Adams Jr. Lindenwood Athletics.

Zombo, a native of Chicago suburb Des Plaines, Ill., played more than 10 years in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, and Detroit Red Wings. He recalled that first moment being in an NHL locker room.

“The neatest thing is when you come off the ice from practice and don’t have an Adirondack Red Wings bag but it’s a Detroit Red Wings bag,” said Zombo.

During his playing career he would work at youth hockey camps in the offseason to supplement his income. Through this experience, Zombo started to see what could possibly be a second career.

“I knew I didn’t want to be just a dumb jock,” he said.  “I felt that having the right guidance and teaching life skills through this sport I know so well, I can help the most valuable resource, children, through coaching, it was natural.”

Zombo’s hockey career ended after a season with the Los Angeles Kings minor league team. He then pursued coaching. “Coaching is great for me,” Zombo said. “It’s stimulating, whether it’s 10-year-olds or 22-year-olds. It has everything to do with managing people and assisting people to reach their aspirations.”

He eventually ended up at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo. coaching full time and then part time coaching his son.

“It was a big deal having an ex-Blues player,” Marquette alum Brent Alley said. “Being a big hockey fan and a Blues fan, it was crazy to have one of them coach at my high school.”

Eventually, Zombo found himself first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach of Lindenwood’s men’s hockey team. In a short period of time, Zombo would take the program and bring it to an extremely high level in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

“We have a program that is the top dog in the ACHA,” Zombo said.  “Everybody is jealous of Lindenwood hockey, because we have a history. It is not a tradition, we have a history, of success in winning. Everyone aspires to be like Lindenwood University.”

The program is going through a probationary period to see if it will eventually make the jump to NCAA Division I.

“We have two years left in our probation,” Zombo said. “There is a requirement to have an arena on campus to go NCAA, but we’d have no problem filling that arena.”  That history of success leads students to be encouraged about a possible move to NCAA.

“They’re a team that wins all the time,” LU senior and hockey fan Scott Milward said. “It would be awesome to see them play closer to home.”

With the passion and expertise that Zombo possesses, there is a legitimate chance to achieve that NCAA status and prove this program belongs at the next level.

“I have a history of being an overachiever,” Zombo said, “I’ve overachieved at every level.”

Perhaps the over-achiever turned LU coach can achieve one of the few things in hockey he has yet to earn, a NCAA head coaching job.

Tim Forneris: the man behind McGwire’s 62nd home run

The home run race of 1998 brought life back into baseball. Since then, baseball has seen its share of highs and lows in regard to those home runs, but one part of the race remains consistent, Tim Forneris.

Forneris, 36, now resides in St. Louis. In 1998 he was a member of the grounds crew at Busch Stadium, and loved the fact that being around the St. Louis Cardinals and their stadium on a daily basis was part of his job description.

Tim Forneris recalls the night he caught the home run ball that broke Roger Maris’ record and the aftermath. Photo: Brett McMillan

As fate would have it, Forneris would have his life changed forever on the night of September 8, 1998. That was the night Cardinal first baseman Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ record, by hitting home run number 62. Forneris was the lucky fan who caught that ball.

At the stadium, “It was a zoo,” said Forneris. McGwire, known for his monstrous home runs into the furthest reaches of a ballpark, hit a line drive home run at Busch that just cleared the left field wall.

“I sat on this bench behind the left field wall,” Forneris said. “With the small chance it was hit in that little hole, I wanted to be the guy to catch it. I jumped down and see the ball go through, telling myself I’m going to get it.”

After the insanity of the confetti-laden celebration unfolded, Forneris had the ball and would have to soon decide what to do with it, as the world watched. There would be no auction for the record-breaking home run ball. “I had talked about it with my family and said if I got it, I’d give it back,” said Forneris.

When asked if he would have given the ball to the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had he hit 62 that night, Forneris said, “Yes I would have, for baseball I would have.”

