A native Texan, Al Wallace graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications. After starting his broadcasting career in Lubbock,Texas, he has also worked in Las Vegas and Dallas, before landing for good in at WDAF-TV, Kansas City’s oldest and most trusted television station. A career that has spanned five decades has allowed him to cover 3 World Series, 9 NCAA Final Fours, 3 MLB All-Star games, training camps for the NFL Kansas City Chiefs and MLB Kansas City Royals, as well as the development and opening of various local sports venues including Kansas Speedway and the Sprint Center.
“One for the Coyotes” is Al Wallace’s autobiography, co-written by David Smale. The book chronicles Al’s love of family, history, sports, and his 40 year career in television broadcast news. Al Wallace spent 33 years at Kansas City’s oldest and most trusted television station, WDAF-TV. Al is also a survivor of prostate cancer, and an advocate in the fight against, and the awareness of the deadly disease. The foreword to the book was written by Kansas basketball coach Bill Self.
Brad Burrow: Hello this is the, In A World with Real Media podcast and I have a very special guest today, Al Wallace. Al it’s great to have you on with me today. I feel a little intimidated having a star like this in the studio. I don’t know what to do about this.
Al Wallace: Well, the star that you’re talking about is no longer in the galaxy that you live in because I may have been a star back when I was on TV at Fox4. But that’s been more than six months. I’m no longer a star, I now live in a galaxy far away. And that galaxy is this book that I’ve just written.
Brad Burrow: How’s that going? Are you liking being away?
Al Wallace: It’s gone, well, how’s it going, being away from TV?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. How are you liking that?
Al Wallace: I’m liking it quite a bit to be honest with you.
Brad Burrow: Is it a little more relaxed. I mean, is your life like changed? Have the stress gone now for a while?
Al Wallace: Brad, you don’t even know. And the best way I can put it is this, that for 38 years, because that’s how long I was on air delivering sports. 38 years, I was in broadcasting and television broadcasting for 40 years. And my first day on the job was it was September 8, 1978. And my last day on the job in television broadcasting was December 20, 2018. It was three months, past 40 years. But for 38 of those years, I either was sitting on an anchor desk or reporting sports and for all of that 38 years pretty much every day, even when on vacation, I had to follow a game, if not one game, two games or three games. I mean, think about it on every College Football Saturday. I had to know what I felt, I had to know.
Brad Burrow: What was happening.
Al Wallace: What was happening. Why did each of the local three teams win, lose or whatever, Mizzou, K-state and KU. Those were just the three major division one teams. I had to keep up with the Friday Night High School Football tone. And for basically 17-18 weeks every NFL season I had to know what the Chiefs were doing. And the Raiders and the Broncos and the Chargers at one point when they are in the AFC West, the Seahawks and et cetera, et cetera.
Al Wallace: There were some College Basketball Tuesday’s and very much every College Basketball Saturday. I had to know what’s K-State, what’s Mizzou, what’s KU doing. That was just a daily thing. And after a while, it was not as enjoyable as it was in the early years. Now, I don’t have to-
Brad Burrow: You don’t have worry about that.
Al Wallace: I don’t have to worry about that. I enjoy it, but I don’t have to. I watch it, but I don’t have to. And that’s the fun part about it, is there’s much more freedom of time, much more freedom of mind. And a lot more time to spend with my family.
Brad Burrow: That’s very-
Al Wallace: A lot more time.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s great. I got to tell the listeners when I first met you, I don’t know if you remember this. You and I’ve talked about this once or twice, but I was running a camera for the Chiefs.
Al Wallace: I know where you’re going.
Brad Burrow: But, I got to be the same way because the Chiefs games, when I was running cam for the chiefs. I was camera three, I was down on the field, we’d have to be there.
Al Wallace: What’s your year timeframe? What year was that?
Brad Burrow: When I was a Marty years, I was, when I started-
Al Wallace: Late 90s?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Al Wallace: That’s been more than 20 years. Because Marty was done in ’98. It’s been more than 20 years.
Brad Burrow: And then I was there when Vimeo came in still.
Al Wallace: I don’t know, tell me the story.
Brad Burrow: Well, I’ll tell you, but that’s where you and I met, because the very Gunther Cunningham was the coach and I’m standing there on the sideline, you’re standing there and I’m the one kind of walked up to you and we struck up a conversation. I always appreciated that about you by the way, that you were willing to just talk to me.
Al Wallace: I say why not, but the ones particular day that you’re talking about, I know where you’re going.
Brad Burrow: Dick Vermeil was there visiting on the sideline.
Al Wallace: Gunther is head coach, and Vermeil is a visitor.
Brad Burrow: That’s right, and we’re looking at each other and you’re like, “What’s he doing here?” And I go, “I bet, I know why he’s here.” And I think he was even with Carl Peterson if I remember right. Do you remember that?
Al Wallace: I remember it differently.
Brad Burrow: Do you?
Al Wallace: Yes. This is how I remember it. I remember pre game, you and I both sing Vermeil. And you said, this is the way I remember. You said, “I can’t believe Vermeil is here. It looks like basically, it looks like he’s a guest of Carl Peterson and I bet you he’s here to basically check out the job. I can’t believe Carl Peterson would bring him in right in front of Gunther’s face.”
