A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There
Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.
Bob Hunter once found himself in a cinder-block office listening to Woody Hayes and Bobby Knight talk about World War II. Hunter will take you inside that room and to other offbeat places that he ventured such as Pete Rose’s home in the early ’70s. Bob and Todd discuss anecdotes about the greatest coaches and athletes producing historic, goose-bump sports moments while still being flawed like all of us.
Bob Hunter retired in 2016 after 41 years as a sportswriter for the Columbus Dispatch, including his last 24 as a columnist for the newspaper. He is the author of 10 books, and his 11th -- Road to Wapatomica: A Modern Search for the Old Northwest -- is scheduled to be published in 2021. Hunter joined the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1983 and served as secretary of the Cincinnati chapter of the BBWAA for 23 years. He has been a board member of the Columbus Historical Society since 2011. Hunter is a native of Hamilton, Ohio.
In this episode, Bob mentions Players, Teams and Stadium Ghosts, a collection of his best writing from the Columbus Dispatch, published in 2019, you can find it here.
To learn more about Bob Hunter check out this column that Columbus Dispatch sports columnist Mike Arace wrote about Hunter on Sept. 6, 2016:
Todd Jones: I'm Todd Jones, recovering from 30 years as a sports writer. Thanks for joining me as I sit down with some of the best sports writers of our time, the greatest athletes and coaches, and experience firsthand some of the biggest sports moments of the past half century. We'll share stories behind the stories. Some we've only told each other. Pull up a seat on Press Box Access.
Todd Jones: Today we're joined by Bob Hunter, who can write a great story and tell one too. He's been my friend and made me laugh since the late '80s. And he covered sports for the Columbus Dispatch for 41 years. He's also written nine books. The latest, a collection of his columns called Players, Teams and Stadium Goes, Bob Hunter on Sports. Hey Bob, welcome to the show. How're you doing?
Bob Hunter: Doing great. Doing great.
Todd Jones: And usually Bob, when it's you and I talking, that means the lights have come up, the music stopped and the bartender is saying, "Go home." Thankfully, today we have listeners and we appreciate them. What do you say, we buy them a round?
Bob Hunter: I think that may have happened once or twice. I think we may have been shooting out of a bar once or twice.
Todd Jones: A lot of games, a lot of nights, a lot of years together. You're retired now. You retired in 2016.
Bob Hunter: That's true. I'm happily retired.
Todd Jones: Well, you still write books, right? I mean, you're an author.
Bob Hunter: Yeah, no, I still write. I love to write. So that will not that won't end.
Todd Jones: I was thinking about it. We met back in the late '80s, back in the stone age. You were covering the Reds and I had just started at the Cincinnati Post. So my assumption is that we met at Riverfront Stadium. Right?
Bob Hunter: I'm sure we did. Yeah, I'm sure. Could've been a Bengals game though. I mean, I covered a lot. I covered Bengals games too back in those days, but probably the Reds. I covered the Reds from, I don't know, '83 to '93 or something like that. And I'm sure that would've been when it was. Was there every day. I know you were there a lot.
Todd Jones: We just became quick friends early on. And then I joined the Dispatch, Columbus Dispatch in '97. And we worked together for 20 years, until you retired and left me behind. There was a day back, I think in the early '80s, where you were with Bobby Knight, having pizza at Planks Pizza in Columbus. Is that right?
Bob Hunter: Actually, it was a lunch. And my boss, Dick [Adi 00:02:30], had covered Knight at Ohio State during his basketball days and was very close to him.
Todd Jones: Because he played there. People forget that. He played for-
Bob Hunter: Yeah, he played there. And actually Adi claims to have talked Knight out of quitting the team a couple of times, on the road. I mean, Knight was a problem child, even now, I guess. But-
Todd Jones: Yeah. Fred Taylor, the coach called him the brat from Orville.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. I was in the office. Adi says, "Me and Knight are going to go to Planks for lunch. Do you want to go?" I said, "Well, yeah. Of course." So we went, we were sitting in Planks. As we're finishing up the conversation, Knight said, "I'd like to go up and see the old man," talking about Woody Hayes.
