Willie Mays

It’s September 29th. And on September 29th, 1954, a young baseball player made a name for himself with a defensive play that to this day remains one of the greatest ever.

It was the first game of the 1954 world series, between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. Playing center field for the Giants that day at the Polo Grounds was the young Willie Mays.

In the eighth inning of a tie game, Vic Wertz of the Indians came to the plate. He lofted a Fly ball to deep center field, and maze made a heroic run for it. With his back to home plate, Mays reached up and caught the ball over his shoulder.

The play was so amazing that to this day, it is usually simply referred to as The Catch.

In the years that followed, maze quickly established himself as a superstar, not only for his ability to smash home run after home run, but his speed on the bases, he was so fast, he was actually run out from under his cap. More on that in the interview you’re about to hear…

In 1988 Willie Mays finally wrote his autobiography, and that’s when I had the chance to meet him.

First, a little context. You’ll hear a reference here to Willie Mays being banned from baseball. What? Yes, in 1980, the commissioner banned Willie Mays because he had signed a deal with and Atlantic City casino, to be a greeter and autographed signed her. He was eventually reinstated.

Also, this interview took place at a time when the Baltimore Orioles, under the managerial leadership of Frank Robinson, we’re having a horrible year.

And we did this interview just a few weeks before the historic first ever night game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

So here now, from 1988, Willie Mays.

Willie Mays is 90 now. He’s been in the Hall of Fame since 1979.

Ralph Cooper

In 1935, a young actor, screenwriter, and dancer had an idea.

He started a weekly amateur night competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, in New York City. And before long, Ralph Cooper and his amateur night at the Apollo became a major influence in Black Entertainment.

Over the next five decades, Cooper’s amateur night made hundreds of previously unknown performers into Stars.

I met Ralph Cooper in 1991, when he wrote A Memoir of his many years at the Apollo.

So here now, from 1991, Ralph Cooper.

Ralph Cooper died in 1992, at the age of 84.

Penn Jillette

Remember those ads in the back of magazines and comic books back in the day, promising to show you how to do tricks that will Amaze your family and friends?

Well, fast forward to the 1990s, when magicians Penn & Teller start revealing a few of the old magician’s tricks. And then, in 1992, they actually wrote a book of their own, called Penn & teller’s how to play with your food.

And that’s when I had the chance to meet the talking half of the duo, Penn Jillette.

And something happened during this interview that has never happened before, and has never happened since. Was it something Penn Jillette put together, as a practical joke?

So here now, from 1992, Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette is 66 now. Penn and Teller remain one of the most popular acts in Las Vegas.

Bill and Susan Hayes

If you were a regular viewer of NBC’s popular soap opera Days of Our Lives in the 1970s and 80s, you know instantly who I’m talking about when I simply say Doug and Julie.

Actress Susan Seaforth joined the cast in 1968, followed by Bill Hayes two years later. And 4 years after that, their on-screen romance turned into reality, when they married in real life.

And while Bill and Susan Hayes have lived happily ever after, unfortunately the same was not true for Doug and Julie. Oh yes, they suffered the usual soap opera tribulations, but then in the mid-1980s, MBC decided to take it soap operas – including Days of Our Lives – in a new, much younger Direction.

Doug and Julie – I mean, Bill and Susan Hayes – were fired.

I met them in 2006, when they wrote a dual autobiography called like Sands Through The Hourglass.

So here now, from 2006, Bill and Susan Hayes.

Bill Hayes is 96 now. Susan Seaforth Hayes is 78. And both still appear from time to time on Days of Our Lives.

Peggy Noonan

In the mid-1980s one of President Ronald Reagan’s favorite speechwriters was the talented wordsmith Peggy Noonan.

She crafted some of Reagan’s most impressive speeches, including the one he delivered on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, as well as his televised message to the nation after the Challenger disaster in 1986.

And then, working with the presidential campaign of Vice President George HW Bush, Noonan came up with even more phrases that have stuck in our memories.

Along the way, Noonan became an accomplished speaker in her own right, and in 1998, wrote a book to help others facing the prospect of speaking in public.

She and I had many conversations over the years, of which this was one. So here now, from 1998, Peggy Noonan.

Peggy Noonan is 71 now, and still writes, speaks, and is often seen on TV. And, I suspect, she still gets butterflies or stomach.

Jim Bakker

In the 1970s and 1980s, perhaps no one was more popular on Christian television than Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

Founders of the PTL club, and later the Heritage USA Christian theme park, the Bakkers also espoused a Theology of prosperity. God wanted you to do well financially, they told us.

