Monthly Archives: November 2012
KTVI sports reporter Maurice Drummond’s job description sounds like he is protecting the president. He wears a suit and IFB everyday, and for 15 years he was prepared to take a bullet for the man on television.
A proverbial bullet that is.
Drummond has been on camera for the past 10 years, but produced television for 15 years after graduating from the University of Maryland.
“I think that my job behind the scenes, I almost looked at [it like] being a secret service guy,” Drummond said. “Because when you are behind the scenes as a producer you’re job is to take care of the person in front of the camera.”
As a child Drummond expressed an interest for sports broadcasting. His parents would watch him pretend a pencil was a microphone. His pretending eventually turned into a career.
It started at Black Entertainment Television. He also has worked for ESPN and was with the Golf Channel when it began. Network jobs were not the only stops for Drummond. He also has been with two New York City stations and worked in Washington D.C. as well.
He is now on his second stop in St. Louis.
A little more than halfway into his career Drummond was placed in front of a camera for the first time. After college, he never expected to end up as an on-air talent, but producing prepared him for the field.
“You work in this business, to me, from the inside out,” Drummond said. “You learn how to put together a story, because remember, I’ve been on the air for 10 years. I was behind the scenes for 15. So now, these days, I don’t need a producer.”
Drummond’s ability to perform write, edit and present news has benefited him during his on-air career. It has been especially helpful as he covers high school football.
Most Friday nights during the fall Drummond travels to several area high schools to film games. He has to precisely time every part of his evening to leave time for writing and editing highlights before his live shot at the final school.
Sometimes he is unable to get the best plays from a given game, but he said he has learned to work with what he can. There isn’t time to wait around. The live shot will not wait for him.
“When I first got into this business, I was told that the clock is your enemy,” Drummond said. “It is always ticking. It doesn’t stop.”
Drummond covers professional and major college sports too. During his career he has sat down with Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson, but he enjoys covering athletes from every level.
He said it is passion, not fame, that makes a subject special.
“I think that whether it is preps, or pros or college, I love great stories,” Drummond said. “To me, it is about the people, and it is about the stories.”
1) You have worked in D.C. and St. Louis. As a reporter, what is the most noticeable difference in working in two very different sized markets?
2) Is it more enjoyable to interview a national figure or a passionate high school athlete? Why?
3) Why did you pick television over radio or print?
4) What is the key to balancing your responsibilities at KMOX and KTVI?
5) How much of your sports knowledge is learned and how much comes naturally?
6) You and Martin Kilcoyne are both very serious about your work, but like to crack jokes too. How has that helped you be successful?
7) You have used your Facebook to ask for public feedback on your work. What are the benefits of that?
8) What is the key to a good question?
9) What made you want to cover sports on television?
10) Who have been your most important professional role models?
1) What advantages does having Budweiser sponsor an event is St. Louis give?
2) What is the biggest change in Guns ‘N Hoses since 1987?
3) Why did boxing make the most sense over any other sport?
4) What do you think about the Guns ‘N Hoses style events centered around other sports?
5) What was the biggest reason for making this year’s rounds one minute?
6) If I would have told you at the beginning of your involvement with this event that it would have earned $3.2 million by 2012 what would you have said?
7) How are these public servants picked to fight?
8) Is there a rise in crime in St. Louis on the night of this event?
9) How do you market a sport the average American does not watch regularly?
10) How does the success of this event compare to that of similar events in other cities?
If writing and preparation are the foundations of a media career, Earl Austin has built on bedrock.
Austin, a 25 year member of the St. Louis sports media, graduated from Lindenwood University in 1986. He was involved with student media at LU, but has been writing about sports since grade school. It began with writing the line-ups of his favorite teams in notebooks during class.
His teachers would sometimes take the notebook away. He would start a new one.
Today Austin still passes spare time by writing line-ups in a spare notebook. Although, free time has become scarce. Austin, is a writer making his way in the age of new media.
“There are so many things you can do,” Austin said. “You don’t have to be radio, you don’t have to be newspaper, you don’t have to be television [or] blog. You can be all of them.”
