Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

David Baker Pro Football HOF President

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

C. David Baker (born February 16, 1953) serves as the President and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Under his guidance, he has transformed the Hall of Fame into “The Most Inspiring Place on Earth” that is built around the important mission to "Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE!” In his first three years of leadership at the Hall, the organization's net assets grew 161%. He was also instrumental in the inception of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, a nearly $800 million mixed-use development surrounding the Hall of Fame now lead by Hall of Fame Village CEO Michael Crawford. On November 28, 2017, Baker received the prestigious March of Dimes Sports Leadership Award. Baker was the fourth commissioner of the Arena Football League (AFL). He started in the league as the owner of the Anaheim Piranhas, which he left after a single season of owning the team to become commissioner.One of his more imposing features is his size – 6 feet 9 and-a-half inches tall and 400 pounds. He was a power forward at UC-Irvine from 1971–75 and played two seasons of professional basketball in Europe. Later, Baker attended Pepperdine University School of Law where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He was a City Councilman of Irvine, California.Baker resigned as Arena Football League Commissioner at ArenaBowl XXII, on July 25, 2008 after 11.5 years as commissioner of the AFL   See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Welcome to our PODCAST, huddle up with gusts, where we talked to guests about how sports helped shape their life. I'm your host, former NFL quarterback, gusts fraud, and I'm joined by my longtime friend and coast Dave Hagar. We are a RADIOCOM original podcast and you can find us on the new RADIOCOM APP or anywhere you listen to your favorite podcast. Now let's get in the huddle. This guess is going to tell us about when he was a kid growing up and how he was, you know, tall his whole life and you know, and his dad had to build him a basketball hoop when he was a kid. You know, he's six nine, which is crazy. You don't see that every day. No, and you know. But the thing about it is is that he has a great, great story and it all led him to the path of being the president of the hall of fame. Well, he had a lot of success. He had there's some controversial things that happened in his career that led to a lot of adversity and he bounced back incredibly strong and he's got one of the most positive attitudes I think I've ever heard anyone convey yeah, you know, and he was a commissioner of the Arena Football League for eleven years. He's mayor of Irvine. Mayor of Irvine went to law school at Pepperdine. Is the leading rebounder in the history of Irvine and eater basketball, the ant eaters. I wonder if he has a t shirt. It's a there's a there's a lot of the you see schools have some funny makeing Gouchas. There's a whole whole bun bunch of them. But David Bakers on with us this this week. He's the president of the hall of fame, the pro football hall of fame, and he tells us some great stories about everything they're doing with Johnson controls and how they're trying to really make it into a destination for visitors to come and want to be a part of. This is different. It's, yeah, whole fan experience. I think it's one of the top tours attractions for sports in the country and it's even it's the biggest tours attraction in the state of Ohio, even more so than the rock and Roll Hall of fame, which we hear about a lot. Well, they have one of the biggest archives in any kind of sports and one of the their music there. It's museum quality. They take care of they have an archivist at like for me, they'll take all my memorability that I've that they've collected from myself. They'll bring it out, they'll let you see it. And you know what? The other great thing is what's up? They were to be able to go over there and do a podcast. That sounds like a dream come true. It does, and so this week in the huddle with us is the tower of power, David Baker. Hey, guys, it is great to huddle up with you. It's great to hear what you're doing. You know, we are all about the values of the game and good be with you, Dave, and Gush thank you for all you've done for the game. But you know I mean in your fifteen years you have helped this game grow to this thing that is America's passion right now. It really is, and it's amazing to see how many other entities taken off because the NFL. I mean fantasy betting, I mean everything that's happened from this and just the enthusiasm every year, and now it's not just in the fall and it's not just in the United States. Right, right. So, Dave, I think you have deathely grasp on that. But let's go back to the beginning for you, when you were a little kid in California, and what was that passion, what was that influence that really got you started in for the love of sports? Well, I'll tell you, guys, sports for me has been an education, it's been a support system it. You know, I was in a situation where I had two wonderful parents, which you know, not every kid has, but neither one of my parents could read or write. My Dad was a guy who just absolutely worked his butt off in a lumber yard every day, and my mom didn't have a whole lot of education either. So she would keep other people's kids and sometimes kids would come to stay with us and the worst of circumstances where they police couldn't find their parents or other things, and and I got to see how much he loved those kids up and I got to see how hard my dad worked and both of those were tremendous values for me. But but really, you know, as I grew up, sports was a lot in baseball was kind of the first thing I did and I love playing baseball. I was a catcher and eventually I literally outgrew the position and I do something else and I love football. But strangely enough, in those days they wade you before you could play football and I weighed too much to play with other kids my day and my age. So basketball...