Todd Jones: Sounds like a good idea to me, Bob.
Bob Hunter: So Adi says to me, "Well, Hunter, do you have time to do that? To go with us?" And I was like, "Oh, yeah. I'm not missing this." So we went up to Woody's office, which was in the old North facility up there. A little room.
Todd Jones: Ohio State.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. A little concrete block room. We went in there and knocked on the door. Woody was taking a nap. He was thrilled to see Knight. Practice wasn't for two or three hours or something. He was really thrilled to see Knight. So we go in there-
Todd Jones: Woody was still coaching at the time?
Bob Hunter: Oh, yeah.
Todd Jones: So this is '77, '78.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. This is '77, '78.
Todd Jones: Okay. All right.
Bob Hunter: And he's coaching. We went there and we sit down in there, and it's just Adi, me, Knight and Woody.
Todd Jones: That's amazing.
Bob Hunter: And we're in there for maybe an hour, and they're talking, they're going on. And Woody is telling military stories. Woody gets on his kick and he's so in this military kick, and he's talking. It's about time for us to leave. And he starts into this story about cracking the German code.
Todd Jones: During World War II. He served in World War II.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. So he's in this, all over the place with his story. Trying to think of where's this going? What is this? And he gets to the end of this story. And he says, and I wish I could remember the exact sentence, but it was something like, "And do you know who the brother-in-law of the guy who cracked the German code in World War II was?" Which I thought was like, what? This is the most ... This is so far out there. And I'm like, "I'm a history minor in college. I mean, I love history. I write books about history."
Todd Jones: And Knight was a huge history guy, too. Right? They called him The Journal.
Bob Hunter: So he says that, and then we all go, "Oh, no." And then Woody says something like, "John Smith." And then we all go, "Oh." We just thought this was like the most amazing thing in the world. I've never heard of wherever it was. So okay. Well, thanks, coach. Good to see you. And we walked out the door and we started down the hall, and Knight says, "I knew the answer, but I didn't want to disappoint the old bastard."
Todd Jones: Hey, let's back up here a second. We don't want to leave Woody Hayes behind me because you spent four years in your hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, working for the Journal News. And then you went over to the Columbus Dispatch in 1975. Couple years later, you started covering the Ohio State football, which means you're with Woody Hayes pretty much every day. Now Woody has been long gone now and he's become this mythical figure. What was it like dealing with Woody Hayes every day?
Bob Hunter: It really was every day. I mean, this was a difference between then and now. I was the beat guy on the football team. So I went to practice every day and usually the guy, whoever the Citizen Journal guy was there to practice every day. And maybe somebody from AP or UPI or whatever. But it was just two or three people went to practice every day. And after practice, you went into Woody's office and you sit there, and you interviewed Woody in the office. And he was, which of course, you get no time like that today with coaches. You'd get your, "Okay, we're going to have a Monday press thing. And then we're going to have 10 minutes, or five or 10 minutes after a practice. Sometimes during the week, it's all you get." But this was like every day, going to see Woody.
Todd Jones: Right.
Bob Hunter: Some days there'd be two or three of us, some days just be me.
Todd Jones: Amazing.
Bob Hunter: Woody would come in there sometimes and he would say, "Here's an article in this magazine. I think you got to read, Bob. I think it'd be good. I think you'd get something out of this." Nobody would ever see this. Like, really?Woody Hayes was ... And it was like, he was just genuinely serious. It was like he thought of himself as a teacher. And he would say "Here, this is a US news and world report. Here's this article in here on journalism or something, and I think you'd like this," or whatever. Something on history or whatever. Then other days you'd go there and he'd say, "What the hell do you want? I ain't got time for it." He would just be totally ... One Sunday I was there when nobody was ever around. And he watches into this thing about how we've lynched Richard Nixon.
Speaker 3: Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.