After graduating college, Austin began stringing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He covered mostly high school sports, and impressed other media members with his St. Louis prep sports knowledge.
He earned respect with his ability to preview a cross country meet the same way he could break down the state football championship.
He covers more than high school sports now, but he still runs a website dedicated to St. Louis basketball, specifically high school basketball. Earlaustinjr.com has a few advertisers, but Austin said it is a labor of love.
Covering high school sports provided Austin with his favorite memory as a media member, covering Chaminade [St. Louis, Mo.] College Prep boy’s basketball star Bradley Beal.
Beal played one year at the University of Florida, and then, in June 2012, was drafted by the NBA’s Washington Wizards.
“The Brad Beal phenomenon was something else, because Brad took it to an international level,” Austin said. “He brought ESPN to Lindenwood for a national television game against McCluer North [High School], my alma matter. Amazing, ESPN coming to St. Louis for basketball, unheard of.”
For the past 22 years, Austin has been participating in another labor of love, serving as the radio color commentator for St. Louis University men’s basketball.
All 22 years he has been working with play-by-play man, and fellow Lindenwood alumnus, Bob Ramsey.
“We’re not just two guys showing up on the microphone to collect a paycheck,” Austin said. “We love the Billikens, and we want to see the Billikens perform, and get their just due, and win games and everything.”
In addition to his duties with SLU, Austin also does a weekly high school sports television show, and is the sports editor for the St. Louis American.
The American has not been Austin’s only outlet as a writer. He has written three books. His most famous,You Might Need A Jacket was born from post-game dinner conversations Austin had with other members of the high school sports community.
“We would get to talking, not so much about the games themselves, but some of the behavior,” Austin said. “We got to talking about, ‘Did you hear what Mrs. so-and-so said, or Mr. so-and-so, how he acted? He went after the referee after the game, or so-and-so went after the coach.’ The stories just kept mounting up.”
After collecting 200 stories, Austin was encouraged to put them together.
Those stories are a sample of all Austin’s experiences in St. Louis. He said he has never given serious consideration to working elsewhere.
“I’ve always enjoyed St. Louis. I didn’t move here until I was 15. It is home to me, and I just have my roots here,” Austin said.
“Now, I’ve got young relatives coming through the ranks here getting into the high school sports scene. Following them and working with them is a lot of fun. It has been fun for 25 years.”
1) What has been the biggest change at SLU during your 22 years broadcasting there?
2) Did you want to work in St. louis or did you consider other options?
3) What do you have to consider when tailoring St. Louis American content for African-America readers?
4) Stlouisbasketball.com (earlonbasketball) and earlaustinjr.com both look like they use the same content management system (blogger). How long did it take you to find a a CMS that worked for you?
5) What does St. Louis need to do to become a better basketball market?
6) How did being voted best local sports encyclopedia by the Riverfront Times in 2004 make you feel?
7) Is it awkward if Bob Ramsey is commenting on the referee’s ineptitude loud enough that they can hear him?
8) What did playing college basketball do for your ability to cover it?
9) How has the relationship between writing and broadcasting benefited you?
10) Would you recommend a career like yours?
Lee Thomas told his wife to get up. He wanted to leave.
She was confused why her husband, then general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, wanted to leave game six of the 1993 World Series with his team leading 6-5.
Thomas had been in professional baseball since he was 18. He knew what was coming, and he was just being honest.
What happened next at Rogers Center, Thomas said he still sees during his sleep sometimes.
Toronto Blue Jays’ outfielder Joe Carter hit a World Series winning, walk-off three run home run. The ball beat the Thomases out of the ballpark.
“It was like somebody hit me over the head with a hammer,” Thomas said.
Carter’s home run off Phillies’ closer Mitch Williams ended Thomas’ only appearance in the World Series as a general manger.
Eleven years earlier he won the only World Series of his career when he was Farm Director for the St. Louis Cardinals under GM-manager Whitey Herzog.
“Whitey always told me one thing, if you don’t lie to any of the players you don’t have to worry about what you said when you lay your head down,” Thomas said. “And boy, I agree with that one-hundred percent.”