Brad Burrow: That’s right.
Al Wallace: And I said, “There’s no way Carl would do that. That’s rude to basically bring a guy in for a job interview, being an unofficial job interview. I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all. They’re just old friends. He’s here to see a football game. I can’t believe you said that out loud.” And sure enough-
Brad Burrow: That’s what happened.
Al Wallace: Less than two months later. Dick Vermeil is the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that was unbelievable. I don’t know why I thought that, but I remember thinking that too.
Al Wallace: That was the fall of 1999. That was Gunther’s last year is when he brought Dick Vermeil, and it was just prior to the white Mitch Otis, the voice of the chiefs called the YIIk game, which tool place on December 31, 1999. And then how much I like history, then two weeks later, maybe three weeks later, the NFC Championship game in St. Louis between the Bucks and the Rams. And Derrick Thomas was injured in that car wreck.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s right.
Al Wallace: That’s that little time capsule that we’re talking about, was Dick Vermeil’s visit. And I said it, that’s all it was, it was a visit, you said it was basically an impromptu job interview. You were right.
Brad Burrow: I didn’t know that for sure.
Al Wallace: Well, you just-
Brad Burrow: -Just guessing.
Al Wallace: In my opinion, you guessed right and I was wrong. And it turned out to be a that late part of January 2000, turned out to be just a tragic time period for the Chiefs and any Chiefs’ fan.
Brad Burrow: That was the end. I had forgotten about all that, you have a great memory. You can remember all of that.
Al Wallace: It is easy, to me, I say it’s easier to do because sporting events to me are the benchmark. It’s kind of like your fear in the forest and you need to leave a notch on the tree. Or if your hands are on gravel, and you need to leave, leave some kind of a mark in the forest where you been and how to get back. Sporting events to me they come just naturally. And events like that help mark the passage of time. That’s one thing that I pride myself upon, is being able to mark events, whether their games or events and people that are surrounded by the game. And that to me, that makes it so much easier.
Brad Burrow: Do you remember the game now? When we, think it was the flood game at Arrowhead was Sunday Night Game.
Al Wallace: Sunday Night Game, Seahawks were in town.
Brad Burrow: Seahawks, yeah. Do you remember, were you at that game?
Al Wallace: No, I was in studio that game, and I remember it so vividly. I think, I was out of the Ballpark early for a live shot at five or six. It was a Sunday night.
Brad Burrow: And then you went back to the studio.
Al Wallace: I had to go back to the studio, and I stayed at the station late that night because there were-
Brad Burrow: Flooding.
Al Wallace: Flooding and a number of mishap. A number of mishaps around Kansas City that cost some people their lives.
Brad Burrow: That’s right.
Al Wallace: And it was so bad. I didn’t feel comfortable getting out on the road. I don’t know exactly when the-
Brad Burrow: Where the studio is. I mean, you’ve got to drive through some flooding to get home.
Al Wallace: Yeah, because we’re up on a hill, and I would had to drive through, so I had to wait a while but I remember that iconic shot of Derrick Thomas sitting on his knees, and the rain just drenched his uniform. He had his helmet off. And he was just sitting there, on his knees in the middle of the field as they had to postpone part of the game or delay it. Am I right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. I was running camera on that game.
Al Wallace: You were on camera that game?
Brad Burrow: I was literally up to my knees and water on, because you know how the fields kind of got the curved shape.
Al Wallace: Right, yeah. Crown.
Brad Burrow: The crown. I’m over on the sideline and I literally have water up to my knees. I’m holding the camera. And we’re still, the game is still happening. I remember looking out on the field and guys were getting tackled, and they were their face mask were literally going into the water. It was crazy, the locker room was flooding. And man, that was a crazy night.
Al Wallace: More than remembering that Chiefs’ game. And obviously you were at the stadium. I remember the tragedy around Kansas City.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, there was.
Al Wallace: Because working in the newsroom. I experienced some of that and the reaction to it, and then the next day realizing what damage had been done to not just the city, but the lives involved.
Brad Burrow: That was bad, when I had some pretty crazy things had to happen out at the stadium. I remember one time, and then we’ll move on after this quick story.
Al Wallace: Sure.
Brad Burrow: I was running a camera, and you know how Casey Wolf always did the skit for the game. Do you ever see that?
Al Wallace: Oh, yeah. You get on that [inaudible 00:09:59]. The TV four wheel.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that thing. If you’re looking out, the head is way up above his head. He’s actually looking out of the neck of that thing.
Al Wallace: It’s Casey Wolf?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. And there’s like a mesh with floor over it, that’s how he sees. He comes flying out of the tunnel on that thing. And this particular Sunday he’s not going fast, but he’s got the little Wolf’s behind him. He’s pulling them-
Al Wallace: They said little family.
Brad Burrow: The crowd loves it, they’re going nuts. Well, it comes loose. And he turns around, he doesn’t see it and he literally would have hit one of them. If I hadn’t pulled them out of the way. I had to give the camera to my cable pole and go pull it out of the way when he went by. I mean, just crazy stuff like that happened.
Al Wallace: That could have been disastrous.
Brad Burrow: It could have been bad deal. That was the adrenaline of the whole thing but what made me think about it, is I kind of got the same way you did where, it didn’t, it wasn’t fun anymore. It’s just a lot of hard work and you think being in the middle of the Chiefs’ game.
