My career in broadcasting would have never taken root were it not for the sports director at Sunflower Cablevision in Lawrence, Kansas. Rich Bailey remains a fixture on the sports scene in Lawrence even though he left his job at Cable 6 long ago. "The Pureman" still works as the press box announcer at K.U. football games.
Rich took an 18-year-old freshman and tried his best to teach him the ins and outs of sportscasting. I prepared his depth charts, took care of the stats, and as time progressed did color commentary. Through Rich I met a whole world of adult broadcasters who were as colorful and fun loving as their nicknames suggest. There was the irrepressible "Big Blue" Bob Neu, the flamboyant Kevin "The Guy" Wall, photog extraordinaire Brad "Tomato Man" Richmond, and the off beat reporter Reed "The Steed" Black, aka "Burrito Man." This teenager got to spend a lot of time with these broadcast professionals. Many tales were told and much beer was consumed. Bawdy would best describe the time I spent fishing and carousing with these "gentleman."
The set up was unusual in that we did everything live to tape. The productions aired on the local cable station and they were good enough to win some national awards. We covered Lawrence High football and basketball, K.U. swimming and women's basketball, and the Kansas Relays.
My favorite broadcasts were the state high school basketball tournament which we did in 1975 and 76. We watched the progression of one of the greatest high school teams in Kansas high school history, Wichita Heights. The team was led by former K.U. and NBA guard Darnell Valentine. A Larry Drew led Wyandotte team upset Heights in 75. The following year Valentine and company came back and demolished Wyandotte leading 24 to zip after the first quarter. I'd never seen anything like the all out press and scrambling offense dreamed up by Falcon's coach Lafyette Norwood.
Rich did his best to mentor me as did Tom Hedrick. Tom taught a sportscasting class at K.U. and served as the "Voice of the Jayhawks." Tom had been the play by play man for the Kansas City Chiefs the year they won the Super Bowl. He had been a sports anchors in bigger markets like Cincinnati and Dallas.
Tom's sportscasting class usually contained a jock or two. My two favorites were Nolan Cromwell, the Ransom Rambler. Look him up. He was one of the greatest athletes to ever pass their Kansas. An outstanding Wishbone quarterback, a record setting hurdler for the track team, and an All Pro for the Rams as a safety, Cromwell may be the best athlete I ever saw. The other athlete I remember was a pretty fair basketball player, Herb Nobles. When Tom asked us to get interviews with an athlete ol' Herb interviewed himself.
By the time I was a college junior I yearned to move on to KLWN radio and work as a disc jockey. It wasn't until my senior year that the local AM station gave me a job. I don't think the general manager Hank Booth knew what to make of me. I worked with another Bailey buddy, "Big Blue" Bob Neu. Now those were the times.