Today is Dave Ward's big anniversary. He has now officially been the anchor of KTRK abc13 for 50 years. See the Guinness World Record photo below.
I've heard some argue, if you were going to have a Mount Rushmore of Houston TV anchors Dave Ward would be a face, and so would Ron Stone and Steve Smith. Ward talks about those fellow anchors and his time travelling with the Houston Oilers, a job he says he would have gladly paid to do (and based on the salary, that was almost true).
Mike McGuff: All right, obviously, Dave Ward, still on the air, but I think people will associate, two competitors with you, Ron Stone and Steve Smith, from Channel 2 [KPRC] and Channel 11 [KHOU], respectively. What was your relationship with, like with them?
Dave Ward: Very good. Both of them left. Ron Stone was on Channel 11 when I was at KNUZ. And Steve Smith was on Channel 2. They both left. Ron Stone went to New York and Steve went to Pittsburgh.
They were both gone about a year, and then they both came back. Only Ron Stone came back to Channel 2. Steve Smith came back to Channel 11, and I think I remember making some, some wisecrack on the air about, "Well, welcome back guys. It's just hard to tell where you are now," or something like, you now.
And Stone told me he went to work for NBC Radio News in New York. And he said, "David, I got there. I went down to Rockefeller Center, my first day I did my first radio newscast on the air, and signed off, 'Ron Stone, NBC Radio News,'" and he said, "I was ready to come home then." But it took him about a year to get back.
Ron and I worked together on the Houston Oiler radio crew for about eight years, from about '72 to about '80. Ron Stone and Ron Franklin were with us and we had some great times. We went to home and away [games], we flew with the team on the Oiler charter. And I got to know all of those guys real well.
I'll remember one game in Cleveland, Ohio, late in the season. It had to be in December, freezing cold. The visiting radio booth was on the roof of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, right out on the edge of that roof. So we had to sit on bar stools and look almost straight down at these guys running around, you know, 200, 300 feet below us there.
Well, that wind coming off of Lake Erie, it was brutally cold up there. Ron Stone had to read a disclaimer before every game, "The announcers for today's game are hired by and paid by the Houston Oilers." And that day he said, "The announcers for today's game are hire by and paid by the Houston Oilers, but not nearly enough to be up here in this freezer."
I mean, you set your coffee down, and if you didn't move it for five minutes or so, it's frozen.
Dave: It was about zero degrees that day.
Uh, we had all kinds of experiences and going to, on those Oiler trips. I remember defensive tackle Elvin Bethea, Hall-of-Famer. He always sat on the very back row of the plane. He did not like flying, and he had heard, someone had told him, "Well, the very back of the plane, that's the safest place," so he always sat at the very back.
They put us, the radio crew and sports writers and stuff, on the back left side of the plane. The players were on the right side of the plane. And Elvin, he'd come walking down that aisle carrying his stuff, and he'd look and he'd see us back, and he'd say, "Well, I see the riff-raff are with us again." We were the riff-raff to Elvin. I got to know Elvin Bethea real well. He's a real friend.
I started doing the statistics. I didn't say anything on the radio. I just kept a full set of statistics for the play-by-play, Ron Franklin, and the color, Ron Stone. And I started doing that, I was in Denver at a game. Ron Franklin did the play-by-play, and Dan Lovett did the color back then, when Dan was still with us there at Channel 13.
And I just kept a rudimentary. I sat up in the broadcast booth with 'em and kept some basic statistics for 'em. Well, [the Houston Oilers general manager] was sitting in the booth for the last quarter of the game. And when we signed off, both Franklin and Lovett turned to him and said, "You oughta put Dave on the crew to keep stats for us. That really helped. He kept a pretty good set of stats, and it added to the broadcast."
And, [the GM replied], "Yeah, OK. Dave, would you like to do that?" And I said, "Sure." They paid me 15 bucks a game, $15 a game, but I went to every Oiler game that they played, home and away. I would have paid Bud Adams 15 bucks to get to do that.
Mike: So you were just a big fan of the, of the NFL and, and the Oilers?
Dave: Sure, oh, yeah. That was back in the "Luv Ya Blue" era. I saw every game, uh, Bum Phillips coached, every game Earl Campbell played, every game Dan Pastorini played.
Mike: So here you were, Dave Ward, Eyewitness News, but you weren't even on the radio with 'em at this point, you were just there behind the scenes...
Dave: No, I was just keeping stats. But, they made a, a little bit out of it. You know, you've got Dave Ward, the anchorman from Channel 13, Ron Stone, the anchorman from Channel 2, and Ron Franklin, the sports anchor from Channel 11. We had all three channels in the same broadcast booth, and they, they didn't make a big deal out of it, but it was unique.
Mike: I guess Bob Allen was on those flights with you, covering for the...
Dave: A few of 'em. Sometimes, yeah. After Lovett left and went to New York, then Ron Stone became the color guy, and that's when we had all three, stations represented. But, yeah. Bob or a reporter, sports guy, would make a lot of those away trips, yeah.
Mike: How have you taken Bob Allen's passing away?
Dave: He was with me on the air for 38 and a half years there at Channel 13. And, he had that horrible cancer. Battled that cancer for about two years before it finally killed him, bless his heart. He was a good guy. He was good on the air.
Mike: Were you friends off, off the air?
Dave: Oh, yeah. Yeah, very much so. Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Dave Ward will leave abc13 KTRK December 9th, 2016.
To follow Dave Ward after he leaves KTRK abc13, like Dave Ward's Houston.
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- Dave Ward's father did not want him working at KTRK and other stories
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FULL COVERAGE: Dave Ward 50 Years KTRK abc13