Randy: I really enjoy sports, Mr. Summerall, so it's a pleasure to meet you.
Pat: Thank you.
Randy: I still play hockey, in fact, hoping to do that for a few more years. I remember when I was ten, we got a little reel-to-reel tape recorder and I practiced doing some Canadian football and hockey play-by-play. I sometimes thought I'd want to pursue that but I never did. I certainly enjoyed you as a broadcaster.
Pat: Thank you.
Randy: I read the book this week, On and Off the Air. How long of a process was it to get the book put together?
Pat: Actually, it's been a long time. Much longer than I thought it would be. I started the process because of the years of athletics and the years of broadcasting, there were a lot of stories. People kept saying to me, "You ought to write a book, you ought to write a book." And I kept thinking, "Okay, someday I will, but I don't want to embarrass anybody, I don't want to embarrass myself, and I don't want to do a book until I feel like I have something to say." I was in the process before 9/11, I happened to be in New York on 9/11 meeting with some publishing groups. We were in the Financial District, experienced being there during that tragedy, saw the second plane hit the building, hit the World Trade Center, went through watching people jump off the tower, commit suicide. That whole traumatic week in New York and the book just came to a halt. We had been working on it up until that time, then we quit. No one was interested that day, or during that period in publishing books, writing books, or buying books. So we stopped. And a couple years ago, I had a liver transplant, and came through that. After that, I felt like I had something to say to people that was worth retelling. So we did it again, and this is sort of the culmination.
Randy: We're going to talk about some of the sports a little bit later, but you're best known, of course, for the broadcast career which has been going on for many years. I wanted to mention was a couple broadcasters I've enjoyed as well as you. I lived in California for quite a few years. I'm actually Canadian, but I went to college down there. Of course, Chick Hearn was a legend with the Lakers.
Pat: Good friend.
Randy: Vin Scully with the Dodgers.
Pat: Also a friend with him for a number of years.
Randy: Great. In San Diego, we had Jerry Coleman, who was one of a kind.
Pat: Friend of mine also.
Randy: Great. Well those are some of the guys I enjoyed there. Was there any favorite broadcaster that you had that you never got to work with and wished you could have?
Pat: One time I had an idle moment--some meeting I was at--supposed to be paying attention to the meeting, but I started writing down all the people that I'd worked with. And it came up to be a 124 individuals. I never had a chance to work with Red Barber. I loved listening to Red Barber. So I guess he was sort of a....I wouldn't say an idol, but somebody that I looked up to. Somebody that I admired his work. Vin Scully, of course, has always been a bit of a hero and a friend. I enjoyed his work. Enjoyed his approach. I've been around him enough to see how he works, how hard he works.
Randy: Well, I'm sure there would be those who would draw parallels with both of you having an understated approach but being well-prepared. I can see the Scully similarities there.
Pat: I had the opportunity to work for Ray Scott for six years and I saw how meticulous he was, how careful he was about being correct, and the fact that he didn't have to be in a hurry to tell the story. It's more important that you be accurate, and that you know what you're talking about as well as you can. That was a good guy, good partner.
Randy: I wanted to go through just a couple of the stories from the book. Let's start with baseball--you had a couple interesting stories related to the Mick. One being his brothers and the other one being the problem with the paraplegics. I enjoyed both of those. Talk a little bit about the experience with his brothers.
Pat: I signed with the Cardinals, with the Cardinal organization. Played Class "C" baseball in Oklahoma with Mickey's two brothers. Twins. He was not a twin, but his brothers Roy and Ray were twins. They could run like the wind, as he could before he got hurt. It was a good experience. All of them were so fast that from the left-hand side of the plate, they were not as talented as the Mick, but it was almost impossible to throw them out.
Randy: Put the ball in play and they were going to get there.
Randy: How long did you play with them? Was that a couple seasons?
Pat: Two years. Two summers. I was playing football and basketball in college at the same time. So it was a full year. Mickey and I got to be very good friends over the years. Drinking buddies. He was with the Yankees and I was with the Giants. We shared the same locker, obviously not at the same time. We were just good friends.
Randy: It was interesting reading in the book about some of his last days where he made some peace with God.
Pat: Yes, he did.
Randy: You mentioned the story about the problems he had with the photographers. I enjoyed that in the book.