Bob Hunter: And I was like, "Okay, I'm not going to debate Woody Hayes about Richard Nixon." I'm just like, "Oh, yeah, coach. Whatever." But I mean, of course, Woody and Nixon were buddies. So that's not that surprising, but his practices, you could never do this now. Woody would pound players' shoulder pads and he would hit them in the helmet, and he'd cuss at his assistant coaches. Like what the heck?
Todd Jones: He thought of most of them every day almost.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. There was one day in the stadium. They had practice in the stadium and they had left these field seats in the stadium. These fold up chairs that were down on the track, down at the bottom. Usually they took them out. But for some reason, this week they didn't take them out. So all these pulled up chairs were down there by the field. And I'm standing down behind these chairs with [Compass Story 00:08:54], [inaudible 00:08:55], long time writer. And we're watching practice. We got in there and Pasty looks at these chairs, we're standing there. And a few of these players are sitting in these chairs. Pasty says, "I don't think the old man is going to like this."
Bob Hunter: So sure enough, they're out there practicing and there's an interception or something. I mean, I'm guessing, because Woody was very calculated, I'm guessing that Woody was waiting for the right moment. But there was an interception and Woody is out there fuming. He turns And he looks over there, and he sees these guys sitting in these chairs. He comes over there with his arms flailing, screaming, and his chairs are flying everywhere. [inaudible 00:09:45].
Todd Jones: Balling pens.
Bob Hunter: Of course, Pasty and I are standing there like, "Oh, my God, we've got to go. This is unbelievable." Because I mean, the stories are all true. He would throw his watch down and stomp it, which of course they were $10 watches or something that he bought.
Todd Jones: Oh, they were props. And yet, you were able to talk to him every day. That's just amazing when you think about it, because again, we don't have a chance to access to coaches and athletes like that today. But in those days you could just get into this long conversation with guys. I remember when I covered the Bengals and Sam Weiss was the coach, we ended up talking about news of the day and stock market.
Bob Hunter: Absolutely.
Todd Jones: And stuff that's going on over in Iraq. And they got to know you as people. I think that helped because they got to trust you and know where you're coming from. You weren't just another face in the crowd.
Bob Hunter: I'm really grateful that I covered all this stuff when I did.
Todd Jones: You covered Woody at the end though, right? I mean, you're in the last couple of years. He had the great ten-year war with Bo Schembechler at Michigan. Tell me a little bit about the end of Woody's tenure, and his relationship with Bo and Michigan.
Bob Hunter: Well, Bo and Woody actually loved each other. That was the dirty little secret that people didn't know. That came out more after they were both not coaching anymore, that this was really a close relationship. They obviously weren't calling each other and being buddies when they were competing against each other. But-
Todd Jones: But they really, really did love each other. I mean, one of my favorite stories about the relationship is the day before Woody died, he had his driver drive him to Dayton, Ohio, just so he could introduce Bo at a luncheon. And obviously Woody wasn't in good health. He died the next day, but he made a point to go all the way over from Columbus to Dayton, just to introduce his friend. And like you said, when they were coaching against each other, that couldn't come out. But it was there under the surface. Right?
Bob Hunter: It was there under the surface. And I don't know, the irascible nature of those guys is part of what made that ten-year war so great is. Because there was just all of this intrigue going on every ... I mean, Woody knew there were spies over in the faucet center, watching his practices, thought Michigan had spies up there in the building. Michigan Week, they would lock all the gates down. You couldn't go to practice. I couldn't go to practice during Michigan. Fact, I remember a week when Northwestern was so bad and everybody was just pounding them, I remember [crosstalk 00:12:39]. They're awful. They were just awful.
Bob Hunter: Every week was just 56 to nothing, 48 to nothing, whatever. I went over there, again, on a Sunday, they were playing Northwestern that week. And I said, "Coach, I've got to ask you about Northwestern." Woody says, "My dad told me if you can't say something good about somebody, don't say anything." It was like [inaudible 00:13:09]. It was like, really?
