Miami, Fla. is a sandspit eight feet high surrounded on three sides by an ocean, a swamp and Fidel Castro and on the north by envious people. O. Henry once said that Californians are a race. Miami is a race—dogs, horses and to the beach, year round. It also has jai alai, which is supersonic handball. Miami's attractiveness is unassailable. Its girls wear the least the longest. Its air is sweet. Its crab grass is ever green. Its architectural tastes, particularly along the beach, are loud, and so are its disc jockeys. They make Miami radio unbelievable. But Miami television is another matter. Miami television has Sportscaster Clure (Scrooge) Mosher.
Clure Mosher is an ex-pro football player and horse race caller who, as he appears regularly on WCKT, Channel 7, an NBC-TV affiliate, is large, nasty and opinionated. These qualities do not necessarily set him apart from other sports-casters, but he also knows quite a bit about sports. In his charmingly boyish, insufferable way, he also knows quite a bit about a lot of other things, and he never tires in the telling. He has advised his listeners on such topics as weight control ("I lost 50 pounds, and I owe it all to clean living") and the desirability of residing in Las Vegas ("Forget it!").
The television audience of Miami is very loosely divided into two groups: those who like Mosher, or the minority group, and those who would like to see him swallow his tie, right down to the shirttail. Everybody, everybody, watches Clure Mosher. Even Jack Paar. Paar called him "that idiot sports announcer" because Mosher's 15-minute sports show was cutting into Paar's opening monologue on the NBC Tonight Show. WCKT was strong for keeping Mosher where he was. Paar was affronted. Mosher was undisturbed. "Eve named a few idiots myself in my time," he said blandly. "WCKT," he added, "knows what it's doing." Paar eventually gave up and became a weekly, and Mosher was saddened. "I liked Paar, because he was a controversial guy like me, but after he made that remark I delighted in kicking him around every chance I got. I miss him."
Miami is not quite sure how it got Mosher. Most people you talk to believe he was run out of Chicago, where he was general manager and race caller at May wood Park. "Malicious gossip," says Mosher. In any case, he is now far and away Miami's leading TV personality. His late (11:15) sports show outdraws the other two local stations combined, and he is to begin a supplementary early-evening show in September. He appears frequently in the columns of Miami newspapers, especially that of Jimmy Burns, sports editor of
The Miami Herald
, with whom he carries on a phony feud. Miami is right down Mosher's taste line. He appears regularly at dog tracks, horse tracks, in cocktail lounges and on the blotter of the Miami Beach Police Department (Mosher does not drive a car very well). He also has appeared as a horse race handicapper for the Herald—he specialized in long shots—and once wrote a guest column for Jimmy Burns into which he breathlessly crammed excoriations of baseball, Aqueduct, boxing, the hypocrisy of college recruiting and Jimmy Burns. "It's easier to write for Burns than to read him," he wrote. Mosher actually prefers to be identified with sportswriters. He doubts if any other sportscaster could skillfully pinch-hit for a columnist. But then, he doubts sportscasters anyway. "What do I think of New York sportscasters?" he answered one caller on his special telephone show. "There are none." He expresses admiration for Red Barber, but he advised NBC viewers to tune out the sound of the last Rose Bowl game "because Mel Allen will just confuse you."
Those TV critics who have seen him swear by Mosher. "He is never guilty of the fatuous smile," said one. "He thinks fast on his feet, doesn't use a script or TelePrompTer and doesn't have to. He knows what he is talking about."
"He tells coaches, players, umpires, referees, sports editors and sports managers what to do," said Kristine Dunn of the
News. "He tells them what to do after calling them dumbbells and idiots for doing whatever it is they have already done that wasn't what he would have done. We admire Clure Mosher," she said. "He has never failed to entertain us."
Mosher is 42, 6 feet 2, 215 pounds of hardihood. He has square, flat features, a pouty mouth and droopy eyelids. If he were finished in bronze or lacquer he could be a substitute Buddha in the Horyu-ji temple. His television expression is one of charitable annoyance, as if he had just missed the subway because the guy in front of him fumbled the token. When he speaks it is not thunder, but a sort of nasal bray.
When the Liston-Patterson fight was canceled out of Miami because of a knee injury to Liston, an injury brought on, Mosher said, by poor prefight ticket sales, he referred to Liston's doctor as "a genius." The reference was so syrupy that a man called immediately after the program to challenge Mosher. "How dare you call a doctor an idiot!" he said. "I didn't say he was an idiot. I said he was a genius," Mosher replied. "You did not. You said he was an idiot. I heard you."
The Mosher rhetorical formula is to say nice things 80% of the time and let "that tiny 20% arouse the masses." On those rousing occasions he attacks by innuendo, by intimation, inflection, slur, sarcasm; by land, sea and air and frontal lobotomy. If he does not draw blood he at least leaves a bruise. He is discriminating. He attacks only living things: Ford Frick, the "do-nothing commissioner"; Spencer Drayton and the TRA, "the most overrated group in the world"; Bobby Dodd, Georgia Tech football coach, "a myth of perfection—with that halo he should have been a broker"; Bill Fugazy, whose "only contribution to boxing was his retirement"; Pete Rozelle, "the commissioner in name only. George Halas runs the NFL. Halas is a pillar. A pillar"; Roger Maris, "the greatest .260 hitter in baseball"; Floyd Patterson, "a fraud"; Ray Robinson, "a draft dodger"; Avelino Gomez, "a draft dodger"; Rocky Graziano, "a bum."
So thoroughly convincing is Mosher that he has been introduced at banquets as "the man who likes nobody." "Maybe you're right," he said, beginning one talk. "I've been here an hour and haven't found anybody I like yet."