Pat: We were staying at the same hotel in New York. We had a dinner meeting. I came down early to go to the restroom, just around the corner. I went out the front door, they knew where he stayed. They were all kind of autograph-seekers and photographers, paparazzi, and what have you, in the lobby waiting for him and other celebrities to come out. So I had a heck of a time getting through the bodies and around the corner to the restroom. But there was a back way out. I was hoping, wishing that I had taken the back way out. So when Mickey finally got to the restroom, I said to him, "Mick, which way did you come out of the hotel?" He said, "I came out the back way." I said, "That's good. If you would have come out the front you would have taken a long time, because that lobby was full of people looking for autographs and pictures." He said, "You mean those paraplegics?" I thought, "I didn't see anybody in a wheelchair, anybody crippled in the lobby." He said, "Yeah, those paraplegics..." He said, "I got one of them one, I got him with a good shoulder and good elbow and knocked him down on the street." I'm thinking, "My God. Why, you hit a guy in a wheelchair?" And the person that was with us was listening to him tell the story, and he said, "No, no, no, no, no. He doesn't mean paraplegics. He means paparazzi." That was typical of Mick. He would say things.
Pat: Without meaning to.
Randy: Well, golf, you spent a lot of time in the golf world as well, and I just wondered if you had a favorite moment from your broadcast career, something that sticks out as being your favorite moment of calling.
Pat: Everyone thinks when you watch golf broadcast that there's nothing to it, but golf actually is the most difficult. I'm sure everyone that's been in golf broadcasting has a way of preparing, so we would, at CBS, go to the practice putting green early in the morning and see how the golfers were dressed and check their mannerisms and what have you on the practice tee and on the putting green and talk with them if we had a chance. Not to bother them. When you see them at a distance, you can rely on a spotter, and we often did, but it's better if you know how they're dressed and you know their mannerisms from a distance because you never know when you're going to be on camera, you never know where the action is, it's all over the eighteen holes. You don't know when they're coming to you, but you have to be ready at all times. That's part of the procedure. It's a three-hour broadcast, but you have to be ready for every minute of the three hours because you never knew when they were switching the cameras.
Randy: The waiting's probably tougher than when you actually know you're on.
Pat: Probably. In fact, I'm sure it is. But the worst thing that can happen to you is to get a rain shower, because you've checked how they dressed. Red shirt, black pants, whatever, and it starts to rain, and they all get rainsuits out and they all look alike. That's when you have to know them by their mannerisms, how many waggles they take, things of that sort. That's difficult. That's why I think golf is the most difficult sport. We got to know probably on a personal basis, the golfers better than any other sport, because they're there, they're readily available, most of them are willing to talk and share their story with you. I remember I was playing with Jack Nicholas at a Pro Am at Doral, and I knew Jack. I'd been around him from broadcasting. I knew him. I wouldn't say he was a close friend, but he was a close acquaintance. We played about five holes. We were on the fifth hole, I was getting ready to get a shot. Jack was standing next to me, and he said, kind off on the side of his mouth, he said, "You don't get a chance to play very much, do you?" And I thought, "You son of a gun. What do you mean by that?" He said, "Well you don't even know how to line up." I said, "Why don't you help me?" So, he did. He said, "Here's what you're doing wrong..." That's the way you find most of them. Willing to cooperate, willing to help.
Randy: Free golf lessons from Jack Nicholas.
Pat: Yep. Yep.
Randy: That's hard to beat.
Pat: That is hard to beat.
Randy: I enjoyed the little comment you had about the guy complaining about the saying "In golf, they only have patrons and debris, they don't have junk and garbage."
Pat: At Augusta. The announcer who said that was barred from Augusta because he said that you could see the crew pick up the garbage, and they don't have garbage at Augusta, only debris, and there is no mob at Augusta, there are only patrons.
Randy: Did you get a chance to see The Greatest Game Ever Played?
Pat: I have seen it.
Randy: That was very enjoyable.
Pat: Yes, it was.
Randy: Well, let's move on to the big one: football.
Randy: First of all, talk a little bit about your career. Before I was born--I was born in '60--'58 was a couple years before my time, but that was probably your greatest moment in the NFL. Just describe that scenario a little bit for my son. He likes history and football, but doesn't go back quite as far.
