Chick Hernandez on one on one interview with Dan Snyder when Snyder wasn’t giving interviews ~
“He interviewed me for six minutes. We put it online because it was hysterical to watch this guy ask me questions. What do you like eat? All kinds of off the beaten stuff. By the time we turned it around, I did him, it was good.”
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town and having an opportunity in Our Town to talk to one of Washington’s most renowned sports broadcasters.
Chick Hernandez: Well, I can’t wait for this. Who is this?
A Ockershausen: They used to be sports talents. Now they’re broadcasters.
Chick Hernandez: Are they? Talent.
A Ockershausen: Like there are no more sales people. They’re account executives now. That’s happened to our world. Chick is a very dear friend and has been so important to Comcast Sportsnet and its growth, and we want to talk about that, but I’d like to go back to Chick Hernandez to where he is born. He’s a local guy. He’s an Our Town guy.
Born and Raised in Our Town
Chick Hernandez: I was born in Providence Hospital October 31st. Won’t give you the year because I never give my age because of my young looking skin. You can’t tell right now on this podcast. But, born in DC, raised in DC, lived on R Street for five years then went out to Silver Spring.
A Ockershausen: The migration.
Chick Hernandez: The migrations. Single mother, the white Irish Catholic from Annapolis.
A Ockershausen: Well, you share the same hospital. Only my problem is I was born there 88 years ago in March.
Chick Hernandez: Wow you are ancient.
A Ockershausen: Providence Hospital.
Chick Hernandez: Providence Hospital, yeah.
A Ockershausen: I was asked to do a commercial for them.
Chick Hernandez: Really?
A Ockershausen: Yeah, for their 75th anniversary, and I did the spot as being born in Washington, being third generation. That was the old Providence Hospital, over in southeast.
Chick Hernandez: My wife was born in the same hospital just 10 months later, exactly 10 months later in the same hospital.
A Ockershausen: The one out in Brookland.
Chick Hernandez: I don’t know where. I was too young to remember.
A Ockershausen: But, Chick, so you migrated out of the city, and your family moved out-
Chick Hernandez: Moved out, Silver Spring, Silver Spring, 9112 Piney Branch Road, apartment 103. Single mom raised me. I always say that, you know somebody asked me a while ago, “Do you miss having a dad?” I said, “I don’t know what that means because I felt like my mom was my dad too.” I thought she did a heck of a job raising a rambunctious kid, and I was-
A Ockershausen: How many children?
Chick Hernandez: My sister came 14 years later. Mom took her time.
A Ockershausen: Mom was busy.
Chick Hernandez: For 14 years I was a solo. Literally each year the pool would open up.
A Ockershausen: Apple of his eye. Now someone in your family died. Was it your grandmother?
Chick Hernandez: I’ve had a bunch of people die. What are you talking about? My aunt died last year, this April, this past April.
A Ockershausen: No, this was five or six years ago.
Chick Hernandez: My mother did in 2010.
A Ockershausen: That’s what, yeah your mom died. St. Joseph’s? St. Joe’s? Something like that.
Chick Hernandez: My kids went to St. Joe’s. My mom had a congenital heart defect. Had a great surgery, and then got an allergic reaction to the medication and died several days later. Same thing with my aunt. Same operation, died in the hospital. Not a great memory, Andy, but thank you.
A Ockershausen: You got to remember the bad. That’s what the future is.
Chick Hernandez: My mom was a hippie growing up, and she taught me about-
A Ockershausen: All this happened in the Silver Spring area not in the city.
His Dad – Carlos Patato Valdes
Chick Hernandez: Absolutely, yep, yep. All Silver Spring. The chief thing that my mom taught me really was about race. Here’s a white lady who was raising a kid of color. My father was a musician who I met when I was 38 years old for the first time.
A Ockershausen: Wow. Was he playing in a local organization, a band?
A Chance Meeting
Chick Hernandez: He was a Cuban from Havana who came over with Tito Puente, one of the more famous musicians.
A Ockershausen: I know that name quite well.
On Finding His Dad
Chick Hernandez: Right. My father’s name is Carlos Patato Valdes. He invented what you see now as the tunable conga drum. He came over, made a movie with Brigitte Bardot back in the 60’s called “And God Created Women”. The cool thing was, Andy, the cool thing was when I became a father was the first time that I decided, I know who my dad is because I can see him on the internet, but I’m going to go look him up. I’ve become a dad. I thought, you know what, let me do this.