Al Wallace: It is not like you didn’t enjoy the hard work, or you didn’t enjoy the work. But sometimes, you can only do so much of it where, you wonder what else is out there.
Brad Burrow: I enjoy watching the games at home. You see more of the games and everybody says, “How come you don’t want to be at the stadium?” I say, “Well”
Al Wallace: I’ve been in the game, in the stadium before.
Brad Burrow: “I’ve got all that out of my system.” Anyway, well, let’s talk. That’s great, I love talking about this stuff, it’s fun stuff.
Al Wallace: This won’t be the last time.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, we need to do this more. Talk a little bit, so you’ve written a book. One for Coyotes?
Al Wallace: Yes.
Brad Burrow: Or is it the Coyotes?
Al Wallace: It is the Coyotes. That’s not the Coyotes. It is one the Coyotes.
Brad Burrow: Tell me a little bit about the book. What prompted you to write the book and we’ll talk about the title too, where the title came from. I heard that story, it’s awesome story.
Al Wallace: I was, your initial question was what prompted me to write the book? Well, it wasn’t me, or my wife or my kids. It was actually my co-author David Smail, and anyone who’s considering writing a book. I say, go for it number one. I say number two, if you’ve never written a book, and you don’t know, actually some of the dynamics and some of the structure that goes into being an author and writing a book, to do it by yourself, the first time is, would be a colossal undertaking. I was fortunate to have someone like David Smail, help me and do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Brad Burrow: How did you meet him?
Al Wallace: And this is another story, and I don’t know if I’ve told you this one. I’ve seen David around for years, if not decades around Kansas City. He’s a former employee at the NCAA, he is a freelance writer. He’s written 17 books in the past, either on his own or he’s been a ghost writer, to help other authors. But he was my ghostwriter, my co author. This is, One for the Coyotes by Al Wallace with David Smail.
Al Wallace: But anyway, we’re out at the ballpark. When I say ballpark I mean, Kauffman Stadium. And we’re out there one day and as, when I say, we’re out there one day, this was during the summer, I want to say 2015, maybe 2016. And we’re waiting on the Ned Yost daily press conference, which takes place most times at 4:30. But for some reason, we get done in the clubhouse at four o’clock. We’ve got 30 minutes to kill. It’s me, David, I want to say three or four or five other guys, we’ve got 30 minutes to kill and what sports writers do or TV reporters or whatever, we all kind of sit around and we tell stories. You’re just like anybody else in the-
Brad Burrow: That’s a podcast idea.
Al Wallace: Anybody else in the break room at work, you sit around you talk about what you did last weekend and what you on your vacation, and so, we basically were talking. And David talks about the fact that for some reason, we got upon the subject of the Pine Tar game. George Brett, the Pine Tar game July 1983, Royals at the New York Yankees. Have I told you the story?
Brad Burrow: I don’t think so.
Al Wallace: David’s at the Pine Tar game, some what? 36 years-
Brad Burrow: He was at the game?
Al Wallace: He was actually at the game-
Brad Burrow: Wow.
Al Wallace: -With his wife. I think, they’re living in Kansas City at the time. I want to say they’re newly weds or hadn’t been married that long.
Brad Burrow: But they traveled New York to-
Al Wallace: But they traveled to New York for, they had to be in New York for some reason. And he says, “Hey, when we’re in New York, guess who else is in New York? The Royals are going to be there. Let’s try to go to the Royals Yankees game, Old Stadium, Billy Martin, Dick Howser, George Brett, Goose Gossage the whole deal.” And they wind up getting tickets from a friend of a friend who knew a friend who knew the Royals bullpen catchers uncle, something like that. You know what I mean?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Al Wallace: He winds up with these great tickets sitting about 20 rows behind the Royals dugout, but it’s him and his wife and a number of other, let’s say friends of friends. They’re sitting in a royal section of friends and all relatives. And there’s a group of, I don’t know, somewhere between five and 10. They’re watching this game, this baseball game, and the Royals are down in the top of the ninth thing. And I guess there somebody came to bet and the top of the ninth and made the second out, and somebody in this group of Royals fan sitting up behind the Royals dugout says, “Well, this game is over. Let’s go.” And David says, “No, U L Washington’s up next. He’s going to hit a single and George Brett’s up after that and he’s going to hit a home run.”
Al Wallace: And when you know what, that’s exactly what happened. U L Washington singles, George Brett homers, and the pine tar incident is born. And, as this is happening, as the Umps Billy Martin comes out of the dugout, grabs the bat and starts pointing at the bat, and the Umps get the bat and they start conversing. Everybody in the stands, especially sitting around David Smail is saying, “What’s going on? What are they talking about?” And David’s wife says, “Yeah, what are they talking about?” And David said, “I bet you they don’t like the amount of pine tar on his bat, I bet [crosstalk 00:16:19].
Brad Burrow: Is that right? Wow.
Al Wallace: I bet you he’s used, they’re saying the Billy Martin is saying that he used too much pine tar on his bat. Two seconds later, George Brett comes running out of the dugout, because McClellan the Umpire, big tall guy called him out. George comes rushing out of the dugout, and there you have the Pine Tar incident. David tells this story one day back in 2015 or 16 at Kauffman Stadium. And it didn’t take him as long to tell the story, as it just took me. He tells this story, and then I guess I told a story about something I couldn’t tell you.