Todd Jones: Well, he had his principals. Right? Well, the thing about Woody obviously, is he had such tremendous success. He did so many great things, and unfortunately his tenure ended the way it did against Clemson, where he ends up slugging Charlie Bauman, the Clemson player on the sideline. Have your thoughts changed about Woody over the years, when you look back and you had a great experience of knowing him?
Bob Hunter: No. I see the downsides of Woody. I see the temper and some of the stuff. I mean, he was, as I say, couldn't get away with a lot of this stuff today that he did then. It was a different era. But after he was out a couple of years and he had this little office up there at OSU still, and one day I was standing in the newsroom at the Dispatch, late afternoon, I hate to say this, but probably getting ready to go next door and have a beer with some reporters or whatever.
Todd Jones: I detect a theme here.
Bob Hunter: And somebody in the newsroom there said, "Bob, the phone's for you. It's coach Hayes." It was like, coach Hayes? And I mean, I hadn't talked to him in two years or something. I took the phone and it was Woody. And he was at Riverside Hospital, I think. One of his former players was dying, and Woody called because he said, "I can't remember who it was, but so-and-so put with great guy, played for me. He's dying. I just want to make sure that you guys did a good job for him as he's really a good human being, and he's got a wife and a family. I was thinking like, "What?" It was out of the blue. But again, it was like Woody did these things for his former ... His former players loved him. The stories of him helping people get jobs, or helping people. Going out of his way for guys who maybe might have been a walk on his team for two years, never played.
Bob Hunter: And he heard the guys down and out. He goes out of his way for him. So, I mean, it's just like ... But again, you have the other side of him, which is the legend of tearing up downs markers and smart people.
Todd Jones: I mean, you forget that like all of us, they're flawed, they're people. We forget that, and I think sometimes they take on the status. You were fortunate with Woody. I had am experience with Bo Schembechler that I'm always going to treasure. First of all, I covered his last game at the Rose Bowl, for the [inaudible 00:16:18]. That was a great night. Young guy being at the Rose Bowl, watching Bo. He lost the Rose Bowl, which he always did. But at the end of his life, in that 2006 lead up to the number one versus number two, Ohio State, Michigan game, I went up to Michigan's game before they played the Buck Eyes and to cover and write about the Wolverines before the game.
Todd Jones: And at halftime, I ran into Gary Mueller, who later coached after Bo did. But I knew Gary from when he was an assistant coach with the Bengals. And I said, "Hey Mo. I hear Bo's here at the game." Bo had just had a heart attack about two weeks before. And Gary said, "You didn't hear from me, but he's down the hall on the third door. Knock on the door." So I went down and knocked on a door, and Bo was in there. He was wearing a fedora and his really smart jacket. He waved me in. I go in there, and for the entire halftime, it was just Bo and I, talking. He was just really in a whimsical mood. He was reminiscing. He was talking about Woody. He was talking about the days.
Todd Jones: I remember there's a punk rock band in Columbus called the Dead Chambers. And I even asked him about the Dead Chambers. We just had this conversation, and it just felt like it was meant to be. Wrote a column about it. And Bo died a week later. I ended up [crosstalk 00:17:47] his obit a week later. So when you have those type of moments, and you had them every day with Woody, it just gives you a perspective so that when they become almost like a cartoon character ... You had a perspective on Woody that you could understand the different layers to him, just like we all have different layers.
Bob Hunter: Yeah. It's a very good point. I mean, it's true. I mean, it is. Believe me, even as a young guy, when I was doing that, I knew this is going to be something I'm always going to remember. You're going to cover a lot of events and a lot of games, and a lot of coaches, and a lot of athletes. But it was like, okay, I was perceptive enough at that point to say, "Okay, this is not normal. This is not just your routine coach, who's doing whatever." And he still is. I mean, he's still got that status even all these years later.