A Ockershausen: Find about my dad.
A Chance Meeting
Chick Hernandez: I went searching, and I found where he was. He lives in New York. I kind of left it at that. Ironically I was at a Boys and Girls Club event in Virginia. A young lady came up to me and introduced herself, said, “I’m a big fan of yours.” I said, “What do you do?” She goes, “I’m a DJ of Latin music.” I looked at her, and I said, I didn’t know whether to tell this story or not. I said, “You know what,” I want to tell this story, I said, “Do you know Patato Valdes?” She goes, “I play him all the time.” I said, “That’s my father.” She said, “Say what?” I said, “That’s my father.”
A Ockershausen: I want you to hear this Janny.
Chick Hernandez: She started to cry when I told her the story that I hadn’t met him, but that I knew who he was. Two years goes by. I’m at the beach, and I get a voicemail from her who says, “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve found your father or not, but he’s playing at Blues Alley this weekend.”
A Ockershausen: Wow.
On Meeting His Dad in Person
Chick Hernandez: I hung up the phone, looked at my wife, and I said, “We’re leaving the beach early. My dad is playing, my father is playing at Blues Alley.” She said, “I think you should go.” I went. I called my mom. I said, “I’m going to Blues Alley.” My mom said, “Can I come?” I said, “Sure.” Here we are, two days later, walk into Blues Alley. I sit five feet from where he’s going to play. I wait. My mom’s asking me, “Are you going to say anything to him?” I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just want to see him play. All I’ve heard is what a great musician he is. I’ve seen him on the internet. I want to see.” Now I knew that I was a giant at 5’6″. He was 4’11”. I was lucky. My mother was 5’6″. I was lucky to be this “tall”. He’s the headliner, so his band plays for 40 minutes. They finally call him up. He walks out, and he looks frail and small. My mom says, “I don’t know if you should say anything to him because you might give him a heart attack.”
A Ockershausen: Could shake him, absolutely.
Chick Hernandez: He plays for an hour, and I watch. My mom is there with her best friend from back in the day as well, when they all used to hang together. I literally, I said, “I’m going to have to say something at the end of the set.” I go to get up, and I see this guy standing in front of my father, this guy Paul Hawkins who was a DC drummer,who hung out with all of those folks back then. I look, and I see, and I look over at my mom, and I go, “Is that Paul Hawkins?” She says, “Yes.” So, I go up. I tap Paul on the shoulder. He turns and looks at me. He knows who I am, and he goes, “Oh my God. I know why you’re here.” I said, “Yeah, could you facilitate because I don’t speak Spanish, and he don’t speak English?” He turned to my father and said, “Patato, ” My father said, “Huh?” “your son.” All heck breaks loose. They start crying and hugging. I’m standing there.
Seeing the Humor
It was like out of a comedy. No one recognizes that I’m standing there. They’re all hugging. My mom, her best friend Jackie, Patato, Paul, they’re hugging, crying. I’m like, “Hey guys over here. I’m the guy.” Finally my dad comes to me, and I hug this little tiny man. He takes me backstage to meet the band. He says, “Can you stay for the second set?” I say, “Sure, absolutely.” When he comes out for the second set, there’s no 40 minute prelude. He comes out, and he bounces out. Now he starts playing like they remember him playing. Midway through that second set, he stops, and he says, and I hear his broken English saying, “I’m going to play a song that I wrote 40 years ago, and it’s about my mother.” Paul starts to translate the song to them, and they’re now bawling. I’m just in amazement watching this guy. We had took pictures afterwards. It was great.
Becoming Acquainted Afterall
I said, “You want to come over for dinner?” His agent said, “We’re going to play with the Boston Symphony tomorrow. We can’t.”
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: The next day I get a call at 5 o’clock. Is that invitation still up and running because we just pissed off a lot of people in Boston. Why? We just walked off the plane. We’re coming to dinner. He met his grandkids. We knew each other. We talked on the phone for two years. Then he passed away. He was going to play at GW, Lisner Auditorium. He got sick on the plane and passed away two years later, I mean, two weeks later.
A Ockershausen: Was he going back to Havana?
Chick Hernandez: No. He was never going to go back.
A Ockershausen: Never going to go back.
Chick Hernandez: Never going to go back. He might have with this new regulations, but no it was cool. I got two years with him. We talked on birthdays and Father’s Day. I grew up trying to learn the language in school. Never really got it. I can understand, but I can’t speak it. Every time I’m near and in the situation, if I’m in a Cuban restaurant, which I love the food, there’s something inside me that, when they start talking Spanish, it hits me. I can feel it, and I wish I was more fluent in it. It’s cool. I still, to this day, some of his band mates and stuff, they reach out to me.