...kind of, you know, became my sport and it got me to college, it got me to law school and helped me go around the world play. I played with a Christian basketball team that played it throughout the Europe and the Soviet Union. I played a year in Europe, in Switzerland and and I I also had a postgraduate scholarship, in small part because of the NCTA, until law school, and that kind of helped me, you know, get onto becoming a lawyer and eventually the mayor of Urvine, California. And so I don't know what I would have done without sports. I mean I'm thankful to some great educators. I had an English teacher who inspired me me to understood stand the written word, but I think it was a lot of coaches who taught me how to get up when you get knocked down and how keep going when you don't think you can go on. Any longer. That helped shape and mold my philosophy and beliefs. Now, David, we have a little streak going here own to go back to your your days. And was it Downey California? Is that? We're from Downey California, you bet. I went to Warren High School. Uh, Huh, okay, eat, maybe even before that. A common denominator with about ninety percent of our guests so far since we've been doing the show is their love for whiffleball. Did you play whiffleball day? You know, I did play whiffleball, you know. Yeah, I did a lot of stuff in the backyards and at your point, back then it was baseball cards and you know. So you know, I would be all the different guys. Sandy Kofax was a big guy for me being from the Los Angeles area. But yeah, it was great and and as I you know, remember growing up, I didn't have a whole lot of toys. I didn't have a whole lot of hobbies. Essentially I had a ball, a glove and a bat and a basketball. When I got to basketball, my dad literally built my backboard, you know, with too by fours. Yeah, and I had that. I had that through high school until I went to knowledge. When I got to college I got a real backboard, but but you know, it was, you know, it was a great experience and Sports, I think, inspires us to do more and to be more. So Day, one of the things we always ask or guess is, what do you think when you're young and you go out in the backyard and you're with your friends and you're playing sports, when there's no parents, there's no rests, there's no you know, it's just pick up and what are some of those things that you'd learned as a kid that kind of stuck with you through your whole life? Well, you know, first of all, I think you dream. You know, I mean I when I pitched, I was Sandy Kovacs. When I shot hoop, I was Elgin Baylor, and you know, it always comes down to that pressure filled moment where the game is on the line and and you know you shoot hit the buzzer beater. But you know, for me, especially when I was shooting Hoop, you know I did a lot of that alone and maybe because I saw enough of it in my life where my mom was taking care of kids whose parents said hits, had some adversity hit and then I used to wonder what I would do if my parents didn't come home. And for me, you know, shooting hoop. Sometimes I put on some music as a kid, but it was mostly about dreaming and and when I was dreaming, and guess you've been there, it wasn't just about winning, but it was about, you know, being that person who helped someone else, whose team could rely on them, who understood responsibility, who came through in the clutch, who was involved in the community. And I had some wonderful examples of that growing up, you know, first in baseball, then in basketball and then, as I got to love the complexity of the game, certainly in football. So, David, your six nine. When did you like start growing? For me I was like ninth grade right and went from like five eight to sixty four felt like overnight. But as a little longer, when did you like start that? Because I mean if you started early, and high schools love and there I'm sure every coach was trying to recruit you for their sport. Well, one thing I think, also, just real quick, David and starry to interrupt that. One reason he was probably alone back they're shooting hoops. It's because he was such a tough matchup and what it was like. Who's going to pay Stop David Baker, especially in his backyard, right, right. You know, it was a small backyard, so there wasn't too much open court and I could back in...

...out everybody. Right, you've gotten that land. Yeah, you know, I kind of have always been big and and again, there's no doubt in my mind that I should have played football. I had that mentality and I love football, but you know, in basketball, you know, I got to touch the ball, you know, and football was going to be this offensive lineman and and fortunately we were able to correct this in the next generation, because you both my boys, Sam, my youngest son, was a left tackle at USC for Peat Carol when they were winning thirty five streak and had the biggest streak in the NCTUA at the time. And my other son, been, you know, was a player starting at Duke when they were losing twenty two straight, and so we kind of had both records at our house when we sicked out for dinners. Right. So I love reading about how you put your your boys on like a C system. They got good grades if they got rebounds and all that key. Tell us a little bit about that. You know, I that's good research on your part. I'll tell you. You know, the only two things I really knew were, you know, law, because I was a lawyer, and and sports, because I had been an athlete. And and so what we did and and I was, you know, I had a great relationship with their mother, but we had been divorced and every weekend we would meet and probably like you guys, there would be three games on Saturday at three games on Sunday and then we'd wrap it up at dinner with all of us together. And she was the team mom and frequently I'd be the coach. So what we did was, over the course of a number of months, we developed a contract and where I was the coach and she was the general manager and they were the players and it was agreed that I would pay everything that to take care of their health, education and welfare. But if they wanted something beyond that, they had to earn it themselves. And the way they earned it themselves was there was a certain amount of church chores they had to do and had to go to church and they had to be a gentleman. But beyond that, it came down to. You got a certain amount of money for your grades and You got a certain amount of money for points in a basketball game or other things that you worked at and performed and did well. And it was always fun because I'd be working as a lawyer on these big deals and across this barrage of paper that it would be on my desk would be an invoice from one of my sons who was eleven years old. That's OK. And at the end of the year, you know, they were allowed to take, as I recall, ten percent of the money they had to tie with either the to the church or charity, forty percent they had to save and fifty percent they could spend. But at the end of the year there was an award that was like a thousand bucks. It was for somebody WHO's ten, eleven years old. That was quite a bit of money. There was a thousand bucks to the kid who saved the most and invested the most and got the greatest return. So you know, the pretty cool thing about it is both of them have turned into be outstanding young men. With Sam played about seven a half years in the NFL. Was a first round draft chuice in two thousand and eight for the Falcons and there's now a high school coach in Tustin, California, and my other son been is a director broadcasting at Nascar, and I think if they moved next door to you, you'd have two really good neighbors. Right and by the way, they had they handle their money real well and right, right, great. I'm sure they're still competing. I like a you know, I say way more and You das going to send me thousand bucks. That how it goes to. But I think that that's just amazing. And then those are those are things that a lot of parents, I mean, I wish I would have done that with my kids their own college now and I feel like it's my Wallet Still Open. But and you know, I think where you teach them those kind of lessons and you give them such a head start on all the transitions that we have to go through in our lives, and that's part of what we'd like to tell our audiences is a little bit all your transition. So your you go to high school. What was your high school experience like? All My high school experience was great because I grew up in a city in the middle of La you know, at about the time that the watch Ryan were occurring, so there were a whole lot of race issues. But the city that I grew up in, Downey, and this high school I went to, was kind of like growing up in Kansas. I mean it was very middle America and and not only was I pretty good athlete there, at least good enough to get a scholarship, but I was student buddy president there and...

