Quit Looking Over My Shoulder

Local honchos stop the press at a stadium-financing confab; plus, other St. Louis follies and foibles

Slay, naturally, didn't see it as a stunt. He thought that, if pressed, Harmon would let the press in. "I was surprised he took it that far and resisted the press' being there," Slay says. "Anything that resulted as far as any controversy basically in my view was prompted by him."

Miller stresses that because Harmon wants a public vote on any stadium proposal, these early discussions are not that critical. Miller says there has been no formal request for public money for a stadium. "There's no note from the Cardinals, 'May we please have x dollars from the city of St. Louis?' That hasn't happened yet." The key word in that phrase is "yet."

GEORGE DORIAN WENDEL, HAIL AND FAREWELL: Not everybody wanted to hear what George D. Wendel had to say, but that didn't stop him from saying it. The city was in trouble, its population was in a free-fall decline, and the jurisdictional constriction of the city's 61-square-mile landmass put new, dire meaning in the term "city limits." More than once he was referred to as being full of "doom and gloom." But mostly he spoke the truth, at least as he saw it, and mostly it's turned out to be the way he predicted. When GDW arrived here from Chicago, it was just after the 1950 census counted the city as having 857,000 people. Census estimates for 1998 show 339,316 people in the city. Short of a sensible merger of city and county, Wendel spoke of other forms of cooperation within the metropolitan area and lately had pushed for reform of the city's 1917 charter. For a 72-year-old professor and founder of St. Louis University's Center for Urban Programs, it was an admirable, if tedious and difficult, thing to work on. Most of the hamlet-brains in this town are protective of their feudal fiefdoms, be they one of the 90-odd suburban duchies, the unincorporated expanse of the county or some nook or cranny of St. Louis' City Hall.

When GDW died on May 23, it was unexpected, but he went out fighting the good fight. Gone with him is a vast institutional memory of St. Louis and a voice that could speak to mayors and Civic Progress types without being conned by Regional Chamber and Growth Association hype. And above all, he was a teacher. He used to say in his class that it was OK to sleep -- just don't snore. Few ever slept, because even if you didn't agree with him or know where he was going, he had a line of patter that could sell umbrellas in the desert. The fact that his admonitions about metropolitan merger and cooperation went unheeded might just show how screwed up this River City is.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: KMOX (1120 AM), the faltering "Voice of St. Louis," tried to put its best spin on the loss of the hockey Blues broadcast, but anyone who knows the baseball season doesn't last through the winter knows the Blues' move to KTRS (550 AM) will hurt the station's image, if not its ratings. KMOX broadcast 78 of the Blues' 82 games last year, but the idea that crucial late-season games were pushed over to KFNS (590 AM/100.7 FM) reinforced the Blues' perception that they were a redheaded stepchild in the KMOX family. KMOX countered by calling the baseball Cardinals the "crown jewel" of St. Louis sports and admitting that the Cardinals' contract states that "all games must be aired in full." So what will KMOX do to fill all those winter nights? Maybe Harry Hamm has some downtime in his schedule.... What was KSDK (Channel 5) thinking Friday night? OK, maybe nobody there was thinking when they cut into the last minute of the Portland Trail Blazers-Los Angeles Lakers game to have Cindy Preszler tell us a tornado had been sighted in Bowling Green, Mo. Quick -- where is Bowling Green? In Pike County, about 80 miles northwest of St. Louis. Of course they didn't cut into the commercial, just the game. Coverage resumed as the ball was being turned over. Jeez. And KFNS, in a typical move, broadcast motor racing Sunday night instead of the Portland-LA game. When is sports radio not sports radio? When it broadcasts auto racing. Vrroom, vrroom.

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