ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — My first full day at KMOX was on a Sunday morning: August 3, 1997. I had been hired just two days earlier to serve as a part-time producer at the legendary station.
As a kid, I had always dreamed of being able to see what it was like behind the curtain at One Memorial Drive. Now, at age 22, suddenly I was one of the people behind that curtain. Just like that.
At 6:00 AM, as I settled into my seat in “Producer B,” a room with three computers, two phones and plenty of blinking lights, I quickly introduced myself to the Sunday staff. Our news anchor, Bill Reker, said hello. The news and engineering crew met me for the first time and went over several procedures in case of breaking news, weather, etc.
At 7:00 AM, the tone at the top of the hour signaled the start of CBS News. Four minutes later, Reker began his local newscast. I was playing and logging commercials, watching monitors, answering phone calls. It was a little overwhelming for a recent college grad, but I pretended like it wasn’t. This is what I signed up for.
Then just before 7:15 AM, I heard someone walk into the room to my left. The voice was unmistakable and immediately brought me back to my youth: “Good morning, how are you?”
He smiled and stuck out his hand to shake mine: “Ron Jacober.”
Just as he did for this aspiring sportscaster in the summer of ’97, Ron Jacober has been putting people at ease since he began his radio career in 1969.
I think that’s Ron’s best quality: making people comfortable. It started with his now-legendary interview sessions with Muhammad Ali and Harry Caray. Former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty looked forward to Sundays with Ron, a tradition that John Mozeliak currently enjoys. It wasn’t until his appearances with Ron that Tony La Russa developed a closer relationship with Cardinals fans. Whether you were a team executive, athletic director or spokesperson, you knew that Ron’s show was the place to be. He was going to ask the pertinent questions — but he was going to do it right, always.
Sunday at noon, Ron Jacober signed off as host of “Sports on a Sunday Morning” for the final time.
Oh, you’ll still hear his voice on the air. He’ll be making many appearances, especially when it can help put a St. Louis sports story into historical context. His ability to provide on-air warmth to both listeners and guests will always be appreciated — and needed.
That’s not to say Ron doesn’t have an opinion or two. He never hesitates to offer his take on a sports topic and certainly has the depth of knowledge to back it up. But in an age of attention-grabbing sports hosts, Ron continues to make the games and the sports personalities the story. It’s a lesson for all who are trying to make it in this business, including me.
I’ll challenge anyone to find a more versatile sportscaster — anywhere. Can Ron talk baseball? As a fan of Stan Musial, the game was part of Ron’s Highland, Ill. upbringing. Hockey? Ron was a Blues play-by-play announcer and worked alongside Hall of Famer Dan Kelly. Football? Ron hosted Sundays for decades. Basketball? Ron traveled around the country doing college games.
Golf, tennis, soccer, bowling, auto racing, horse racing, boat racing…name the sport and Ron had an expert on speed dial. He’s always surrounded himself with the best people in sports, always determined to learn more about the games he covers. It’s no wonder CBS Radio sent Ron to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics during his 44-year run, the second-longest of continuous sportscasting in St. Louis history, eclipsed only by Jack Buck (48 years).
Here’s what I’ve learned most from Ron: how to be a great husband and father. I’ve admired for years how he cared for his mother. The trips he took with his wife, Lois, and the love they share. How he beams with pride when talking about his sons, his grandchildren.
I’ll never forget attending his Missouri Sports Hall of Fame induction last year in Springfield, Mo. and seeing his family members seated together at a table. Just above them, on stage, was Ron, looking out over the crowd.
I walked up to the dais…and he smiled and stuck out his hand to shake mine.
I can only dream that someday I can retire on my own terms — with the grace and class of Ron Jacober.
Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX. Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120
Send congratulations and well wishes to Ron here: Email Ron Jacober