...we did a lot of programs that were saluting America, you know, during the Vietnam War, and we created a whole lot of spirit amongst our guys. So it was a wonderful experience for me that taught me a lot about leadership. It was a great place to grow up and that's a tough part of, you know, time period in time to be doing those things that you're talking about, because a lot of people were kind of down on on the patriotism of America because of the some of the things were involved in when you were in high school. Did you also play baseball? You know what? A little bit, but eventually I kind of you know, I again, I didn't have much. You know, the home I grew up in was about nine hundred square feet and and I kind of knew that I needed to concentrate on one thing and get to college and and basketball was, you know, clearly going to get me there. So I ended up going to use your vine and I see you. At that time you could start. That was the first year that they got rid of the freshman teams and you could start on Varsity as a freshman. So I started as a freshman and when I jumped ball at center for the first game, the guy who threw the ball up was the mayor of Irvine, California, and it was a real relatively new city, and this guy kind of do it throwing this ball up. He said, hey, good luck, he said maybe you'll be mayor some day. And eventually, eventually, I want to see. And so, you know, I would have loved to have a career like gus or other my friends who got paid for it. But at tea I it was such a wonderful opportunity to learn so many lessons. And and again, guys, in my life. You know, I don't want to sound like everything's gone well and I've succeeded at everything, because I clearly have not, and there's some significant failures in my life at times when I lost everything, families, jobs, even reputation. And when that happens and your kind of stripped down to your core and you got nothing left, I think you've only got two things. I think you've got your faith in terms of what you believe in and your values that you rely upon. And frankly, the great bulk of my values came from sports, and not only have those values helped me succeed in places like here at the pro football hall of fame, but they also helped me survive when I needed it. And that's why, for me, just like what you guys are doing and telling the stories of people's lives and how they overcame adversity. You know, we've got. You know, of all those guys who played football, there's about three hundred and thirty million of them. There's only five million that have played in college and Gus. There's only twenty nine thousand who've ever been paid to coach it, officiate it or administer it like you did in the NFL and here in Canton Ohio, we've only got three hundred twenty six with a bronze bus and a hundred eighty two living hall of Famers, and we can't all have a bronze bust or play the game for fifteen years like you did, but I think that what I've learned here at the pro football hall of fame, it's not really about the worship of football heroes or even the worship of the game of football. It's about what's so exciting is the values that you guys relied upon and tough situations that were played out right in front of us. And it's perseverance and commitment and integrity and you know, redemption and resurrection and even love, right, and you know you don't have to be a football all to reflect those values. And if we understand them and if we apply them, it can make us a better husband or mother or better company or community, and certainly it can make us a better country. So your show what we do here at the propoball hall of fame are very closely aligned. Right. So, you know, one of the things you talked about was was the values and people that teach us that. Not only our parents, but I've had so many coaches that teach US values. And we had a guest on yesterday, John You Bacon. He's written books about every sport and he's just currently written one in Michigan about Michigan football, but he told us about think something that really struck me was that, you know, coaches are there to push you and they also have to care a about you, and if neither one...