Fans have differing opinions on whether Forneris made the correct decision, especially after the 70th home run ball sold for nearly three million dollars. Alex Rice, senior at Lindenwood University, said, “In that scenario, with that record holding up for 30-plus years, I’d give it back. It’s the player’s ball, not mine. He hit it, not me.”

However, there are those who see the chance for monetary gain. LU senior Scott Milward answered the question differently. “I’d want something for it if I caught it. I would have sold it, probably.”

Forneris, who described himself as “not a big memorabilia guy,” gave the ball to McGwire with no regrets.

Later, it surfaced that McGwire used steroids throughout his career and during the 1998 home-run race.  As a result, that night was tarnished for many fans of the Cardinals and baseball. So is the memory of that night marred for the man who caught 62?

Forneris said, “As a baseball fan you’re obviously disappointed, but as a person it’s hard to erase all the great things about it.” That night was a lasting image in baseball history, and according to the man who had a front-row seat, “it’s still fun.”

Lindenwood’s home opener spoiled by #3 Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s women’s hockey coach is Mark Johnson, of the famed Miracle on Ice team. Unfortunately for Lindenwood, there would be no miracle for them Friday night.

The Lady Lions started their home opener fast, with the energy of the packed arena squarely behind them. LU scored two goals in the first four minutes of the game to claim an early 2-0 lead over the third-ranked Badgers.

LU’s #16 Lyndsay Kirkham (white) meets UW’s #18 Brianna Decker (red) in the faceoff circle in the 1st period. Decker won 17 faceoffs and Kirkham won 3 draws on the night. Photo: Chris Nickler

A Wisconsin turnover in their own zone led to the first goal by Kendra Broad, followed soon after by a breakaway rebound goal from assistant captain Allysson Arcibal.

LU Coach Vince O’Mara said, “Our adrenaline was pumped up to start out the game, and it showed scoring two goals early.”

The Lady Lions file into their locker room pumped up and congratulated from their fans after the 1st period tied 2-2 against the #3 ranked team.                  Photo: Chris Nickler

The visitors, however, took advantage of some of Lindenwood’s mistakes to get back in the game. The lions coughed up the puck during a line change and last year’s NCAA player of the year, Brianna Decker, scored to cut the lead.

Just minutes later, the Lions had a failed clearance of the puck, leading to a goal from UW’s Kelly Jaminski to tie the game after one period.

Penalties and failed penalty kills plagued LU throughout the second period. The lions gave up two power play goals in the period. O’Mara commented, “We made too many undisciplined penalties. When you play a team like that, you’ve got to stay out of the box.”

Wisconsin used the power plays to gain momentum. “The power play helped us build energy,” Badger coach Johnson said. “Even when you don’t score on a power play, it still helps a team gain confidence.”

A late second-period penalty shot goal from Decker extended the lead to 5-2 and seemed to all but decide the game. “Brianna finished off that penalty shot to turn it fully in our favor,” Johnson said.

 
Midway through the third period, Decker scored her third goal of the night for a hat trick. The goal was the third power play goal given up by LU. “I had my line mates Sylvester and Packer setting me up to help me get those goals,” Decker said. The Lions competed tough throughout the third but were unable to cut the deficit.

 

On yet another power play, Wisconsin’s Karley Sylvester scored the final goal of the night, making the score 7-2. The Badgers ended the game with 19 shots and four goals on seven power play opportunities.

 
“I thought we came out strong, but we stopped getting aggressive. We let them keep pressuring while we were sitting back on defense,” Lion junior defenseman Chelsea Witwicke said.

 
This was the Lions’ first home game as a Division I hockey team. The 7-2 score was a marked improvement from last year’s 13-0 and 10-0 defeats to the team from Madison. Decker mentioned, “They came right after us tonight. They’ve got some skilled girls. You can seem them improving and growing, getting more chemistry. That was nice to see.”

After the 7-2 loss LU players meet Wisconsin at center ice to congratulate them on the win and share mutual respect. Photo: Chris Nickler