Wrestling at the Chase 50th Anniversary!

From CAC member, Darla Taylor

Herb Simmons’ tribute show on Saturday, May 23, 2009, at East Carondelet Community Center was a heartfelt salute to the 50th anniversary of the debut of “Wrestling at the Chase” on KPLR-TV on May 23, 1959.  Harley Race was on hand (his first bout at the Chase Hotel was in 1964 against Joe Tangaro) along with long time ring 4161_1068038060959_1226280920_30185410_3568494_n1announcer Mickey Garagiola and Sam Muchnick’s right-hand man, Larry Matysik, who did play-by-play from 1972 through 1983.  Mickey’s brother Joe Garagiola, who was the first play-by-play host back in 1959, was going to call in but has been sidelined by serious eye surgery, so thus couldn’t touch base with his old home area.  However, Gene Kiniski called, as did Baron Von Raschke, to offer their thoughts to the town and to the occasion.  The crowd was hot and easy, reacting with standing ovations for their old favorites or, in the case of the younger followers, the legendary names about whom their parents or older siblings had told them.

 A word of praise for the young, independent performers in the ring — they worked their butts off!  Harley and Larry appreciated the great effort that was put into their work.  Somehow, in this little building in a small St. Louis suburb, the atmosphere that once surrounded wrestling in St. Louis was there and alive again.  For Larry, Mickey, and Harley (and even Kiniski and Raschke via telephone on the p.a. system) — it meant something and it was a moment to remember.

When Von Raschke made his St. Louis debut on Oct. 4, 1968, he tried to watch the earlier bouts from that hiding spot by the flag on the stage.  Raschke though, had a problem.  â??Without my glasses, I couldnâ??t see two feet in front of me,â? said Raschke, one of the nicest guys ever to pull on tights.  â??Nobody had told me that was where the wrestlers came in from. When it was my turn I thought I was in the wrong place and stumbled clear across the stage to the other side.

 â??I was lost!  Thrashing around between the fans and trying to find my way to the ring, the crowd really got into it.  When I stormed into the ring after going down about three wrong aisles, everybody was in an uproar so I just went along with it,â? Raschke chuckled.  â??I was wrestling Pat Oâ??Connor, and he had to be laughing at me.  I donâ??t know, because I couldnâ??t see him.â?Â  4161_1068037940956_1226280920_30185407_1948702_n2

 It was during that battle when Raschkeâ??s claw was born.  â??We were going pretty good and Pat whispered to me, â??Put on the claw.â??  I didnâ??t know what it was so I whispered back, â??What the hell is it?â?? Somehow I got on something that looked like the claw and the fans really screamed,â? pointed out Raschke. 

 Not much later, Raschke went to Texas and watched Fritz Von Erich use the claw.  â??I really learned how to use the claw then,â? Raschke recalled.  â??But Pat was a super worker and really got me started doing something that enhanced my career.â?Â  Even if Raschke did get lost the first time going to the Kiel ring!  Jim also mentioned that when he was going up the steps to climb into the ring that night that he first ended up in a wrestling match against his cape.  I think the cape won. If I remember correctly, there were three or four steps to walk up before getting into the ring.  He really had the fans going Saturday night just like he did so many years ago.  It was a great night for us to remember!!

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