Al Wallace: But David seemed to remember me telling this story that he liked. Because that’s what writers do. We all sit around tell our stories, 4:30 happens upon us, Ned Yost comes out of the clubhouse. He holds his press conference last 10 minutes. And then he leaves and then all the reporters leave, because we were done with our player interviews before four o’clock. We’re done with Ned, and now we got to go get this on the air at six o’clock.
Al Wallace: As we’re packing up to leave, David Smail comes to me and says, “Hey, you tell a good story. You ought to write a book.” And I looked at him like, “I remember me going, huh? What?” And he said, “You tell a good story. You ought to write a book.” And he said, “I bet you got a lot of good stories.” And I said, “You’re nuts.” I said, “I got to go to work. I don’t have time for this conversation.”
Al Wallace: From time to time, over the last three or four years, I’d see David, “Hey, how about that book.” And I’d say “Hey, have a nice day.” And when I decided to leave Fox4 in late 2018, and I guess he saw me announce it on the air, where I came on and I said in three weeks, it will be my last day. He saw that and he instantly messaged me on Facebook and said, “Hey, you got time for that book now.” And that’s the first time, the first week of December 2018, was the first time I ever considered really writing a book.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, amazing.
Al Wallace: We met for coffee about a month later. And in mid July of 2019. We’ve written a book together.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Al Wallace: Did I elaborate enough for you?
Brad Burrow: That’s awesome. That’s really great. Talk about the title of the book, that’s, when you see the book, tell us how that all came about. And it’s a great story behind that too.
Al Wallace: I grew up, I would say with the two major foundations in my life, we all have things that, as we’re young people, as we’re young and then as we grow older, but things that we look back on that we say, helps shape and form our lives more than any other thing.
Brad Burrow: Events and people and yeah.
Al Wallace: Events people and if not, along with those just the philosophy towards life and how we need to get through life to be successful, work ethic. And the two biggest I would say, influences upon my life were my father and growing up in a military family, which I did. I had a lot of discipline in my home, eight kids, Mom and Dad, eight kids, military family. We lived around the world. We moved from army base to army base, sometimes two years at a time.
Brad Burrow: So, you’re good at moving then?
Al Wallace: We were good at moving, and being new in school and that kind of thing, I hated it. Now that I look back on, it didn’t like it much then. But I look back on it, and there was a lot of learning to move around. Oh my gosh there’s a lot of learning to adapt. But the discipline that I learned growing up in a military family number one, number two, was playing football in high school in Texas. Texas High School Football to me is like nothing else. When it comes to high school football, now in Kansas City, I’ll compare it this way, in Kansas City, it’s not just barbecue, it’s Kansas City barbecue. And it’s very distinctive, and I would, and a lot of our listening audience will agree it’s the best, it really is.
Al Wallace: And you’re hearing this from a Texas native, okay. Because I was born in Texas. And after I was 10 years old, through high school, I lived in Texas. The same thing with Texas High School football. It’s not high school football, it’s Texas High School Football and it is different.
Al Wallace: When I was in high school, I grew up in a small town about the size of Leavenworth, one high school three junior high, so it was a little bit bigger than Leavenworth. We had three junior highs. And the head football coach at the high school was in charge of the entire athletic system throughout the high school in the junior highs. If you ran one type of offense, in high school, all three junior high schools ran that offense. Therefore, by the time you went from the seventh grade to a senior in high school, you’d been familiar in the football sense with that offense for five years.
Brad Burrow: You better know the offense.
Al Wallace: You were much more likely to be proficient in it. And in the positions that are involved, the knowledge of it, and the execution of it. That helped a lot, but not only that, my high school football coach was a guy Google, Frank Beavers. And he coached, he actually left my high school after my junior year but I basically grew up around football under Frank Beavers for four or five years, and he left and went to Highland Park High School in 1975 or I should say in 1974.
Al Wallace: He wasn’t there for my senior year. And you Google, Highland Park High School and you’re going to find some famous alums there. Clayton Kershaw, you’re going to find John Hinckley Jr.
Brad Burrow: Wow.
Al Wallace: Reagan assassination, you are going to find the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford, Stafford and Kershaw played on the same high school football.
Brad Burrow: Is that right? Wow.
Al Wallace: Yes.
Brad Burrow: Amazing.
Al Wallace: I would, just bear with me here as I get long winded. I’m going to say that Highland Park High School, and they’ve won, I think the last two state championships this year 2018 and, 2017 and 2018. The last two big class state championships in Texas. Imagine that high school being in Mission Hills, they have financial backing. I guess is what I’m trying to say
Brad Burrow: Oh, I got you.
Al Wallace: He left my small town to go to that high school. Now he’s since retired years ago, and he passed away. But he was an old country coach. He’s now in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. Coach Beavers, he coached Lance McElhaney, who was the who was the quarterback for those old SMU Pony Express teams, with Eric Dickerson and Craig James. He was that quarterback that, that the quarterback them pre death penalty, by five, six years before the death penalty, when SMU was a national powerhouse, number two in the country and winning cotton bowls and playing against Joe Montana and Notre Dame and the Cotton Bowl.