Todd Jones: Some of the bigger moments that you covered involved baseball, and baseball was a big part of your career. You spent most of your career in Columbus obviously, but you covered the Cincinnati Reds for a long time. So because of that, you covered a lot of world series games as a baseball writer. Every paper would send its baseball writer to the world series. So when I think about some of the most memorable baseball moments, a lot of them happened in the late '80s. So you were there. You were there for the Buckner game, the Gibson home run, the earthquake. Those are moments that I can only imagine what it was like to cover some of that. Let's start with Buckner. Game six, the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox are at the New York Nets, and they're ready to clench their first championship in 6,000 years. What was it like in Shea stadium that night?
Bob Hunter: Well, it was crazy, but this was one of those sports writer World Series things where your ... I don't remember where my seat was, but wherever my real seat was ... I mean, what happens at the World Series, particularly in those old days, was that the press box isn't very big. The press box seats 30 or 40 people, or 50 people, or something, and you have way more writers than that. They do all these auxiliary boxes somewhere, and I don't remember where my auxiliary ... I was in an auxiliary box there. Oddly enough, at Fenway, I was in the main box at Fenway, but it wasn't in Shea stadium.
Bob Hunter: So wherever I was, there was no phones around, which was like, okay, I'm going to be on deadline. I got to be near a phone. So I camp in this press room behind the Mets press box, so it's like a very cramped little room with a whole bunch of us in there, with TVs.
Todd Jones: So you can't even see the field?
Bob Hunter: We can't even see the field. Trying to watch this game.
Todd Jones: You're watching the TV.
Bob Hunter: I'm watching on TV, in this little cramped ... Because I had the file. I mean, I probably sat and watched the first six innings from my seat, wherever that was. But when it got down to okay, deadlines coming up and I got to start filing these stories, I had to have access to phones, there were phones in this press room. So this game I'll never forget. I mean, for a long time I said this was the worst night of my life because I kept rewriting these stories and filing this. I think I wrote this story, we did, four or five times. File on these phones in this little room, and you've got somebody else ... You're elbow to elbow with ... You've been there. You know what it's like.
Bob Hunter: You're elbow to elbow with these people. People are yelling at each other and whatever, and you're trying to get this, "That's my phone. Give me that phone back." So yeah, I mean, that was just iconic game, I mean, a memorable game. But at the Dispatch, and this still exists, I understand. Our old sports center had this. They had a proof of the page, which was Red Sox win the pennant, win the World Series, because it was like before-
Todd Jones: Oh, yeah. They had to have a maze.
Bob Hunter: They had to have a maze. [crosstalkk 00:22:16] in the ninth inning or whatever. And this was before Buckner became a goat and the whole thing. And then of course, okay, tear that up. Except they saved that because it was like ... I've always told him, I said, "If you ever find that page, I want a copy of that page because it's got my story on it right there. And it's saying the Red Sox won, which of course, they didn't.
Todd Jones: So you didn't even get to see it in person. You were back in his tiny little room.
Bob Hunter: No. I was in this tiny little room.
Todd Jones: All hell's breaking loose.
Bob Hunter: Every time something like that happens, it's like the whole ... If you're in a press room like that, the whole room erupts in expletives. Like, oh, shit, are you kidding me? Because it's like, everybody's doing the same thing. You're trying to get this story. And it's like, oh, my God, I just filed that. So yeah, that was one that I didn't see. The Kirk Gibson, home run I did see.
Todd Jones: So you were at Dodger Stadium in 1988, game one of the World Series.
Bob Hunter: That was Dodger Stadium. And again, this time I also had the story written. [inaudible 00:23:28], I had to file this, and Kirk Gibson limps up there.
Todd Jones: What were you thinking? What were you thinking when you see him-
Bob Hunter: He had no chance. And I thought my story was fine. It was like, nothing's going to happen here. And he limps up there and he looks like, shit, really. He looks like crap. That was the only time I can never remember that ... I mean, he hit that home run to win that game, which of course blew up my story, totally blew up my story on deadline.
