Press boxes are enclosed spaces. Tempers and passions flare.
For over a decade, a power couple has perched above the Saint Louis sports media landscape—calling ballgames, dominating ratings, and taking their passion for broadcasts further than any play-by-play combo had before. As crazy as their torrid relationship began, it was nothing compared to how it would end. This is the story FSN Midwest won't tell. The real story of Dan McLaughlin and Al Hrabosky.
"I remember 1997," said long time Cardinals radio man Mike Shannon. "Silver Charm won the Derby that year, okay, but I remember another young stallion coming up, okay, and that was Danny Mac. And nobody rode him harder than Al Hrabosky did, okay."
Thrust into the booth with the grizzled bear of a broadcaster Hrabosky already was, he took his licks and earned his stripes that summer.
"Oh, Al would just wear his ass into the ground," remembered Hrabosky's former partner, Joe Buck. "But he did the same to me. And in the end, he was good. You never forget your first."
Hrabosky would definitely come out on top in that relationship, but young Dan would not stay a bottom for long.
"I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him," noted Red Schoendienst. "Get busy living, or get busy dying. "
1999 was an exciting year. Rentboy.com really took off, Ricky Martin injected all of us with Latin flair, and Ricky Horton found his way, some would say backwards, into the broadcast booth.
"Rick came in naive as a young sailor," said longtime radio man John Hadley. "By the end of that first year, he was a grizzled as an old sailor. An old, raped sailor."
"No comment," offered Mr. Horton.
"Dan really had his way with Ricky in the booth," explained Hadley. "However he wanted to call a game, he called the game, or else Danny Mac would choke a bitch. He really asserted his independence that season."
2000 found the newly assertive McLaughlin butting heads with Hrabosky for the first time. "I don't remember Dan ever talking back to me before 2000, really, and the first time he did, I have to be honest... six to midnight, man," noted Hrabosky. "Our broadcasts went from six until midnight. And they were pretty good!"
"Pretty good..." corrected McLaughlin, while sipping a cup of coffee, "they blew my [expletive]—owww!! THAT WAS A HOT CUP OF COFFEE. OW. They blew my mind. Jesus Christ, that's hot."
Dan and Al's relationship would go hot and heavy for the better part of a decade, culminating in a night neither of them would ever forget in late October of 2006.
"The night of the World Series rain-out, we decided to go back to his (Dan's) loft in the Central West End," said Hrabosky. "We picked up some pizza from Talayna's and a bottle of brandy. Chocolat was on On-Demand. Let's just say we both took in a lot of calories that night. A lot of protein. We were exhausted, emotionally and physically... Just stuffed! I remember waking up on his chaise lounge the next morning. I was really, really sore.
"But I just don't have that kind of stamina anymore... staying up, eating pizza, watching movies?!? And what am I doing sleeping on a chaise at my age?"
"That was the best night of my life," confessed McLaughlin. "But I spat it all away.... I'm sorry did I say spat? I meant threw. I threw it away.... Spat it away? God, I bet that sounded gay, huh?!"
Their relationship quickly went down from the high of 2006 to that of seemingly jilted ex-hypothetical-lovers the next year, when McLaughlin decided to open a bar south of the stadium in direct competition with Al Hrabosky's Ballpark Saloon And Storage Shed. "It was a risky enterprise," confided McLaughlin, "but I really thought the two way mirror looking INTO the guys' restroom would bring in the ladies from Al's place."
Al never forgave Dan. "A bar for secret [expletive]-suckers, that's all his bar was," he said. "You want to suck [expletive] in my bar, do it in [expletive] public. LIKE A GENTLEMAN."
Their relationship only grew worse in the booth.
"It got to the point that we couldn't even go to the same parties anymore," noted FSN corespondent Jim Hayes. "Those two [expletive]-suckers ruined my social calendar. I have to clear it with like eight different parties before I can commit to anything now. Wait.. did I call them [expletive]-suckers? Cause... um... they're not. You know, not that there's anything... um..."
Added fellow corespondent Cal Eldred, "Sometimes when Mommy and Daddy fight, I just want to run away. I HATE THEM SO MUCH!!!"
"I've seen it happen before, okay, and sometime, when two men share so much, in such tight quarters, the only way out is to kill somebody, okay. It's not pretty, but it has to happen, okay, just like the 99 cent Fat Eddie burger at Fast Eddie's Bon Air in Alton, Illinois," noted a person close to the situation, on the condition of anonymity.
When asked about their icy relationship, Hrabosky noted "I'm as close to Dan as I ever was. Well, as close as we were—minus the 40 pounds Dan's put on in the last three years."
Noted McLaughlin "Al and I are as good as ever. But he's lucky that goatee of his makes his mouth look like an asshole."
As their relationship grows even more testy, a broadcaster's divorce seems inevitable this winter.
In perhaps their most heated exchange to date, last Saturday, following second baseman Aaron Miles making a play on a groundball to his right and throwing out the runner at first, Hrabosky commented on what a fine play he made.
"Why don't you just [expletive] his [expletive] [expletive], Al?" questioned Dan. A few moments of silence followed before he added, "Cause God knows you don't [expletive] mine anymore."
As the broadcast quickly went to commercial break, the long-time partners just as quickly canceled their upcoming vacation to Iowa.