Baseball is often a gift from a parent to a child. In Andy Mohler’s case, his love for the game came from a surprising source.
“The fire was lit by my mother, believe it or not,” said Mohler, a 1984 graduate of Illinois State University’s School of Communication. “Dad was not a sports guy.”
Since 1989, Mohler has been the lead sports producer at KSDK, the NBC television affiliate in St. Louis. He’s responsible for the station’s daily sports content, “the candy store of the newscast,” as he says.
The last two years, he’s produced an award-winning weekly show called This Week in Cardinals Nation, which has been described as bringing fans the lighter side of baseball. It’s one reason he’s able to say, “A huge part of my life revolves around baseball.”
And, it’s a reason he said he puts stock in the old cliché: “Get a job you love doing, and you never work a day in your life,” adding that it turned out exactly that way for him.
Shortly after graduating Illinois State, Mohler landed a part-time job in the circulation department at his hometown newspaper, the Alton Telegraph. Later that summer, he got a pretty good break when an opportunity came up at KSDK. But he worked for free—literally without pay—for about a year working a day or two, sometimes three days per week. Eventually that turned into a full-time, paying job, making him the rarest of media types who stay at one place for three decades.
Mohler is encyclopedic enough on his own, but he has a first-rate archive at his disposal that he makes good use of. He loves the historical stuff, and one of his favorite things these days is picking through the station’s archived footage. He used a bunch of film from the ’64 season when the Phillies collapsed, and the Cardinals won on the last day of the season as the basis for a show that was nominated for an Emmy.
He also does essays—long-form historical and perspective pieces—that run on KSDK.com. And, he’s made a few trips to spring training. A highlight was meeting the late Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck.
“He would sit in a chair and shoot the breeze,” Mohler said. “He was very generous and genuine, Mr. Buck.”
Mohler recalls fondly Illinois State faculty members Dwight Brooks and Deb Lesser. He said the late Wayne Weber “was a really good instructor who corrected my writing by saying I was too young to have a style, but he didn’t crush me.”
But his interest in broadcasting goes back well before college.
“As a kid I had a transistor radio under my pillow—secretively,” Mohler said. “I liked the music of the day, but I was nerdy enough that KMOX Sports Open Line and the great stable of broadcasters they had really had an impact on me.”
He’d listen to the popular Jim White and a young Bob Costas while he was going to sleep. Not too many years after, he would come to know some of the people behind those signature voices that had come crackling through the night air on the AM dial. Eventually his radio would need fresh batteries, and he’d have to ask his dad for more.
“My dad would say, ‘You sure go through the batteries,’” Mohler said. “I think he knew.”
Training in the ways of Cardinals baseball fandom came early and often. The soundtrack to Mohler’s childhood featured a familiar voice to most folks living in the middle of the country.
“I remember my mom had a radio tuned to KMOX, and we’d listen to Harry Caray,” he said of his early years listening religiously to his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.
Sadly, when Mohler was just 8 years old, he lost his mother.
“I miss her every day, but she left me many lasting gifts,” he said.
Among the precious mother-to-son legacies that Joy Mohler bequeathed to her boy, baseball remains a favorite. The game is, as Andy Mohler describes it so well, a part of his DNA.
John Moody can be reached at jemoody2@IllinoisState.edu.