...of those are there, then they don't work. If they push you but they don't care about you, then you know they're kind of the you know there are a bully, and if they care about you but they don't push you, then they're soft, and I think both of those things together really teach us some values about the situation that you went through. You maybe down and hard on your luck, but you remember those times. You remember those coaches talking to you and saying hey, you got three more sprints, let's go pick it up, you know what I mean? And those things that when you find a coach who cares about you and pushes you, the those that I stick with you through, sickens in I think. Well, when I was in that situation, I had actually run for Congress and kind of screwed up along the way and narrowly lost, but really lost everything I had, and when it was done, I didn't go back to my chemistry teacher or my calculus teacher, for whom I'm really grateful. They taught me how to process information, but the guy went back to you know, two people in particular was one was the dean of my law school, who was just a great man, and the other one was my high school basketball coach. And again, because I think you know, the old adage and sports is you know, you can't tell them what you know until they know how much you care. Right and and I've heard it with you at every level, from youth football at the High School of the college you know, to you know, I was riding home from something in St Louis the other day with Tony Dungee and he's telling me how much he learned from Chuck Noll and what Chuck Noll taught him, not about being a football player but about being a man. And you know, for all your listeners, everybody knows what a great man Tony Dungee is in addition to being a hall of fame coach. But I think that you know, again, one of the most important things in life when you're fighting for your marriage or trying to survive a divorce or make payroll on Friday or coming back from an ethic little crisis or a financial crisis or a healthcare crisis. You know, is how to keep going, how to have hope. You know, how to encourage others or being courage by them. And I'll tell you, sports is a wonderful thing. Okay, you know, let me share one story, if I could guys here, and it's not about me, but I was involved in it. Is shortly before the last presidential election. You know, the the trump campaign called and our governor here in Ohio and president trump didn't get along very well, and Ohio is an important state, and so the trump campaign asked if they could come to the hall of fame, which is the number one tourist attraction in Ohio, the number one sports attraction in the United States, and basically wanted to kind of, you know, show highlands that he was at the pro football hall of fame and maybe I could get my picture taken with him. And we said sure, we'd be glad to, but understand that if Hillary Clinton comes by, we're going to do the same for her too. And they said that was okay. But when he was here we showed him our archive where, again, guests, is you reference. We've got a whole archive on you and every guy that ever played this game that you can add to and your grandkids and your great grandkids can know not just the kind of football player you're with the kind of man you are. But when we took the president down there, you know, we talked about the time that we actually talked to hibout how we thought America could be great again. We talked about the time that in one thousand nine hundred and five there were nineteen deaths in college football alone that year, hundred seventy nine serious injuries, and college presidents were going to abandon that. But no less that tedss, that Teddy Roosevelt, who was president of the White House, had meetings at the White House on how to say of the game, because he felt the game was important for young men to be rigorous and tough and disciplined and understand sacrifice. And so they came up with this concept of incorporating the forward pass and he relied upon Paul Dashell, who was a kind of the lead official in the country at the US Naval Academy. Roosevelt had been secretary of the navy. And they then prevailed upon Walter camp to change the rules and of course today the Games all about the forward pass, but then it was to make the game safer. The game had just become a battering ram. But what's interesting about this is, you know, thirty years later we've got young, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year old kids in the Pacific and on the beaches of Normandy and in Africa and they're defending the free world. and Tom Broke, I'll called later on, called them the greatest generation. But those,...

...those guys were shaped by coaches and they had a distinct advantage that their opponents culture did not understand teamwork. And you know how you become bigger by giving yourself to a purpose that's bigger in yourself, you actually become more relevant, not less. So these values that you guys talked about, the one that your guests talked about yesterday, are critically important and they're very valuable. I mean, I would hope that every parent would help their kid find their passion, where that's playing the piano or photography or sports. But competition can really teach us a lot in life and there's important coaches that do that extremely well. Dave it going back to your career path, you graduated from a ravine and then you went to law school pepperdinus at right. I did so after which is arguably one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Would you agree? Yeah, I was fortunate to be editor in Chief of the law view, so I had an office at the law school and my view from that window at that law school. I've always tried to make enough money to afford that view again, because somewhere some vow. So you're trying to build. It was you're trying to build that doesn't know that way. It just looked out over the Pacific Ocean and it was just beautiful. But we are doing some special things here in Canton. To be sure, we don't discount Lake Erie and as its moment. But he's not even close. He's in the middle, like it's like it's like he didn't even have the allegheny look to look at were the mine. So, David, after so you graduated from law school and then you practice law. What kind of law were you involved with? You know, I was a merger and acquisition attorney and I also did some real estate in orange kind of California. What was your first job involving sports? After you got my first job involving sports. I suspect it was being commissioner of the arena football league. Yeah, how did that jump? Dave, I like this story because I read about this. How you know, I think you did? You purchase a team. Is that right? I heard I purchased a team with some partners. I was kind of the managing partner of the team. I went to my first ownership meeting, which was two days and St Louis and you know, all kinds of problem fighting. Right, they were trying to get rid of the previous commissioner. I think. I think all three commissioners prior to me had been punched at some point. So maybe they were looking for a bigger guy. But is that where the nickname tower of power came in? I don't know about that. Yeah, I don't know about that, but I think you know, I went and I didn't do that much. But you know, somehow after that meeting I left early because I made a commitment to give a speech nine months earlier and had to leave and while I was gone they looked at me president of the owners and before long I ended up being commissioner and and I don't think it was a so much that they liked me. I think it was because they didn't like each other. But that was a lot of fun. I thought I'd do it for a year or two in transition and it ended up being twelve years and it grew, certainly grew a lot while I was there. But yeah, I got to see what the game did. In that case, I thought arena football was a tremendous product because, especially for a lot of kids who can't afford to go to an NFL game or women who haven't played it, they get to be so close to the game where you can not only see it, you can hear it and sometimes you feel it and and it was just an awful lot of fun. What was one of the first innovations that that you made with the arenaly? You know what was that? First thing you did is commission to say this is what's going to help us change how people view the AFL. Yeah, I don't know that it was one thing. I mean I think certainly we leaned heavily on our athletes to sign autographs after the game and and our guys were glad to do it for, you know, for a half hour afterwards, and I think it was a very fan friendly league. And one of the first things I did was to draft fans bill of rights, you know, saying that Hey, this is what you're entitled to at an Arena football game that you couldn't get any place else. And some of that was close access with our players and but it was a lot of fun and we ended up...