Al Wallace: A lot of those players were Highland Park High School grad, because it’s right there, Highland Park High Schools five minutes from SMU campus. Anyway, Coach Beavers had a tremendous work ethic, lot of success. And he also knew that the number one team in our district at the time, back in the late 60s and early 70s was Wichita Falls High School, the Coyotes. And they won six state championships within like a 19 year time period, late 40s up until like 1967.
Al Wallace: But even when I was in junior high and high school, they were still the talk of the town and talk of the state. They were that good. They were just one of the premier high school football programs in the country. At a quarterback Ronnie Littleton which is one of the best high school football players in Texas high School history.
Al Wallace: But anyway, we never beat the Coyotes. We never beat Wichita Falls High School the Coyotes, they’d be the 72 to nothing, 65 to nothing. I mean, it was like Nebraska playing everybody else back in the day, when I used to smash KU. But our head coach knew if we’re going to compete with those guys, we got to work as hard as those guys. Work ethic and so, whenever we would do weights, whenever we would do laps, whenever we would do any drills, you do the drill, you do the 10 raps, you do whatever you have to do. But if you want to beat the Coyotes, you had to do one more. One for the Coyotes.
Al Wallace: And that mantra, that work ethic is basically what has gotten me through life. And it certainly is what I would call the foundation to what got me through 40 years of television broadcasting, One for the Coyotes.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s awesome. Talk about it, too it’s a good transition into cancer, that you go through, find out that you have cancer and that work ethic, that had to have served you well and in kind of battling through that, would you agree with that?
Al Wallace: I would agree but it’s a different type of thing. It’s a different type of battle, it’s a different type of struggle, it’s a different type of fight. And I say that Brad because of this is, it’s because cancer is not like somebody on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage that you can control. Now, I can control my work ethic the run faster than you, or I can lift more weights to try to be stronger than you. Now you got a will of your own, you’re the opposition, you’re the other team, you’ve got that will too. This is just too this is just two human beings, or two teams of 11 going against each other.
Al Wallace: Cancer there’s not that way. Cancer is a different, and I am a cancer survivor, prostate cancer. And cancer is something you can’t necessarily control. Cancer is a different kind of an opponent. But the struggle and the fight against cancer is an ongoing struggle that I think takes more than just a work ethic of one person. I think, I needed to have more support than just me, me was very important. Me is still very important because cancer could resurface in my life or in my body, but I needed support. I needed the belief that I can get by it, and through it, and past it.
Al Wallace: But cancer in some ways, and certainly treatment and awareness, and early detection and things like that. A lot of other intangibles, I needed help, I needed help against cancer. You see what I’m saying?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Al Wallace: It was a different kind of opponent but I did have to use a work ethic and a knowledge of hard work and perseverance to get past it, and to get through it, and to help handle it. But it’s also different when somebody close to you is a victim of cancer. And there’s nothing they can do about it. You can find that you have cancer one day and six weeks or four weeks later, it’s done.
Al Wallace: It’s that kind of a different opponent. But that work ethic that I learned, absolutely positively helped me in my fight and my struggle against cancer.
Brad Burrow: One of the things that, and kind of what I was getting at a little bit, is just the power of having a good attitude about it, I guess, I don’t know if I’m saying this right.
Al Wallace: It’s a perfect way to put. It’s perfect.
Brad Burrow: That seems to me, like foundationally something that you probably learned, playing football a little bit. It’s like, “Hey, there’s some adversity here. I’m going to power through this. I’m going to believe that good things are happening.” You know, that kind of approach?
Al Wallace: Brad, a lot of the successes we have in our lives, or the failures that we may have in our lives are all about attitude, or a lot about attitude. How do you get by it, or how do you not get past it. A lot of it’s about attitude and work ethic, absolutely. It absolutely helped me. It was just a little bit different than then the work ethic that I’m talking about, my true definition of One for the Coyotes.
Brad Burrow: How do you keep a positive attitude, you got a lot of things that you’re worried about in a situation like that, and I haven’t had cancer, but you’re worried about your family, you’ve got a beautiful family, beautiful daughters, fans, people watching, I mean, you’ve got a lot of things going on. How do you personally, and how did you kind of keep that attitude positive moving forward through all of that?
Al Wallace: Well, one thing and I’m not going to, I was fortunate because I knew the type of cancer I had prostate cancer, we detected it’s so early. I never really felt like it was going to take my life. I know that was possible, but I also knew the survival rate and the early detection that I had. I knew my survival rate was about 95%. I knew I was, I felt I was in good shape, but it’s still cancer. My mom passed away, died of cancer. Both her parents died of cancer. I have four sisters. All four of them has been diagnosed with cancer. But I was detected at the age of 53 and being a black male above the age of 50. I knew that I was highly susceptible to heart failure, high blood pressure, cancer, some things like that. And so, I was I kind of kept an eye on it.
Al Wallace: But then I had a like a two year lapse where I did not get a physical and something told me I need to go get a physical, and when I went and got that physical, the doctor called me back two weeks later and said, we need to have you back in here to recheck your blood. I knew then I had cancer, I knew.
Brad Burrow: That had to be a shock. A little bit?
Al Wallace: A little bit it was.