Bob Hunter: But I was so stunned by the way he looked, by this accomplishment. This guy who looks like a cripple just hit this game winning, home run. I just stood there with my mouth open, like, "Oh, my God. I don't believe it." It wasn't like, oh, shit, look what happened. My story's blew. It was the only time I can ever remember that happening where I was more in awe of the moment than I was, what happened to me. Because you and I have talked about this before. You're a writer on deadline, you're rooting for you. You're not rooting for the teams. People say, "Well, you don't ..." It's like, no. I've got to worry about what I'm doing.
Todd Jones: I was not there, but when I see replays that ... The thing, when a ball goes into right field, what I see is behind the stands, out in right field, you distinctly can see the red lights on the back of cars, of people who are leaving Dodger Stadium. Look for that next time you see [inaudible 00:25:10]. That's one of the most iconic moments in baseball history. What was it like when it happened?
Bob Hunter: I was stunned. I think most of the fans were stunned, I think most of the people were stunned. I don't think they would've been, if Kurt Gibson hadn't looked like he was totally incapable of doing that. I mean, the way he limped up there and the way he swung the bat, and all that, it looked like, why did they send this guy? You could've picked anybody on the roster and sent them up there, and it would've been better than this.
Todd Jones: I covered a few World Series in my time, lucky enough. One of my memories is I covered the World Series where the Red Sox did win it all, and they beat the Cardinals. So it's historic. But one of my memories is, like you said, the axillary press box. You're sitting in the stands. So I was literally in right field, surrounded by, me and several dozen writers are out there sitting in regular seats with little tables propped in front of us, surrounded by fans. And again, Saturday night, you're writing all these different versions. And I just remember trying to write while being heckled by the fans, because the fans kept chanting, "Media sucks. Media sucks."
Bob Hunter: I've been there.
Todd Jones: Because they were pissed that we had their seats, and they were sitting there chanting, "We'll take your laptops." So sometimes it's the memory of not actually what happened on the field, it's just behind the scenes that lingers in my own mind. But I want to wrap up with some more baseball talk. You started out in Hamilton, your hometown, which is near Cincinnati. You're a young guy in the 1970s. You actually got to cover some of the big red machine, Sparky Anderson, the manager, bench, Morgan Perez, Pete Rose. What was that like? For a young guy to be around one of the most historic baseball teams?
Bob Hunter: I got to be honest with you, for a while I was, I mean, pretty starstruck. I grew up as a big baseball fan. I played baseball in high school. I love baseball. The first time you're actually covering this and you're on the field, at the batting cage, with all these stars and all this stuff. It's like, wow, this is unbelievable. I'm in the dugout before the game and here, Sparky Anderson or whatever. It's pretty unbelievable, but you get over that fairly quickly because you're dealing with these guys. So you don't think too much of that. But I'm not sure I knew it at the time, but it's obviously one of the great teams in baseball history. There's no equivalent about that at all. And the characters there, Pete Rose is obviously a good example, but I was still in college, or maybe this is when I graduated in '73. And I worked the Hamilton Journal.
Todd Jones: University. They just told you to move on, right? They didn't give you the diploma.
Bob Hunter: After the Reds lost to the Mets in the playoffs, in '73, and that was a series where Pete Rose hit a home run. And he shook his fist at the crowd, and then [inaudible 00:28:39] all that. He shook his fist at the crowd and all that. So I'm at the Hamilton Journal then, but I've covered a lot of the games. I went down to Pete's house. This is in maybe December or November, or something, to just do some off season story. I called him up and he said, "Yeah, come on down."
Todd Jones: He lived in Indian Hill, right? In Cincinnati.
Bob Hunter: Yeah, he did. But he waves me in, we go in the house. We're in there for a few minutes, haven't even started to do the interview or anything yet. And the phone rings, and Pete goes over and picks up the phone. And he says, "I forgot. I forgot. God, dammit, I forgot. Why don't you have a fit because I forgot to pick you up?" He slams the phone down. He said-
Todd Jones: Who's he talking to?
Bob Hunter: Carolyn, his wife.
Todd Jones: His wife?