Pat: Vince Lombardi was one of our assistant coaches. Tom Landry was an assistant on the same team, and the head coach was Jim Lee Howell. We had to beat the Browns to get into the championship game, the greatest game ever played, supposedly, the overtime game against the Colts, we had to beat the Browns. A tie would do us no good. We had to win. We were tied 10-10 with time running out. I had missed a field goal from about 35 yards out, much to the abuse, but encouragement also at the same time of my teammates who said, "Come on, come on, we're going to get you another chance." We're close to midfield, and the head coach, Jim Lee Howell said, "Okay, field goal team, let's try it." I remember Lombardi particularly said, "He can't kick it. It's too far out. He just missed from 35 yards." I got to the huddle. The quarterback, who was my holder on field goals as well as quarterback, looked at me in the huddle and said, "What the heck are you doing in here?" I said, "They sent me out to kick a field goal; what do you think I'm doing in here?" He just sort of shook his head, which is not the way to build confidence, but I got a great hold and good snap from the center, made the field goal, and when I got back to the sideline, the first person I met was Lombardi. He grabbed me and hugged me and I thought he was going to say "Great kick", "super", or whatever. But he said, "You son of a gun, you can't kick it that far." So that was my congratulations.
Randy: In Denver, we think of great kicks involving clearing snow off.
Randy: Remember the infamous game here?
Randy: My son enjoys EA Sports football, you talked a little bit about you and John working on that, but I really enjoyed the Super Bowl XVI headset story. So if you wouldn't mind sharing that a little bit for our readers.
Pat: Well, whatever the reason, John Madden doesn't like a still photographer. Television camera's okay, but still photographer he says, "Somebody's looking into my soul, and I don't like people looking into my soul." Anyway, he upset because CBS had sent a still photographer into the booth to get some publicity pictures. He didn't like that, so he was upset. At any rate, the procedure was I would ask him two questions we had rehearsed and rehearsed for Super Bowl XVI. For us conversationally, it was a two-shot, both of us on camera, then when I ask him the second question, they would come into a single shot of him, get off me while I would turn around and looked at the field, see the toss of the coin, and put on my game headset. We had rehearsed it and rehearsed it until we were comfortable.
The time came for us to go on the air and start the Super Bowl, and we did, I said hello, greeted, and introduced both him and me, and asked him my questions and everything was going smoothly. And after I asked him the second question, they came in for a single shot of him. I started looking for my headset, and cover the toss of the coin, get the game started, but I couldn't find my headset. There's an adage in television that if you can't find what you're looking for, just follow the cable, and it'll lead you to it. So I started following the cable, and it leads me to John's rear end. And I realize, he didn't realize what was going on, but he's talking to millions of people on the beginning of the Super Bowl, and I start tugging on the headset. And I can't get it out from under him. He weighed about 340 at the time, and I can't get it out. So the stage manager sees what I'm doing, and he thinks I've lost my mind, but we had a spare headset, so he gave me the spare headset, and that's the way I started the game. But I had the one that I liked and the one that was correctly tuned, as you know the audio can sometimes do strange tricks, but anyway, I started the game with a backup headset. And John finished his question. He thought in the meantime that I had lost my mind, and I said, "You've been sitting on my headset." Well, by the time it gets out from under him, it doesn't fit my head anymore. I finally got it straightened out so that I could where it during the game until halftime when we got a longer break and we could get it back into somewhat reasonable shape. Believe me, you don't want John Madden sitting on your headset for any period of time.
Randy: Those are all fun stories of course, but the reason your here at the Christian Booksellers' ICRS is that there's a faith aspect to your story that came later in life, and I want to talk about that a little bit, what it was like being somewhat older than the other kids being baptized that day, and just recount a little about how you came to faith and that story.
Pat: Well, I think I'd have to go back and say both in a football career as an athlete and in broadcasting, I became a success so quickly without taking time to thank God or to thank anybody. I just figured I had done it all by myself. I became very self-centered, and in the meantime I also became an alcoholic. I went to the Betty Ford Center to see if I could get over the addiction to alcohol, and I did, fortunately. I'm eternally grateful.
While I was there, they allowed you to read two books. One was an Alcoholic's Anonymous book, the Bible of AA, which is a collection of stories about people who had ruined their lives through alcohol or some other substance abuse, and that just told me stories of things I had done myself. I got tired of reading those stories, so the other book they allowed you to read was the Holy Bible. So I started reading the Bible, and I started to question some of the things I had done, and I started to wonder where my power to make the right decisions, the guidance, had come from, and I began to realize there was a higher power, faith in Christ, and acceptance of Christ, was a pretty good solid guide to my conscience. There were a lot of questions that weren't answered, that I didn't answer in my own life, but there were a lot of things that stimulated the desire to find out more about what faith was all about, what being a Christian was all about. So I left the Betty Ford Center full of questions.