Brad Burrow: Just the uncertainty of that call, the uncertainty of getting that call and not knowing what’s going on.
Al Wallace: But there was also this. The doctor said, “We believe, we’ve caught it early.” We hadn’t done a biopsy yet. They hadn’t taken tissue and actually examine the cancer, but they could tell just-
Brad Burrow: He said that with just from your blood test.
Al Wallace: Yeah well, he said the chances are, this is kind of what’s going on here. Because my PSA was elevated, but there were other, and I don’t want to get, this is for another discussion. But there were other indicators that said, “We’re okay. In fact now, we feel like,” this was after the biopsy, “We are so okay, you could probably go on another five or six years and do nothing.” But you have cancer. And if you don’t do anything this could grow, number one, it’s going to grow, and it could grow to other body parts.
Al Wallace: Why do you want to walk around for four or five years thinking about this every day?
Brad Burrow: That would be a no brainer decision.
Al Wallace: No, it was a no brainer. I did not require chemo, I did not require radiation. We simply did, I call a simple, a very complicated procedure with what they call the Da Vinci robot.
Brad Burrow: I’ve shot videos of that.
Al Wallace: They basically removed my prostate. And I was diagnosed the week before thanksgiving and had my prostate removed the first week of February and four weeks later, I was court side basically, for the last basketball game at Allen Field House between Missouri and Kansas. I was back to work. I was basically, I missed a month of work. That’s how far the technology and the research and all the medical has come.
Brad Burrow: And, it is amazing.
Al Wallace: That was eight years ago.
Brad Burrow: Did you get to see the Da Vinci robot by chance? That’s amazing. If you watch that thing actually working.
Al Wallace: Well, you got cancer, you do a lot of research and-
Brad Burrow: You want to know what they’re doing.
Al Wallace: Yeah. And I’ve seen YouTube video since. It was a trying time in my life and in my family’s life. I talked about in the book, One for the Coyotes. I talk about how me and my wife decided to break the news to our kids. I’m going to leave that to read the book. And part of it is entertaining and funny, and part of it is not. It’s cancer.
Brad Burrow: That’s not an easy discussion.
Al Wallace: No, it’s not.
Brad Burrow: Let’s, I want to talk about a couple more things. One of them, so Bill Self wrote the foreword of the book. Tell us about your relationship with him, whatever you feel comfortable saying, but it’s pretty cool that he would do that for you.
Al Wallace: Well, one thing, Bill Self wrote the foreword to the book and there are testimonials to the book on the back cover from Date More the Royals team manager, and they told us, the play by play voice of the Chiefs Kathy Nelson, who’s the president, CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission, and also Todd Leabo, who’s the Director of Sports Information. Sports Information, Sports, Sports operations at Sports Radio 810 WHB, all five of those people did a lot in helping me get this book published.
Al Wallace: But certainly Bill Self, and first of all, I don’t think I’m some special guy that think Bill Self wrote the foreword to my book, I’m special because this is not the first book he’s written a foreword to. He’s done it several times, so I’m not that special, number one. But number two, I think he’s a real special guy. I’m no one special, but I feel fortunate to have his cell phone number. I use it when I have to, I use it when I need to, or have to. I don’t use it, I know he’s a busy guy, and he understands I’m there, but I just think he’s such a good guy. He’s such an excellent basketball coach.
Brad Burrow: Yes, he is.
Al Wallace: And he’s been a good friend of me for decades. I remember back in 1985 when he had, he based some people don’t realize this, when he was a grad assistant coach at Kansas in the fall of ’85, and the spring of ’86. He arrives on campus in Lawrence in ’85 three weeks. He takes over the job at KU as a grad assistant from John Calipari, the current head coach at the University of Kentucky.
Brad Burrow: I don’t think I knew that.
Al Wallace: John Calipari had the same job at Kansas. In fact, John Calipari met his wife, who was on the athletic staff administration, she was working in the athletic administration at KU, that’s where we met his wife. But Bill Self has, he’s always been good to me. Always been good to me. Basically first, obviously as a friend and as a basketball coach, I just don’t think there’s anybody in the country better.
Al Wallace: When I came to him and asked him to write the foreword to the book, he immediately said, “Absolutely sure,” especially when he found out what I was writing about and the fact that in some way, shape or form, I think he knew that I wanted to help raise cancer awareness. I’ve seen him help. Man, I’ve seen him help a lot of people who needed help, and it had nothing to do with basketball. I’ve seen a lot of people do that but I do have and this is, again, in the book, I do have a certain affection for the City of Lawrence, Kansas. I do have a certain affection, I would say a distinct affection for Lawrence, Kansas and for Kansas basketball.