Bob Hunter: He says, "That was Carolyn. I was supposed to pick her up and I forgot." Okay. So we start to do an interview. A little while later, here comes Carolyn with PD. PD is-
Todd Jones: His son. Her son.
Bob Hunter: That's his son, who is maybe, I don't know, three or four, maybe. I don't know. I'd have to look it up. But he was a little kid, little tiny kid. Carolyn and Pete have a little squabble, and I'm talking to Pete, and little PD's here, running around. Pete says, "PD can hit him over the house. He can hit him over the house." And I'm like, "Okay." And he goes, "No, I pitched to him and he can hit home with that." And he says, "Can he, Carolyn??" She has Legos out, whatever. She just gives him the brush off.
Todd Jones: Right.
Bob Hunter: So Pete goes, "Come on, I'll show you." She's like, "Okay." So he takes Pete. We go out in his yard. I mean, we're talking late November maybe, earliest. It was cold out there. It's like 30 degrees out there, maybe. He turns on the lights and it's dark, turns on the lights in the yard. He stands little PD over there and starts throwing him whiffle balls or whatever he was throwing him. The first two, PD misses. And Pete goes, "This has never happened before. I don't know what's wrong. He's just bristling at this."
Todd Jones: So Pete's getting upset at his kid.
Bob Hunter: He finally throws one, and little PD whacks it over the house. Pete goes, "See? I told you he could do it," which was pretty amazing at that ... I'm like, "Oh, wow." So then we're going back in the house. And I remember Pete saying, "He plays because he likes it. I'm not pushing him." He says, "When he goes to high school, he's going to go to Elder, not Western Hills," which Elder of course was out in Price Hill area out there. West side is the Catholic school that had all this athletic powerhouse or whatever. He went to Western Hills. He wasn't pushing him, but this four year old kid was going to go to Elder. So yeah.
Todd Jones: Right.
Bob Hunter: I thought that was pretty amazing. plays because he likes it.
Todd Jones: Well, I met Pete late in his own ... He was the manager of the Reds when I met Pete, and it was just when the scandal started to erupt, the betting scandal. So you knew him all those years. You were at his house in the '70s, you covered all his games. You covered him as a manager. Pete just loved to talk baseball. Right? Every day you could just sit there and talk to Pete forever.
Bob Hunter: I tell people, because they always say, "What do you think of Pete Rose? It's like, well, I mean, in terms of his faults, he's not a great human being, obviously. He's done a lot of stuff that hasn't been admirable. But I said, "As a player and a manager, he was the best." When he was the manager, in those days, I had to have notes, a big notes package before every game. I had to go down there. You'd go down there, you get there three hours earlier, four hours early, spend all this time on the field and the manager's office. And the thing is some days stuff happens and some days it doesn't. So the days when nothing was happening, you always knew, well, I'll just go in the manager's office. Pete will fill this up.
Todd Jones: It doesn't always end well. And for Pete, it obviously did not end well.
Speaker 3: One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts, which have stained the game. And he must now live with the consequences of those acts.
Todd Jones: You were there every day. Did you think Pete bet on baseball? Were you surprised when that happened?
Bob Hunter: There's not really a lot about Pete that surprised me. I find it hard to believe that Pete would ever bet against his team. I don't believe Pete was doing anything that he thought was wrong. I think Pete thought, "So what if I bet on my team? I'm betting on my team." I mean to win or whatever, which I'm almost positive, I would definitely believe that Pete did that. I think if you look at Pete;s record since, with the casinos and the whole ... I mean, Pete's obviously made no secret about the fact that he likes to gamble.
Bob Hunter: So I think it's sad the way this has all worked out. I mean, I think if anybody is a player, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it would be Pete. But over the years, when you look at how it just all unraveled.
Todd Jones: Yeah. It's Shakespearean. It's just sad.
Bob Hunter: Just sad.