A Ockershausen: That is such a fabulous story. What was the name of the group? I wanted Janice to hear that. Tito Puente. Remember Frank Harden used to play that?
Chick Hernandez: He came over. My father, Patato Valdes came over from Cuba with Tito Puente.
A Ockershausen: We know.
Chick Hernandez: When I was in college, this was really the first time I realized I might start to look for him. I’m in college. NBC was Thursday night must see TV. I’m in my fraternity house, right, watching the Cosby show. It’s the Cosby show, and it’s the one episode where his father’s going to play one last time in a band with the trombone, right? He’s practicing, practicing, practicing. The final scene is them performing, and it’s Tito Puente at his drums. It was a wide shot, and the wide shot is for half a second. I sit up in my chair, and I’m waiting. I hear Tito say, “Ain’t that right, Patato?” The camera turns to him. Here he’s got his hat on. He says this line, “Oh not me baby.” I’m like, “Oh my.” My fraternity brother’s like, “What’s wrong?” I said, “That’s my father.” They’re like, “Stop it.” I go, “No, no, that’s my father.” This is before call waiting. I’m trying to call my mother, get the busy signal for about five minutes because she’s trying to call me. Finally, we got a hold of each other. I said, “Did you see what I just saw?” She goes, “Yes I did.”
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: It’s pretty cool, pretty cool.
A Ockershausen: That’s great. On a Thursday night.
Chick Hernandez: On a Thursday night, yes.
A Ockershausen: Oh Chick, that’s a great story. You were living in Silver Spring, and you went to high school there?
Montgomery Blair High School
Other Famous Alumni
Chick Hernandez: Montgomery Blair, the original Montgomery Blair. I am the least famous of the folks at Blair. We’ve got Connie Chung. We’ve got Goldie Hawn, Sly Stallone for like six weeks. Ben Stein the comedian. Carl Bernstein.
A Ockershausen: The young lady on Channel 5, does the morning show, Allison Seymour.
Chick Hernandez: Oh she does? She went to Blair too?
A Ockershausen: She’s a graduate of Montgomery Blair, yeah.
Chick Hernandez: I never knew that.
A Ockershausen: I saw it, somebody had a picture of a yearbook.
Chick Hernandez: I did not know that.
A Ockershausen: One time, athletically speaking, the big rivalry was Montgomery Blair and BCC. When I grew up, they were the only two schools.
Chick Hernandez: Right, right.
A Ockershausen: Now there must be 50 high schools.
Chick Hernandez: When I was coming through, it was Blair and Springbrook were the two biggies. BCC had kind of gone down a little bit.
A Ockershausen: Well, BCC went down because they got rich.
Chick Hernandez: Right.
A Ockershausen: I’m talking . . . Drew Mills, who went to Gaithersburg, that was Farmers that went down to Gaithersburg.
Chick Hernandez: Sure.
A Ockershausen: That was farm country.
Chick Hernandez: Yeah, we went and scrimmaged a match there once, and I swear they were bench pressing cows out there. I swear it.
High School Theater – Guys and Dolls
A Ockershausen: Now in your years at Blair, were you involved in theater or anything?
Chick Hernandez: I did theater. I was the only three sport athlete my Senior year. I was also in the play, Guys and Dolls.
A Ockershausen: Wow. You were Masterson, Sky Masterson?
Chick Hernandez: No, I was not. I was the pickpocket in the opening scene and Liver Lips Louie.
A Ockershausen: What a great show though for kids?
Chick Hernandez: Great show, and it was cool because my baseball coach and the theater guy worked it out. The theater guy wanted me in the show, so that was kind of cool.
A Ockershausen: What else did you do? Football?
High School Sports
Chick Hernandez: Football, baseball, and I swam.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: Cubans obviously can swim. What? The long way.
A Ockershausen: Better than Joe Frazier.
The “87 Butterfly”
Chick Hernandez: Yes, I was on the swim team because of my theatrical nature. We were a very good, we were one of the best teams in the area. We designed. We’d show up to swim meets in Army fatigues. We ticked off a lot of the competing teams because we were so good, and we knew it. We had a hit list of the schools, a big schedule, and we would put it up on the wall. Before the meet, we would cross out the name of the opponent, and they would get really ticked at us. I swam the 500 free, and I’m the only person ever to swim the 87 butterfly.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: Try to figure that one out. Yeah, I didn’t make it to 100. I pushed off the wall. I kept going, and the next thing I knew I felt these hands on my wrist, pulling me up. I was on the bottom of the pool. I had passed out. That butterfly’s tough.