Al Wallace: I met my wife in Lawrence, Kansas. I met her at a KU/MU football game. In fact, it was November 24, 1991. The same day at that game Tony Sands ran for an NCAA record 394 yards. Single game rushing record NCAA that lasted Brad, for like 26 years. And then when KU played it Oklahoma a couple years ago [inaudible 00:38:23] you broke that record. I met my wife at that game on the press box elevator. She was the elevator operator, I met a her.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Al Wallace: Yeah, and I’m in the elevator with an intern and my photographer. We got off the elevator and I turned to the intern [Lauren Kalkera 00:38:36] Kara who was a dance girl, one of the crimson girls, she was our intern and I said, “Man, you see that girl on the elevator?” and Lauren Kalkera I said, “Did you notice that girl in the elevator?” She said, “Yeah, I noticed her. I noticed that you noticed,” because I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. But that’s the day I met my wife who was born and Lawrence Memorial Hospital and after we got married, insisted that both our kids be born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Al Wallace: Even though, yes born and raised a Jayhawk, my wife, and even though we lived here in Prairie village in Overland Park, respectively, when she went into labor, I had to drive her to Lawrence just to deliver the kids, which was fine with me. But so that’s part of my affection for Lawrence and KU. And certainly, somewhere down the list is what I would call admiration for the current head basketball coach.
Brad Burrow: You and Coach Self really kind of kept that relationship going all these years. Is that right? I mean, would you guys just run into each other?
Al Wallace: No, no, not necessarily [crosstalk 00:39:37].
Brad Burrow: How does that work?
Al Wallace: I didn’t know him hardly at all, back in 1985. I know he was there but he was just an assistant coach and who knows what was going through my mind back in 1985. 34 years ago, but I knew who he was. Then back in 1994, I was asked, I’ve been working in Kansas City then for nine years. I say eight years because I did leave here and go to Dallas for 13 months and then I came back. I was offered to come back and I just always felt more comfortable living here. And so 1994 basically, I’d been on air here for a while. Officials from the Big Eight Conference, which was headquartered here, came to me and asked me if I would apply to be host of The Big Eight new college basketball studio show, Studio 66.
Al Wallace: And so I audition for that, I got the job. I only held it for one year. But every weekend during college basketball season, middle of December through March. I’d fly to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday nights and I’d anchor the show on Saturdays and I fly back to Kansas City on Sundays. And there was from time to time where I do an Oklahoma State game and Self was there “Hey, how are you doing?” That kind of thing and from as being assistant at Oklahoma State. He went on to Oral Roberts, and then Tulsa and then Illinois. And then when he was up for the job at Illinois… When he was at Illinois and up for the KU job. I said, “Man, I got tO get this guy.” And because it was just obviously the right move.
Brad Burrow: Boy, you think back and MU was, Were they interested in Self at one point or something? Were there second guessing in that decision?
Al Wallace: Here’s another one. The athletic director at the time Mizzou is Mike Alden and Norm is on his way out. And Norm had always said, “When I leave, they’re going to hire some rhinestone cowboy to come in here.” Because Norm was old school. “They’re going to hire some rhinestone cowboy to come in here and take the job.” Well, Mike Alden interviews both Quin Snyder and Bill Self on the same day at the Marriott at the Kansas City International Airport at the KCI. They’re both staying on different floors, they have no idea of the other ones there.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Al Wallace: He interviewed them both. And he picked Quin Snyder. Bill Self was at Tulsa at the time, and obviously dejected that he didn’t get the job. But we see how it all turned out.
Brad Burrow: Worked out pretty good, KU too by the way.[crosstalk 00:42:28].
Al Wallace: Worked out good for Bill Self. Worked out good for Self.
Brad Burrow: My oldest son went to KU. The book is being released. Is it out, now? Do you want to give us any of the details on kind of what that’s looking like?
Al Wallace: The book is out now a little bit earlier than anticipated, but I will have my first book signing, author signing and discussion, if you will, at the Barnes and Noble, at Town Center Plaza. This will be Saturday, July 13 at Town Center Plaza. I’ve also now, I have commitments for book signings and or discussions at the Barnes and Noble and Independence at Independence Commons. I think that’s August 3. And then a week later, August 10 at the Barnes and Noble at Zona Rosa. Okay. I’ve got two more Barnes and Nobles that I got to hit the one at Oak Park Mall. And the one down on the plaza. The book is available on barnesandnoble.com, Nook, Kindle, iPad. And then, to kind of bring this conversation full circle, I’m going back to my hometown, because I talk a lot about high school football in the book. I’m going back to my hometown, the last weekend in July.
Al Wallace: I’m going to talk at the Lions Club and I’m going to talk about a local market about the book.
Brad Burrow: Awesome. One thing I did want to hit on before we finish up here.
Al Wallace: I’ve got time.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, history, you’re a big history buff. That’s one of the things that as you and I have talked quite a bit, just the whole, your love of history, I think that’s really, really cool. The Kennedy assassination, buff of that and just the whole idea of how history works. I love it that you’re into that.
Al Wallace: The first chapter of the book, one for the Coyotes, the first chapter in the book is entitled, history. And I give a few nuggets there on why I believe history is important, and why it’s important to me. And you asked earlier in this podcast, in this conversation about how I’m able to recall some of these things.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Al Wallace: Because, Brad, I think history is… it’s not just what’s in our past, it’s also what’s in our future. And we need make our own history and I realized at a very early age, for some reason, that I loved history, because I felt it was important. What I do yesterday, what I did yesterday, has an effect, has a significance as to what I do today and who I am today. I’ve got to realize that and I have to realize what I do today will affect me tomorrow. That’s why I say history is basically an ever evolving, revolving door, is history. When I was when I was five, 1962, October of 1962, we’re living in Fort Meade, Maryland, and some knuckle head and Russia decides to park a bunch of nuclear warheads down in Cuba.