Todd Jones: Just sad. Because at that moment it felt like Pete Rose had become a human being, a person who made some really bad mistakes and now is going to pay a heavy price. And his family was being affected. It was just sad. It just humanized him. And I think if anything, what we talked about today, the idea that Woody Hayes or Bobby Knight or Pete Rose, these guys were humans, and all these people are. They have good things, bad things. They have insecurities, confidence. They're all over the map, just like we are as people. I think that's what I think about when I think about these iconic people. To sum up, have you learned anything when you look back at your own career, dealing with all these types of folks? Anything that you take with you now?
Bob Hunter: Well, I think you summed it up pretty well because I think the difference between what we do, what we did and just fans, is that we have had that opportunity to know these people, and see these people for all their positives and negatives. When you see these guys and you talk to them, fans don't have that opportunity. So they say, "Well, so and so is my favorite player," and they don't really know, was he a good guy or is he a creep or what's his ... Is he a humanitarian or is he a liar? Who is he?
Bob Hunter: And I think that has been, for me, the best part of my career. I look back on people, and I got a book of old columns called Players, Teams and Stadium Ghost. And I noticed after I picked these columns to put in this book, that a lot of the columns I picked were about players or athletes or coaches that I thought were genuinely good guys, that that was something that, well, this guy is a really ... Yeah, he's a good coach, but he's a really good guy. And I think, for example, it's a little bit off topic, but Lamar Hunt was the owner of the crew. And Lamar Hunt, of course, owned the Kansas City Chiefs, big oil family, really rich guy.
Todd Jones: Came up at the [crosstalk 00:36:31].
Bob Hunter: Exactly.
Todd Jones: That was his idea.
Bob Hunter: But he was just a genuinely nice guy, very down to earth guy. And it just struck me that this guy was fabulously, wealthy, famous, rich, and he was just a really down ... I'll give you an example. I went to interview him one day and he was here to visit the crew, the Columbus crew in the stadium one day. And I said, "Have you got a few minutes?" He said, "You know, Bob, I don't. I've got to get to the airport right no. If you want to ride in the car with me out to the airport, I'll talk to you on the way to the airport." And I said, "Okay." So the crew had this guy to drive him to the airport. And he said, "This guy, Bob, is going to come with us." I sit in the back with Lamar for 20 minutes out to the airport, and interviewed him in the backseat of this car.
Bob Hunter: Now if you're not a reporter or maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal, but you and I both know that most the people that you're trying to interview like that, they have an excuse not to be interviewed. They're going to say, "Hey, sorry, I got to go." Lamar was like, "Oh, hey. I don't have time to do it here, but if you want to get in the car and ride with me to the airport ..." To me, that stuck with me as far as, well, this guy is a really good guy. He's not a phony, and he's not struck by his own wealth and fame, or whatever. He's a down to earth guy.
Bob Hunter: That's what I say. With all these athletes, that's the same thing. That's why I say, those are the things that I took with me over the years. People that I really like because they were human beings and they were nice human beings. They weren't phony for the camera or there wasn't some secret agenda there that we didn't know about.
Todd Jones: Yeah. I think those folks are the ones who knew what writers and media people were doing. We were the conduits to the fans, to the people who really cared, and gave their heart and soul to the athlete or the coach or to team. So they knew that by talking to us, what they really were doing was talking to the fans because that's what was most important. It's been a great way to wrap it up. Bob, I think they flipped the lights on. I think the music has been stopped. Barkeep, barkeep. I think we better settle the tab here. We've gone on a little while, but it's been great to reminisce, and the stories. I treasure all the moments that we had together.
Bob Hunter: I appreciate you having me, Todd. Thank you.
Todd Jones: Thanks for listening to Press Box Access. If you've enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. We'd love for you to review us. Five stars would be nice. Follow us on social media, drop us an email, and be sure to spread the word. Everyone is welcome here. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcast. A special thank you to executive producers, Michael DeAloia and Gerardo Orlando, producer Sarah Willgrube, and our audio engineer, Dave Douglas. I'm your host, Todd Jones. It's closing time. Rock on.