RANDOM MEETING WITH A FUTURE HALL OF FAMER
(CAPTION: FROM LEFT: RON COOMER, COLOR ANALYST OF THE CHICAGO CUBS, CHARLIE STEINER, THE MAIN VOICE OF THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS AND FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHER CHARLIE KERFIELD AT FRIDAY'S SCOUT DINNER IN SCOTTSDALE) Photo: Norm Clarke Back in 1984, I was a religious diary keeper. My reasons were two-fold: Keeping a daily account would serve me well as The Associated Press’ coordinator of coverage of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics and, maybe, down the road, the memories might make good fodder for a book.
Well, shortly before the Olympics began, I was in a long line in the main press center at the Los Angeles Convention Center, possibly going through the credential process. I struck up a conversation with a 30-something East Coast guy with an engaging personality and a voice for radio.
That night I added his name and how I met him to my diary. Maybe he and the many others I met would become well known some day.
After the Olympics, I moved to Denver and misplaced the diary among the many unpacked boxes.
More than a decade later, I found it and while re-reading it, a familiar name jumped off the pages. The radio guy was Charlie Steiner.
The next time I ran into him was when he came down a red carpet in Las Vegas for a major fund-raising event at the MGM Grand Garden about four years ago.
Last Friday I stopped by his table during the annual Scout Dinner hosted by David McReynolds, a Denver/Scottsdale businessman.
Steiner considers Howard Cosell, the blustery sports broadcasting legend who would have been 100 this Sunday, among “the three guys who inspired me most in my career. “
They had never met until they sat around a large breakfast table in Las Vegas in 1982, the day after the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney fight in the Caesars Palace parking lot.
“We’re at Café Roma at Caesars. We’re talking about the fight and what happened in the given rounds and I said ‘If Cooney had been in a real fight instead of knocking people out, he would have known he had enough to put Holmes away.’
"Howard said, 'Good. Very good.' Then he turned to John (Madden, the former Oakland Raiders coach.) 'Who’s that boy, John?”
“Madden said, ‘He’s my boss.’” Steiner was then sports director for the RKO Radio Network while working at WOR in New York. Madden was early in his broadcasting career. "I had to build a staff.
John had done the Miller Light commercial. I went into my boss and said ‘this guy is going to be a big star.' He replaced Tom Brookshier and then he took off. ““From that time on Howard and I became friends,” said Steiner.
From 1980 to 1996 Steiner regularly covered major fights in Las Vegas, most of them after joining ESPN in 1988.
“The first fight I did in Las Vegas was Ali-Holmes and the last one was Tyson-Holyfield,” he said.
A decade later he became the lead announcer for WCBS/New York as the play-by-play announcer of the New York Yankees.
He was recruited by WLAC in Los Angeles in 2005 to team up with Scully, one of the other most inspirational figures in Steiner's career. The third in the triumvirate was Ali.
After chatting with Steiner, I spotted him at another table, in a discussion with former big league pitcher Charlie Kerfeld and Chicago Cubs color analyst Ron Coomer.
The featured guest of the evening was Larry Corrigan, longtime Minnesota Twins scout. Corrigan has made an inspirational comeback from a 2016 stroke.
He thanked his fellow scouts – about 80 attended the steak dinner at McReynolds’ Scottsdale home—for their support and noted that McReynolds had gone to his home in Mendota, Ill., to check on his recovery and to Corrigan’s scouts Hall of Fame induction at the Winter Meetings in Washington, D.C.
“What a friend,” Corrigan told me later. “And he’s never asked for anything. Not a baseball. Not a ticket.”
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Sad news for fans of one of the best watering holes in Arizona and a must-see destination for great food and sports memorabilia. Don Carson is closing Don & Charlie’s, a Scottsdale sports-themed institution since 1981. The beloved tavern is scheduled to end operations in May 2019 to make way for a boutique hotel. Carson is reportedly in talks to have a small version of the restaurant in the hotel. I’ll always remember it for the night in 1985 when I had dinner with legendary Cubs and Cards play-by-play announcer Harry Caray, when I was with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The next day my mother was enjoying her summer ritual in her rocking chair in Terry, Mont., watching the Cubs game, when Harry gave the play-by-play on our dinner. ..
Overheard at the scout party after the California Angels prized free agent two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies last week. “And he needs work recognizing the curveball,” said a well-known scout. Ohtani is hitting .083 (2-for-24) so far this spring. The 23-year-old lefthander has a 100 mph fastball and batted .322 with 22 homers in 2016 while winning the MVP award in Japan’s Pacific League. He was bothered by injuries last year…
There was a rare sighting of brothers on the same Cactus League field on Sunday. The Arenado brothers, Nolan and Jonah, faced each other for the first time as professionals on Sunday when the San Francisco Giants routed the Colorado Rockies 13-0. Both play third base. Jonah, at 23, three years younger than his brother, entered the game as a pinch hitter. Nolan joked afterwards that he planned to slap a hard tag on his little brother if he got to third. Jonah got the last laugh. Madison Bumgarner limited the Rockies to one hit over six innings.
Chicago Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo, his fiancé Emily Vakos and teammate Addison Russell, at Kenny Chesney’s concert at the Hard Rock Hotel on Sunday. The Cubs played the Cleveland Indians during the Big League Weekend series in Las Vegas.
ON THIS DAY…
March 19, 1932: The Apache Hotel, which features the first elevator in Las Vegas, opens with the biggest party the town has ever seen. The 56-room hotel, which includes a nightclub and casino, becomes the swankiest place in town.
March 20, 1965: Performing at the Sands, Jerry Lewis takes his usual backflip off a piano but lands badly, chipping his spine and triggering decades of debilitating back pain and addiction to painkillers. An electronic nerve stimulator implant eventually solves the problem.
March 21, 2003: A 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles puts $100 in a Megabucks slot machine at the Excalibur Hotel and wins $39.7 million – the all-time record for a slot machine payout.
March 22, 1999: David Strickland, co-star (with Brooke Shields) of the NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan, hangs himself at the Oasis, a seedy hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The popular, boyish actor was 29 and had battled alcoholism and bipolar disorder.
March 23, 1973: Jerry Tarkanian is named head basketball coach at UNLV, beginning a tumultuous 19-year reign that includes four Final Fours, one championship and a nearly constant drumbeat of NCAA investigations. Tark the Shark becomes a major Vegas personality and his wife serves on the city council.
March 24, 1995: Showgirls, a campy NC-17 drama about a dancer’s rise from stripper to Vegas headliner, wins seven Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Original Song. Although some think it’s a cult classic, most still regard the film as among the worst ever made.
March 25, 2003: Celine Dion premieres her concert extravaganza, A New Day... at the Coliseum at Caesars Palace, a 4,000-seat, $95 million theater built especially for the show. In its four-year run, A New Day… draws 3 million fans and grosses $400 million.
March 26, 2005: Pete Rose, upset that he’s listed among the top 10 worst tippers in Las Vegas in my new book, walked up to my table at N9NE Steakhouse – and slaps me. “Note to self,” I wrote in my column, “Remember what you wrote about someone before giving them a book.”
THE PUNCH LINE
“It’s spring break! Just remember, the partying lasts a week, but the photos will cost you jobs forever.”—Jimmy Fallon
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