Al Wallace: My dad was called away to Key west, he’s in the military, my dad is called away to Key West, and he was gone for about two months. This was the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’m five. I remember my dad leaving. I don’t know exactly why but I knew there was some uproar around the base and around where we lived. My dad left for two months. He was, we’re on alert, the crisis only lasted 13 days. But he stayed down there for two months. And when he came back, obviously, there’s celebration in the home. But nine months later, my little brother is born, my little brother is an attorney lives here in Overland Park, Kansas.
Brad Burrow: Quite a celebration.
Al Wallace: Yes. What we do today affects us tomorrow. I learned at an early age the following summer, in the summer of 1963, my oldest sister is 14 years old, summertime June. And I remember an uproar between uproar, a discussion. And if not an argument between her and my mother. And it went on for a week, a week. I don’t know what it was and I didn’t really care but I just remember it. My sister’s unhappy because my mother wouldn’t let her go to the match on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. She didn’t get to go but she’s still connected to it because she was one of the kids that didn’t get to get on that yellow school bus and go to one of the most historic matches in any city that this country’s ever witnessed or seen, who knew that a million people would show up and that that speech, I Have a Dream would be delivered.
Al Wallace: And it would have such an effect on our country, certainly over the years. And then later that year, the assassination. I remember, and I was in kindergarten then and I remember the school secretary rushing into the room and saying that they’ve shot the president. Things like that.
Brad Burrow: Do you remember that?
Al Wallace: I remember that. Yes. I remember that and I don’t remember much more other than going home. My mom had been watching As the World Turns. And we couldn’t get ahold of my grandmother who lived in Texas, because all the phone lines were tied up. And then growing from back and forth when we eventually moved to Texas. When I was 10, driving back over to grandma’s house, we had to drive right through Dallas, right by Simmons Freeway. And we’d look up and we’d see that Hertz Rental Car building, which was the school book depository. Those things stand out to me to this day. And I remember those things like they were yesterday. And that’s why I began to put a mental importance on history. And I started to follow these things through the years.
Brad Burrow: I’m just going to serve notice right now. You and I’ve been talking about this and our listeners can be on the watch out, but my dad was… worked Downtown in the guy government offices in Downtown Dallas, two blocks from the Texas Book Depository.
Al Wallace: At the time?
Brad Burrow: At the time. He took his lunch break to go watch Kennedy. The motorcade go by, went back inside. And all of a sudden, people started running out the doors and stuff. He didn’t know what was going on. The Assassination had happened. And so he’s been a huge, huge history buff, especially of what really happened that day and he has studied it, he was two blocks from where that happened.
Al Wallace: In things like that, have such a ripple. Every event has a ripple effect but some ripples don’t last long. Those ripple effects are constant from a day and a date and time. That is now 66 years ago, 56 years now. It’s amazing, amazing.
Brad Burrow: And I’m sure you’ve been in the Texas Book Depository, right? Have you been there?
Al Wallace: Yes. I’ve been to the six floor museum. In fact, I made a point to go down there on the 50 year anniversary, I was in Dallas. I flew down there, me and my wife specifically for that day. I did a live shot from Dealey Plaza that night.
Brad Burrow: Did you really?
Al Wallace: It was national news coverage. And I got hooked up to the local Fox. And I did a talk back with John Holt and Susan Highland on our set here. I couldn’t stay away. I couldn’t stay away. I was off that day and I flew down, we flew down for 48 hours.
Brad Burrow: Being a KU guy too David Beaty has some history there.
Al Wallace: Former head coach.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, former head coach of the football team. Just be watching out because one of these days I’m going to get you David Beaty-
Al Wallace: One of these days-
Brad Burrow: -And my dad together and we’re going to roll on this podcast and I cannot wait until-
Al Wallace: -And for those of who don’t know, David Beatty’s father was on the Dallas Police Force was in the basement of the Dallas Police Station on that Sunday morning when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, Unbelievable.
Al Wallace: That’s our hope is to get these entities together.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’d be a lot of fun. Well, so we can find you online alwallacemedia.com.
Al Wallace: The website is not up yet.
Brad Burrow: Okay.
Al Wallace: Okay. We’ll get the website up soon. The book will be available there but right now barnesandnoble.com or in the stores at Barnes and Noble. You can get it on Nook, Kindle, amazon.com, you can look it up and iPad, or knock on my door and I’ll sell you a copy.
Brad Burrow: There you go. And you’re looking to do speaking engagements and all kinds of different things. We’ll have all of that content there.
Al Wallace: Once the website is up. That’ll be a little bit more self, a lot more self explanatory. But yes, I’m available.
Brad Burrow: Alwallacemedia.com.
Al Wallace: Yes. And I’m also available, guess where? Right here on a podcast every little once in a while.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s right. We’re going to keep doing this, this is fun. Well, thanks a lot for joining us. It’s been really great, this time has flown by I hope the listeners really love it. And we’ll, get that out there for everybody.
Al Wallace: As you can tell, I love to talk. And it’s I don’t know, we’ve talked much sports here and [not done with 00:52:05] it.
Brad Burrow: Doesn’t matter, we’re still great.
Al Wallace: That’s right.
Brad Burrow: All right. Well, thanks and we’ll see you guys all next time.