...kind of developing a contract with Tann at first, and then we got it NBC and then ultimately Espn Monday night. But when I was there it grew like crazy. We had seventeen AFL teams. At one point in time I think we had forty two AF two teams, which is kind of like our minor league. How many yellow pads, Noe Pez, that you go through, because you're pretty famous for writing all your ideas on a notepad and and I read a couple of those articles when your wife was talking about it, so it's pretty interesting. Well, yeah, and she she accuses me of writing that fans bill of Rights on the floor in my underwear and unfortunately I think she happened to say that the sports illustrated with it. It is not the image that neither I are sports illustrated one and out there, but now it's you know, I loved it. I love being here at the pro football hall of fame. We kind of regard ourselves as the Guardians of the game's history and the legacy of guys like yourself, Gus, but there have been so many guys who have made this great game, and it's not just players or coaches. A lot of them are owners and general managers and guys like Ed Sable, who did NFL films and and you know, it's a it's not like selling life insurance and it's not like selling use cars. This is something that has to do with human performance and getting people to do an unnatural act, which is to work together and to love each other, even when you're different and it seems like you shouldn't do it. And you know what's pretty cool as you get to see miracles happen, you get these hope. You know, one of the unique things here at the hall in that regard, as we end up with so many people for whom the hall of fame here is a bucket list item, and surprisingly they have weeks to live, and I think it's because they've seen guys like you, guys with teammates, pull off some miracles at the end that couldn't eva otherwise have it. And so you know, this has been I consider myself really fortunate to have escaped the practice of law and to be doing something like this. Well, you as the greatest job from right and you almost didn't have that job because, from from understanding and after the AFL, you were going to go on to do something else. I think moved back to California and your wife Basically said this job was made for you. Is that not right? Well, you know that that's exactly right. I I left the AFL because my son became a firstground draft choice for Arthur blank, the owner of the Falcons, and Arthur was one of my guys in my league and it just seemed kind of like a conflict that I could ultimately find Arthur and Arthur could find Sam and. But what really scared me, to be honest with you, was that he, he, you know, he went from never having a job. Football was his job and he worked hard at it, but he went from not having a job to having fifteen million, and that's scared the heck out of me, to be honest with you. I could have done with them making less money, but he's such a wonderful guy like his brother and I didn't want him to be a different person than his mother raised and so I spent a lot of time making sure he was situated and got that and then I had to go back and doing something else. And I'm fortunate to have had a couple partners and we've got a project that that I was managing partner of that developed in Henderson Nevada called Union village, and it's a hundred seventy eight acres. It's over all like a one point three billion dollar project. And along the way, about five and a half years ago, I caught a call from a friend who who's the head of the sports management division at Corn Fairy. You me know him, gusts jet Hughes Right, used to be used to be a coach with Pittsburgh and and he asked if I'd be interested in the job here at the hall of fame and I gave him my Best Will Ferrell Imitation and told him I was kind of a big deal and doing this project out and Henderson Nevada and I couldn't do it, but I love the hall. I knew my predecessor, Wonderful Guy, but he said, well, let me send you the job description. And so at the the end of the day I cleaned up my email and I sent it to my wife and and she called me like fifteen minutes later and she said have you read this thing? And I said No. She said, well, you better read this, and I said why? She said, we're...