And a couple of weeks after I got out of the center, I was at that house outside Dallas, and my wife was a member of the Baptist church, in Euless, Texas, a small town between Dallas and Ft. Worth, and the pastor from that church came to our house for a meeting, and in the course of that meeting, I asked him some of the questions that had come to my mind during the stay at the Betty Ford Center, when I was reading Scripture, and one thing led to another, and I asked him after a couple hours of visiting, I asked him what it was like to be baptized. He said, "You've never been baptized?" I said, "No, I was sprinkled as a child, obviously I don't remember anything about it," so I said to him, "Will you baptize me?" I was sixty-four years old at the time or sixty-six. I'm not sure which. I was too old, anyway. He said, "I think it's unusual, but I think we can do it." So two weeks later, I was in the baptismal tank, about that deep in water, and everyone else in the tank was about this big, and here I am, 6'5", and the pastor was sort of a smaller man, and I began to wonder, "If I go down in this water, is he going to be able to get me out of there?" It turned out he had no problem, but the feeling I had that day, and I don't want to sound like I became a Christian because I was baptized, the physical act of baptism is not what did it, but the feeling that I had, the recognition that there was a higher power, recognition that I had accepted Christ, that I had faith in the church and in Christ, and that he more importantly, had accepted me into his life, into his house. I felt like I was bigger, smarter, healthier...everything. I just never had a feeling like that in my life. I knew immediately what it was like to be reborn, born again, whatever the phrase is, and I realized...I think I realized before that there was a higher power, but during that time I think I really accepted the fact that somebody had their hand on my shoulder, and somebody was guiding me to make the right decisions, and I wasn't responsible for my success. The Holy Spirit, God the Father was responsible for my success.
Randy: I want to talk about one other aspect, and that is what you alluded to earlier, the liver transplant and some of your work with the organ donor situation, getting to meet the family of the donor. Just share a little bit about that aspect.
Pat: Meeting the family of the donor...donor families don't always want to meet the recipient, because it's just reliving a tragic time in their life, as you can imagine, and the Mayo Clinic where my transplant operation was done...after six months, if it looks like it's going to be successful, they ask you to write a letter to the family of the donor. Not saying who you are, not saying what you've done, not saying anything about where you live, not anything, but saying what you would miss if you didn't get, in my case, the liver. Birthdays, anniversaries, important events in your life, and you don't sign it. You just say, "thank you, God bless you." Anonymous letter. They deliver that to the family of the donor, and if they want to meet the recipient, they let it be known to the medical clinic, and they arrange a meeting. At first, the family I understand, did not want to meet me, didn't want to know anything about me. Then as time passed, they decided, "I'd like to know what happened to my son's liver." So, they arranged a meeting. The donor was from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Ironically, I went to the University of Arkansas, the college, so I knew a lot of people in the state. The meeting was arranged in Little Rock, my wife and I went. And I had prepared for Super Bowls, Masters Tournaments, US Open Tennis Championships, every big sporting event that I've ever--the NBA, everything I'd ever done, but I could not...there was no way I could prepare for this meeting. I just couldn't think of what to say. "God bless you, thank you, and I'm alive because of you." Well, when we got to the meeting, with the husband and the wife, the mother and the father of the donor, who was thirteen years old, an African-American...she hugged me and grabbed me and hugged me and after a long hug, she said, "I feel like I'm hugging my son." We all were in tears, and all I could think of was "God bless you," and "thank you." Just one of those moments that...what an impact! I'll never forget that. And we've become I wouldn't say close friends, but friends since then. We stay in touch, we talk on occasion since then. It's become a great relationship.
Randy: As I understand, you've been doing some organ donor awareness work.
Pat: Yeah. Whatever they ask me to do, I do if I can.
Randy: Just the fact that you can do it, right?
Pat: Yeah. It's a miracle. They told me I had eighteen minutes to live if I didn't get the liver.
Randy: What year was that?
Pat: Two years ago.
Randy: It's been a long eighteen minutes.
Pat: (laughs) Yeah. I just went back, just got through with the Mayo Clinic, a yearly examination and evaluation. I still take anti-rejection medicine. I will the rest of my life, but I feel as good as I've felt in years.
Randy: Great. Thank you so much for your time, it was a pleasure to meet you.
Pat: Thank you.
Randy: I enjoyed it.
Pat: Thank you very much.
Thanks to Michael Brandt for transcribing this interview.