You’ve kind of waited too long for this. Write the book, get it all off your chest and make sure your family and friends get a copy, that is what Tom Ryther said author Dick Bruton told him.
And get it off his chest Ryther does in his memoir “The Hummelsheim Kid: The Amazing Story of a Broadcast Journalist.”
Hummelsheim Kid? “I grew up on this tiny dead-end street in St. Louis that I think formed the kind of person that I am. I’m an honest guy, I’m a competitor.”
Ryther came to Minnesota in 1971 and worked seven years at KSTP-TV. Then he went to work for NBC in Cleveland and New York, where his colleagues included Al Roker and Bryant Gumbel. “But I missed my kids so badly,” the thrice married Ryther told me. “Channel 11 had offered me a job and it was a chance to get back here to my kids and move my mom and dad up here from St. Louis so I’d have the whole family together. It was great!”
In school, Ryther (who appears to seldom forget a slight) wasn’t exactly encouraged to pursue a career in words.
“[I’m a] graduate of the University of the Missouri School of Journalism. My high school English teacher told me I could never pass college English. I have 15 hours of A’s in college English,” he laughed. “There you go, Mrs. Duchek! I loved her, she was a good teacher.”
I asked Strib sports colleague Patrick Reusse why he was disliked by Ryther. Reusse vaguely remembered making a joke, in a column a long, long time ago, about Ryther not breaking as many scoops as the TV guy claimed. Ryther told me something similar but he had additional beefs: “Reusse is a fantastic baseball writer but the way he disparages athletes, I don’t like that. He could never have been a very decent athlete himself. There have got to be other ways [to write about an athlete’s failures]. And then he’s taken some shots at me, like ‘Get out of town’ he wrote a couple times.”
In his book, Ryther delivers “a little shot” at Reusse and much harder blasts to other local media. “Look, I’ll stand by every word I wrote, OK,” said Ryther. This is the second part of a two-part interview.
Q: Are some people, not me of course, going to say this book is mean?
A: I know what you are talking about — I think you’re probably talking about what I write about Sid Hartman. Sid Hartman tried to get me fired for 22 years, all because I wouldn’t kneel at his altar. [“No,” said Sid. “Had nothing to do with him. He’s still alive?”] We just didn’t like each other from the get-go. He called up Stanley Hubbard numerous times [to get me fired]. [“Baloney,” said Hubbard Broadcasting CEO Stanley Hubbard, when asked for comment. “Not once. I’ve known Sid forever. No, that did not happen.”]
Then when I went to work for NBC, he got his sportswriter buddies in Cleveland and they were writing bad things about me before I went on the air. Then I came back to KARE 11, he [Hartman] was calling Gannett, talking to the general manager [at KARE 11] trying to get me fired. C.J., I cannot be friendly to somebody I don’t like or respect. I just stay away from them. I did “The Bud Grant Show” for seven years with KSTP. Sid was bad-mouthing me at a news conference. So I walked over to him, that was the first time I ever met him, I said, “You know, if you’ve got something to say about me, say it to my face.” That was the beginning of our sour relationship.
Q: When was the last time you laid eyes on Sid?
A: Long time ago. I think it was in the press box at a Twins game. I’ve been off the air since 1992.
Q: And your attitude toward Sid has not mellowed?
A: Let me tell you, he’s 99 years old and he’s still up there trying to do the job. My hat’s off to him, bald head and all. [Here Ryther doffed his baseball cap.]
Q: You said KARE 11’s Paul Magers was the cat’s pajamas. Why?
A: Not in the beginning. But look at these guys [Paul and his big brother Ron Magers, an anchor at KSTP, who left here for a big career in Chicago], how good they are. They both took their stations to No. 1. Ron took KSTP. We were way behind in the ratings to Dave Moore and WCCO, a great station, but we moved into No. 1. When I was with Ron we had a 51 share of the audience, a national record that’ll never be beaten because of all the different sources to get news these days. Then Paul Magers came to town, took us [KARE 11] from a distant second place to No. 1. They earned kind of being into themselves, completely.
Q: Do you think you have gotten everything off your chest at this point?
A: Yeah, really. I’m really happy for 81 and living a dream for 36 years. When I first got into broadcasting, broadcasters had to have voices real low. My voice is alive, but it’s not a real deep voice. I was pretty lucky. I even did cut-ins with the unbelievable Don Imus in Cleveland. Try that for a little test every day.
Q: You refer to yourself as a punk pitcher. Why?
A: I was a mean little devil out there. I was a lefthander. I had a really good curveball and a fastball that moved all over the plate. My shortstop, Sonny Siebert, went on to pitch in the big leagues. Sonny’s my idol and I love him like a brother; he threw a no-hitter. We’ve known each other since fifth grade. But I did win our senior year Most Valuable Player Award.
Q: How many books have you sold?
A: I’d say right now about 50. I’m not going to make a dime off it. I want my publisher to make some money. I’ve been going to book signings and I love meeting people and it’s starting to sell. No way I make money. Oh, I’m not in it for that.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.