...going to go do this and I said well, sweetheart, I already told them know, and she said, well, you can call him back and I said well, sweetheart, we've got this big project and Henderson we're working on right now, and she said Yeah, but you've got that to a point where you could pass up don and I said why do you want to do do this so much? And she said you need to read this because this is what you believe and, to her great credit, she was right. I believe that Sportsville's character and a great coach can help you not just in that sport but your whole life long and, as I mentioned it, you know that's certainly been the case in my life and my boys lives and the pro football hall of fame. I think it has been everything that I thought it would be. It is kind of this Church of football that represents these values that everyone can rely on. But for the guys that we respect, whether it's hall of famers or guys who played the game like yourself. Guest. You know, you relied on those values over a long period of time, through a lot of adversity, to literally drag a lot of other people to greatness, and that's greatness that everyone can access, whether you're a football player or not. So, David, you were hired. It was a two thousand and fourteen. He became president. It was January six, which was the other thing I found out is that it's cold in Ohio. Yes, it's not pepperdine, that's your sure, it's not Orange County California or Duke Wore Beach. It is cold here at that time. So what was the first thing on your to do list as president, on your first stand the job? But you only it's interesting because a little bit like I shared with you in the rereading the football my first thing was to meet the staff and to encourage them and this was going to be our team. But but the first kind of large piece of business was to really draft our mission statement, then our vision and our values, and collectively we developed that mission statement, which has served really well, I think, over these last five and a half years, and that is to honor the heroes of the game, preserve its history, promote its values and celebrate excellence everywhere, that just on the football field, everywhere, right. And so you know we had an experience here three years ago where we had to cancel a football game between the packers and the colts because the field was painted him properly and that was going to be an expensive issue to the hall of fame. But frankly, it was easy decision to make. I mean it was hard to live with, but you know whether or not we should do it or not, even though we had national TV. And understand that we issue more press credentials here at the pro football hall of fame for the Hall of Fame Game Than Any other game other than the Super Bowl. So there's a lot of guys here. But if we don't stand up for the safety of players, the pro football hall of fame doesn't do that good Lord, who will? Right? So that mission statement has really helped, helped us and help me along the way. Right. So, David, you're known for the guy who walks down the hall and knocks on somebody's stor so who is the first player that door that you knocked on to say that you've just made it into the hall of fame. Well, I'll tell you something that you know our the first time we were going to do this, our selectors actually went too long and we had to call the guys, you know, and we had to get them over to the Radio City Music Hall. It was in New York and we didn't have time to go around with the TV camera knock on their door. And I called. My first call was to Michael Strahan, because he lives in New York. We had to get across town. My second one was to Derek Brooks, and I knew Derek, so it was kind of like calling a friend, right. My third one was the Ray guy, the first true hunter in the hall of fame, and and he's got that southern Mississippi accent and the almost didn't answer my phone because I mary coach several went for instead of three D and three Oh from canton, right and and I said Ray, this is day Baker, the new President Hall of fame, and in that southern draw he says yes, sir, and I said Ray, it is my great pleasure. And I got that far and I could hear him drop to the ground and his phone rattle around and his wife saying, honey, are you okay? And I thought I'd killed my first hall of Famer. You know, it was a long time before you got up again. He had been eligible, I think, twenty nine different times and that made it and he and when he got back to the phone he said, you know, I'm sorry, I didn't know how much uuntil now, how much was meant to me. But I think the first door that...

I knocked on, why, I knocked on Jerome Bettis's door and he got frustrated because it took too long and he'd left. So the maid came to the door. That might have been the first one, but since then I've knocked on a lot of doors and Kurt Warner was one of my guys from there for in a football league, which was really special to me. But everyone special, certainly a guy like Jerry Kramer who waited forty five years to get the hall of fame. He's special and you know it was. It was just good. Yeah. So can you explain to me so so many get nominated now? Do you bring a list of like, you know, the last say the last twenty to the hotel? How does that work for you guys at the hall of fame once you find out who it is? Do you not find out yourself until the day before? How does that work for you? Yeah, what we do traditionally. Now we're doing it a little bit different for the centennial celebration next year, but traditionally we will get fifteen modern error finalists and in order to be eligible you got to wait for five years and then there's twenty five years of eligibility and then there's generally two seniors and one contributor, or two contributors and one senior, and a senior as somebody who's beyond that twenty five year period. A contributor is somebody who's not a player or a coach, and so we end up with eighteen people that are generally there at the hotel and we have a meeting that runs ten or twelve hours that day. Deloit and Touche has been our auditors that count the votes and I don't have a vote, but I run the meeting because we got to be through by seven o'clock to introduce the class live to the nation and and I don't really know who's in it until shortly before we knock on the door when I open up the envelope from deloit touch and then we quickly run around and get the guys who don't make it. And because, again, we we've learned. We we hate disappointing anybody, but we certainly won't. Don't want to disrespect someone by having them be in the room next door to somebody who's celebrating, celebrating, and then we go around and knock on the door and and that is an incredible experience that again I think your listeners would be interested in, because at that moment they're not thinking about their championships or their records or the plays. And that moment it is if, you know, they feel joy. Their families are celebrating because they're frequently in the room, they're with them, but it's if they go back to every moment in that journey that just flashes before their eyes. Their mom driving them to a peewee football practice, they're, you know, their dad's encouraging them after a loss. You know every one of their coaches or the teacher that inspired them. And and eventually there's a lot of joy, but eventually there's a lot of guys that are crying and and you know, I think there's story is very powerful book because it plays right out in front of us in these cameras that everybody can see. But it's the same story for everybody, whether you played in the NFL or not, as long as you've competed, right. So, can you tell us a few things about what is happening at the hall of fame? What are you guys are currently working on? And I mean with Johnson and Johnson coming in and being one of the partners you guys are really turning is to Disneyland in Ohio. I mean I love the Wackn with with with Joe Joe names coming out and talking to us. I mean that was one of my favorite things. Yeah, that was very cool and again, that was a great guess because, again and yeah, there's also the Super Bowl theater, which is, you know, hard hitting, Helmont popping, heart, stop and action. It's true football, but that game for life theater where Joe Nameth is a Hologram and Vince l Barty and George Hollis, it's it's a it's a place where a lot of great lessons were learned in that locker room and their stories told by football players but it's not really just football. It is Jim Kelly talking about fighting cancer, or Alan Page, who became a Supreme Court justice in Minnesota, talking about education, or Steve largent being undersized, or Curtis Martin talking about growing up in a home in Barbardy here Warren Moon, the first black quarterback to be...