But in the 1980s it came out that the Bakers were prospering a little bit too much off of the donations their viewers had set in. And after Jim Bakker was accused of sexually assaulting Church secretary Jessica Hahn, prosecutors moved to charge him with fraud.

Bakker was convicted, and in 1989 was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

But powerful allies, including famed defense attorney Alan dershowitz, came to Bakker’s Aid, and he was eventually paroled in 1994.

But not before Tammy Faye divorced him.

2 years after his release from prison, Bakker wrote a book based on things he says he learned about the Bible while in prison. The book was called I was wrong.

So here now, from 1996, my conversation with the Reverend Jim Bakker:

Jim Bakker is 81 now. He is still seen by millions on TV on The Jim Bakker Show with second wife Lori Bakker. Tammy Faye also remarried — she died in 2007 at age 65.

Mary Tillman

Recently the 20-year war in Afghanistan came to an end. Have his given all of us time to reflect on those two decades.

We also remember the 23 hundred or so US servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan.

One of them, in particular, drew public attention. Then-27 year-old Army Ranger, and former NFL star, Pat Tillman was killed in 2004.

But that tragedy was compounded when the Pentagon apparently attempted to cover up the circumstances of his death.

Mary Tillman on C-SPAN

It eventually was revealed that he was killed by a so-called “friendly fire.”

A few years later, Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, wrote a book about her son and her fight with the Pentagon. And that’s when I met her.

So here now, from 2008, Mary Tillman:

Pat Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

You may also like these episodes:
Winnie SmithAdm. Elmo Zumwalt
091521 Mary Tillman

Micky Dolenz

Micky Dolenz in upper right. Photo: NBC Television

Fifty years ago this week, NBC TV introduced America to four young men who would change the way music and television interact.

Looking to capitalize on the humongous an ongoing success of the Beatles and so many other groups,NBC assembled a team of four actors who also happened to have musical talent: Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and, of course, Micky Dolenz who, years before, actually started in a short-lived series called Circus Boy.

After The Monkees premiered something strange happened. It wasn’t clear whether this was a TV show about musicians or musicians doing a TV show ,, or something in between.It was a strange and new hybrid that actually frightened some people in the entertainment industry.

The Monkees — the musical act — became a phenomenon, with concert tours and records. And a hit TV show.

In 1993, Micky Dolenz wrote about all that in a memoir. That’s when I met him.

So here now, from 1993, Micky Dolenz.

Micky Dolenz is 76 now. He is touring this fall with Mike Nesmith, in what they’re calling the last tour for the group. They’ll be on the road until November.

You may also like these episodes:
David Cassidy Sonny Bono

Lisa Beamer

On that terrible day 20 years ago, September 11th, 2001, countless Heroes emerged.

Some wore police, fire, or military uniforms.

Some will be forever anonymous.

But many were just ordinary Americans. Like Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard United Airlines flight 93.

Their plane was already in the air that morning when the other planes went into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And as the passengers learned what was happening, terrorists took over there playing. And soon, a group of passengers formed a bold and audacious plan to take over the plane and support the terrorist plot to slam that playing into the US Capitol or the White House.

Beamer and others made a last phone call to their loved ones. Then Beamer Was Heard telling his fellow passengers, Let’s Roll.

Their plans succeeded, with predictably tragic results – the plane crashed at 500 miles an hour into a spot near Shanksville Pennsylvania. Everyone aboard, including Todd Beamer, was killed.

The next year, with the first anniversary of the attacks approaching, Todd Beamer’s Widow Lisa published a book about her husband, and his role in that heroic day.

So here now, from August 2002, Lisa Beamer:

You may also like these episodes:
Richard Picciotto

Tom Landry

Photo: Jim Bowen

The NFL regular season kicks off tomorrow night, September 9th, at the Dallas Cowboys take on the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now, for 29 Seasons, those cowboys were coached by one of the most successful coaches in NFL history: Tom Landry. He was, in fact, the first head coach of the expansion Dallas franchise, in 1960.

He racked up 20 consecutive winning seasons with the Cowboys. Under whose leadership the Cowboys won two Super Bowls, five NFC championships, and 13 divisional titles.

But a string of losing seasons in the late 1980s made of done him in. One day after the new team owner, Jerry Jones, took over, Landry was unceremoniously fired.

The following year, he wrote his autobiography. And that’s when I met him.

So here now, from 1990, Tom Landry.

Tom Landry died in 2000. He was 75.

You may also like these episodes:
Terry BradshawBart Starr