Kemper Peacock and the overnight highlights

Kemper Peacock (second from left), Dick Snider standing

Topeka Capital Journal
Sept. 27, 1985

The College Football Highlights show that appeared on Sunday mornings for 15 years on ABC was one of the most unlikely offerings ever to find its way to television. For one thing, if you understood the logistics, you would say it was impossible.

For another, when it all started, the two men primarily responsible for getting it on the air were TV’s original Odd Couple. One was yours truly, who knew nothing about film or television, and the other was Kemper Peacock, who knew even less about football.

To eliminate confusion, let me say here that Kemper Peacock is not an advertising agency, a law firm, a London park or odd strain of strutting bird. He is a man – a remarkable man. Continue reading

Boggs and Hentzen and stories of the game

Topeka Capital-Journal
July 26, 1991

Before Frank Boggs retired, every newspaper columnist in the country who knew of him envied him If for no other reason than the fact he wrote seven columns a week and usually was two or three weeks ahead. He could turn on the creative tap and write a week’s worth of stuff in one sitting.

Old timers here will remember him as a member of the Capital-Journal sports staff in the 1950s. He moved on to sports jobs in places like Dallas and San Diego, but then became a newspaper executive who wrote columns as sort of a hobby.

He wound up his career where it started, in Oklahoma City, and he seemed to run things with one hand and write columns with the other. While most columnists sweat blood and wring their hands in despair, Boggs would run them off the assembly line without even a furrowed brow. And, what really burned up his colleagues was that the columns not only were numerous, but also good.

Boggs was in town this week, visiting Bob Hentzen. We played golf Tuesday, and then young insurance mogul Matt McFarland chauffeured us to a Royals game. It was a nice, long day, really spoiled only by having to sit through a sloppy 8-7 contest that lasted more than three hours.

We swapped a lot of stories, and along the way Boggs talked about the fine art of writing a column. He said he actually studied the subject, and said one of the best tips came from Russell Baker, the outstanding humor columnist for the New York Times. Continue reading

Cocktails and tales with Jack Dempsey

Topeka Capital-Journal
Jan. 10, 1959

It was at a cocktail party, and Jack Dempsey was sitting at a table, surrounded by a wide variety of boxing “fans.” Some, I am sure, we’re trying to remember when Dempsey was champion, if he ever was. They asked the questions he must have heard a million times.

“Could you have whipped Joe Lewis?”

“Did you dislike Tunney?”

“What was your toughest fight?”

“Were you ever scared?”

Dempsey said he was scared at least once, when he got into the ring with a huge Kansan named Jess Willard. Continue reading

A friend of mine named Amy,

Topeka Daily Capital
Oct. 23, 1960.

who is three years old, has as one of her best friends a man who is an inmate in the state penitentiary in Lansing. It is a friendship built on the simplest sort of foundation. It is a friendship between a man who probably needs friends and a little girl who is overwhelmed by unexpected favors.

It’s a rather long story, and it doesn’t get any shorter the way I tell it. . . . Continue reading

One evening with Willie Nelson

Topeka Capital-Journal.
April 23, 1997

Willie Nelson was on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, having a lot of fun with the fact he has finished paying the settlement for the $32 million he owed the IRS in back taxes, interest and penalties. He got into that mess because, for one thing, he was a little naive earlier in his singing career, and this column is here to tell you I don’t know him now, but I knew him then, slightly, and briefly. Continue reading

Fields of dreams and delusions.

Topeka Metro News
March 25, 2005

Devere Nelson, known to his millions of fans worldwide as Dev, used to sit in a little closet-sized control room, or studio, or whatever they called it, at WIBW and recreate baseball games that Topeka’s professional team was playing on the road. Continue reading

The Olympic trials nobody saw.

Topeka Capital-Journal.
Feb. 8, 2002

In the fall of 1979, Vickers Petroleum Corp. of Wichita needed crude oil and decided to use the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY, to help get it. Vickers would entertain some of the world’s top crude oil suppliers in an effort to win friends and influence them to do business with us. Continue reading

Reliving the toughest hour in network television

Topeka Capital Journal
August 21, 1995

HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. – Three men who once were responsible for the production of “the toughest hour in network television” had a reunion here this week. They recalled the horror stories, the good times and bad, and marveled once again that even one show got on the air, and agreed it was a miracle that more than 190 shows made it without a mishap over a 13-year period.

We met here because this is where Bill Flemming, the former ABC-TV sports announcer, spends the summers. Kemper Peacock, the New York City film editor and producer, and yours truly made the long trek here to the far reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

When we were involved in the show, Flemming was the host and Peacock led the production team that actually did the work period as executive producer of NCAA films, I was responsible for the overall operation and for delivering the show to ABC on time. That meant I carried the beads and led the prayers that nothing would go wrong.

The show was College Football Highlights, which aired each Sunday morning during the season.

What we did was film six or seven college football games all over the country on Saturday afternoon, and then put highlights of those games on the air Sunday morning in a neat one-hour package. A sympathetic TV critic gave it the “toughest hour” label.

It sounds pretty simple, and it would be now, but back when we started in the late 1960s, it was considerably more complicated than planning and pulling off the invasion of Normandy. Continue reading

After Philly, before Oakland, Finley, Bauer and the A’s

Topeka Daily Capital
June 28, 1961

WASHINGTON – When the Kansas City A’s last played here, about three weeks ago, one of the things I heard while visiting with them was that owner Charles O. Finley had wanted to release Hank Bauer before the season opened.

They say that the loudest protests came from Joe Gordon, then the manager. He said Bauer not only was a good ballplayer, but also was a good influence on the younger players and was popular with Kansas City fans.

They say, too, that general manager Frank Lane agreed with Gordon and the two of them combined to save Bauer’s job. Continue reading

O’Neill on Paige and the National Pastime

Topeka Daily Capital
May 14, 1958

Jackie Robinson’s recent uproar over when and how Negroes reached the major leagues brings to mind again the great number of Negro stars who came along too early to take advantage of the memorable day when Branch Rickey erased the color line.

One of those is John (Buck) O’Neill, who played with and saw the biggest names in baseball for 18 years. He was a star first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs for 17 of those years, and managed them for seven years. He now is a scout for the Chicago Cubs.

John (Buck) O’Neil

He had a lifetime batting average of .300 in the Negro major league and twice led the league in hitting with a mark of .350. He once was telling Sec Taylor of the Des Moines Register about life in the league, and the conversation went like this:

Is Satchel Paige the best pitcher Buck has seen? “I haven’t seen anyone better than old Satch,” O’Neill declared. “He was a competitor when he got in that ballpark. The trouble was to get him in it.

“Time meant nothing to him. He might go fishing just before an important game or he might get to the park gate, see you or anybody else and stand there and talk till after the game had started. Continue reading