...in the hall of fame, or or you know any of those things that just you know, it's it's great lessons that everybody can identify with. But here at the hall of fame, what we're doing. We have the museum, but we've now built Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. We've completed about two hundred and twenty million of a first phase in Johnson controls hall of fame village and you know, the enshriment kicks off the beginning of every season here and we kind of have seven hunder thousands of people descend upon it. We now have the Block College Football Hall of Fame Classic and next year we're going to have the centennial celebration where we're inviting back every player who played in the NFL, every coach, every trainer, ever equipment manager to come celebrate the birthday. That will be a year from right now, today, September, Seventeen of two thousand and twenty, and we'll also dedicate a very special centennial plaza and in that plaza will be the name of every player who played in the first century in the NFL. So, Gus, you know, your great, great, great great grandchildren can come down there and you see your name. But you know, we've got another phase that is now beginning. That's about two hundred and seventy nine million dollars. And eventually we do want this to be a Disneyland for football. I mean again, while Disney did it on the backs of a cartoon mouse, but you know, he didn't have this incredible product that last year was forty six of the top fifty TV shows or thirty two clubs or five network partners. And and so this is it's grown a lot. We think it's going to grow more and we're excited about this. And really the hundred season which is going right now, but at the end of that time is really the centennial celebration from when it all began right here in in ohile right. Well, that's a lot of great stuff going on. David, one of the or to the visuals I think that most people have. When I think of the hall of fame or the Yellow Jackets and then the the bronze bus of the players. What's the story behind the bus are that? Is that always the same company that creates those, or what's the process and how those are created? Well, the bronze bust are created by a guy named Blair bus well, who is kind of our lead of sculpture, nationally renowned artist who overseems a team to do those again, like last year there were eight bronze bust and we get started on it literally the day after the Super Bowl. I mean they're selected on selection Saturday before the Super Bowl. On Super Bowl Sunday we take them over there and they're introduced at the first quarterbreak and the next day we have what's called measurement Monday, where they are measured for their bronze bust, for their goal jacket from Hagar and for their ring of excellence, which is done through case jewelers, and all those people take their measurements that we send them through an orientation of what's about to come. And that bust, I'm told, is supposed to last fortyzero years. Well, and those kids, I mean even those hall of famers that are older. They're probably like kids in a candy store. They just can't believe that's happened to I mean I can't even imagine the emotions and the excitement that's going through every single player that has ever played the game and gotten to be in hall of fame. On, David, one of the last things we like to do we call it the no huddle, and then, you know, at after that we'd like to see if you'd give us a little quick shout out for huddle up with gusts. But the no huddle is we fire some quick questions at you and and you can answer the questions and there we just try to kind of end it on a kind of a positive, fun note. So, Dave only starts a great want you start. Okay, David, what, in your opinion, is the most underrated thing about the hall of fame? The volunteers. You Got Forty eight hundred volunteers here in can't ohile, most of whom are taking two weeks of vacation off to make this a great event, and they're deeply appreciated, but they're they probably don't get enough appreciation for that. Right. What is your biggest pet peeve? Probably small cars, right, but you know whatever I mean. I did want to try to get into a Hugo, okay, but you know, I I would say, if I'm thinking anything, there's that moment when I get on a plane and I'm walking at down the aisle and people are looking up at me and I can see that they're thinking, God, please don't let him sit next to me, and and...