Bing Devine gave Thomas his first job with the Cardinals during the 1970s. He moved up from the minors, and eventually found himself making the rounds of the Cardinals minor league affiliates by the time Herzog arrived.
Thomas said those in the Cardinal organization trusted each other. Before Thomas finalized a decision to release a minor leaguer he would call the Cardinals’ Director of Scouting, Freddie McAlister. Thomas would not make a final decision until after the pair had talked about it.
The teamwork philosophy traveled with Thomas to Philadelphia when he was hired as the Phillies GM in 1988. He said having people he could trust to evaluate talent and give him advice about players was key.
Scouting convinced Thomas to bring several marquee players to Philadelphia. Curt Schilling was one example.
“He got us to the World Series, and somebody asked me, ‘What are your real thoughts on Curt Schilling?’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing. I like him every fifth day,’ ” Thomas said.
Outfielder Lenny Dykstra was another one of Thomas’ signature trades. He was traded from the Mets to the Phillies in 1989 after the Mets grew tired of his antics. Thomas said sometimes he would call Lenny up to the “principal’s office” when complaints arose, but overall he liked Dykstra.
Even after Thomas and Dykstra were both no longer in Philadelphia, Thomas still had to deal with the ramifications of Dykstra’s behavior.
In 2006, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was commissioned by Major League Baseball to do an investigation on steroid use in MLB. They called Thomas in to talk about Dykstra.
Thomas was honest about what happened one day when Phillies’ manager Jim Fregosi called him to the clubhouse to watch Dykstra put on a weight lifting show.
“I went up to him and said, ‘Lenny, you look great. What did you do?’ He said, ‘Oh, I worked out. I worked real hard.’ He said, ‘I took some great vitamins.’ And that was it. I didn’t say no more, because at that time [steroids] wasn’t that prevalent,” Thomas said.
After being fired by the Phillies in 1997, Thomas went to work for the Boston Red Sox as a special assistant to GM Dan Duquette.
Thomas played a role in signing both outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez for the Boston Red Sox.
“Manny is an incredible hitter, and at that time the numbers he was putting up were just sick. I mean he was slugging .600,” Matthew Kory, SBNation.com Red Sox Blogger said.
Duquette was replaced by Theo Epstein in 2002. Epstein, then 28, was the youngest GM in Major League history. While Duquette and Thomas relied heavily on reports collected by scouts, Epstein centered his philosophy around sabermetrics and computers.
Thomas displayed his trade mark honesty, and decided Boston was no longer the place for him.
“Theo Epstein is very good. I think I could have stayed. I know I could have stayed, but I just felt like I had a chance to go do something better, and do more baseball work,” Thomas said. “It was almost like I wasn’t used enough. Let’s put it that way. That’s why I felt like I didn’t want to stay any longer.”
Milwaukee was the next stop. He was a scout for the Brewers from 2002 to 2008. Then, he took a break from the game for four years. He even stopped watching games regularly on television.
The four year hiatus from baseball was broken by his old boss from Boston, Dan Duquette.
Duquette had an interview for the Baltimore Orioles’ GM position. He told Thomas that if he got the job he was going to hire him as a special assistant.
“Around midnight I get a text on my phone. It said, ‘We be back.’ I knew he got the job then,” Thomas said. “But it was fantastic, and we lost 93 games [in 2011], and we won 93 [in 2012].”
Dan Connolly, Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, said people in Baltimore were aware of Thomas’ reputation when his signing was announced.
“He has got a real keen eye for scouting. He is one of those guys that can figure out ballplayers,” Connolly said. “He has got a good sense of what it takes to be a big leaguer. I think his scouting eye is considered one of his strengths.”
Thomas commutes to Baltimore several times a summer, but lives in St. Louis, Mo. where he attended high school. He started his MLB playing career after being drafted out of Beaumont High School.
Thomas said he enjoyed his eight year playing career, but working in the front office is better.
In typical Thomas fashion, if asked why he gives an honest answer.
“When I go out and throw a baseball I don’t miss playing,” Thomas said. “Because my arm hurts.”