...that's always difficult for me because I know it's difficult on them and it's certainly difficult to the poor guy I end up sitting next to. David. What's your favorite sports venue that you've ever been a San participating in as a spectator? Well, this is going to be a little bit bias, but I would say Tom Vinson all of fame stadium. You know, you know it is legitimately it's no longer a high school stadium in which an NFL game gets played. It is it is now a twenty three thousand seats, small venue NFL stadium that is built kind of like an amphitheater even more than a football stadium. So it's great for concerts, it's great for the Games. It's really spectacular for our instrinment and it was fun to be a part of seeing that thing go up. Outside my window we had a construction CAM and every time that window that camera went down. You know, I get my phone would be blowing up with calls from people saying get that thing online again. Right. But where I'm sitting right now, I can look out my window and then probably about thirty five or fifty feet away is Tom Vince in all of fame stadium. Nice. Nice. What is your favorite sports movie? Oh Baby, I got a couple, you know they're I it. Can I only pick one now? Okay, love Hoosiers, you know, from that standpoint. Love Louke Garrick, the pride of the Yankees, right, you know, thought that special, I think. You know, I love the natural you know, from that standpoint a that's why, you know, they were all good, you know, the the best there's ever been, the best there's ever going to be. But you know, I again, probably for the same reason as we've talked in the show, you know, I love sports movies. I think they're inspiring and there's great stuff I loved, you know, more recently I love forty two about Jackie Robinson, you know, and you know, I do think football movies are harder to make in some respect than even baseball movies. Well, maybe that's my explanation for picking three baseball movies, but you know, I you know, give me a great sports movie any day. Did you ever see heaven can wait? Yeah, yeah, I love asolutely. Was it warned beat he was a quarterback. that his rams and steelers super bowl. I was like that that's my favorite. That's true. Yeah, actually, I actually thought, didn't they make two versions of that? Well, there's an older version. I think the most will unless there's been one since the beaty when the beating one was probably about eighty one or something like that, but that's he rode into the tunnel and was killed but then came back as a ghost. Oh really, yeah's pretty that's pretty good. That's why. I mean, I've seen most people don't think I've seen that, and actually the sports action in it a lot of times it's kind of hookey. It's not that. I like North Stallas forty. That was a great that's like that's a classs like locker room guys, you know, getting into old cold tubs and everything. It's a classic one. Dave how about if you're commissioner for a day. Let's what we won't see in the NFL, but we'll say. How about from Major League Baseball or the NBA? What rule change would you make for Major League Baseball? Are for either one NBA, NBA or Major League Baseball? Gosh, you know. Yeah, I maybe because I've been a commissioner myself, I'm involved in enforcing the rules, not necessarily making them right. But you know, I think, yeah, I don't know, I let me go to kind of go to the NFL. We can, because we had a lot of world change. We want to make that. Yeah, I kind of think that both teams ought to get a chance to to score in overtime. And you know right now, you you know it's you know that first team scores a touchdown, they win, and I think there's enough guys out there that can, they can match that that they ought to at least get an opportunity. But that that's that would probably be tops on my list. Right. So, if you could go back to a young David and talk to him, what would you say to what advice would you get in don't ever give up, love what you're doing, that it's not about money.

It's about being loved and the best way to be loved is to love. We appreciate what you have done for the game and Dave, thank you guys for standing up here. And it's, how kind of put it, it's a do it's easy to do something outrageous and sensational to get people's attention for a little while, but it's much more challenging but much more fulfilling to do something that'll change their life all lifelong and obviously you guys are talking about those values. So very sincerely thank you for doing that. Yep, we're going to bring whistle ball back. That's our role. Not Enough kids are playing with football now, so we want to bring it back. But we appreciate you. How here you coming on with us, entire us. Story I got. I got to tell you one story here. When I was playing basketball in Switzerland, we were training up in the Alps and you know which you know, our coach was crazy because he thought this was going to be good. But yeah, I mean you're training at Twelvezero feet and you know, you were just exhausted all the time, and every once in a while they threw out a soccer ball and me and the other American were horrible right soccer. So he sent over to his family and had them send over a couple whiffle balls and whiffle bats and we were we insisted that they take time to learn baseball and it was hilarious. I mean it was just hilarious. It was it was all the things that five and six year old kids do, except that these guys were professional. appen right, really, I mean I mean two guys would get on second base and they'd each push each other up, and so it's a whiffleball. Maybe coming back, but probably in Switzerland first. Right, like I love to see a six nine David Baker swinging a little yellow whiffotball bat. It happens. It happened. Big Strikes. Thank you, guys. Right. So now, yeah, thank you. Thanks Dat. We want to thank you for listening to huddle up with gusts, a RADIOCOM original. You can find our show on RADIOCOM, the new RADIOCOM APP or anywhere you listen to your favorite podcast. Please leave us in review or comment if you enjoyed the show. We are on facebook, twitter, instagram and Youtube at huddle up with us. You can also visit us on our website. Huddle up with gusscom.

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