A Ockershausen: Exertion.
Chick Hernandez: That butterfly’s tough. 500 free was nothing, although 500 free, you had my buddies go 20 laps. They have a little lap counter inside the water, you know what I’m saying. I would get like, I’d see 15, 14, 18, 20. I look up, “What are you doing to me?” They were crushing me. It was a good time. Our swim team, we were champions.
A Ockershausen: You had a campus with the pool right there? On your whole campus?
Chick Hernandez: We swam at MC Takoma. We practiced there.
A Ockershausen: Oh I see. Across the line.
Chick Hernandez: Yeah, it was easy. Also, Long Branch I think.
A Ockershausen: Chick, that’s a great … I didn’t know. I knew you were quite a high school athlete, but I didn’t realize.
Chick Hernandez: There’s no pictures of that because nobody wants to see me in a Speedo.
A Ockershausen: I have known you and watched you for 30 years. I know you’re a performer.
Chick Hernandez: I am a performer.
A Ockershausen: I say it all the time, 24/7. That’s what makes your talent come out. We’re delighted about this, Chick, and we’re going to talk more about it and more about your dad. This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. We’re talking to Chick Hernandez.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. I’m talking to the esteemitable, whatever that means, but I read it somewhere.
Chick Hernandez: Is that English?
A Ockershausen: Chick Hernandez about his dad and his family and growing up in Silver Spring. Where does it begin? You didn’t go into show business, but you are show business. Where does it begin that you got into the so called broadcast world?
University of Maryland
Chick Hernandez: I was at University of Maryland, and I was a, even though I was-
A Ockershausen: You were in school in Maryland?
Chick Hernandez: Listen, I was a class clown from first grade to twelfth grade. That was my goal was to be the class clown, and I was.
A Ockershausen: You did it.
Chick Hernandez: I wrecked teachers’ lives. There’s no question. I found that out afterwards at reunions. They’re like, “Yeah, you weren’t so fun to teach sometimes.” Some were really good to me though. I was bashful. I couldn’t speak to adults. I would get really talk fast and almost to a stutter when it came to talking to adults. When I joined Sigma Chi Fraternity at Maryland, which was the jock fraternity.
A Ockershausen: Sigma Chi.
Sigma Chi Fraternity Maryland University
Chick Hernandez: Sigma Chi, and they had won the all sports title like 13 straight years. It was very important for them to win it. I took an office in the house as the athletic chairman. When you have 250 brothers asking you, “What are we doing this semester?” You better come correct. It was like just an empowerment. Prior to that, two years prior to that, WMUC radio, the college radio station would have auditions. I would get to the door, and I’d see the sign, and I couldn’t even, like I can’t do it. Here I am the athletic chairman at Sigma Chi, when I got that, after the first two weeks, and I’m in the meetings talking with the brothers. I’m like, feel myself. I walked up to WMUC. I saw the sheet of paper. I ripped it down literally, walked in and said, “I’m your new sports director.” They said, “Well, we’re going to have auditions.” I said, “You can have all the auditions you want. I’m going to be your guy. Go ahead and have the auditions. Call me.” Two days later they called and said, “Yeah, you’re it.” I was the Sports Director. I was there for Len Bias-
A Ockershausen: Unpaid?
Sports Director WMUC – One on one interview with Lefty Driesell
Chick Hernandez: Yeah, unpaid. I was there for Len Bias’ last year. I was there for Lefty Driesell his last year, and then Bob Wade. In college, I covered those guys for the radio station. Literally the day that Lefty took the job at James Madison, I went because he was my coach, just like I pined about him these last few days to get into the Hall of Fame. He was my coach. I went to the press conference where they said, “There’s no one on one interviews. Nobody’s doing one on one.” I’m a college student. I’m like, “Whatever.” After 15 minutes of his press conference, while it’s still going on, I unplugged, and I went to where the coach’s office is. I just waited. About 35 minutes later, he walked in, and he goes, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Well, they told us no one on ones. Is that true?” “Well, you want one?” I said, “Why do you think I’m here.” He goes, “All right. You my guy. Let’s go do this thing.”
I got a one on one, and then I drove it back to MUC radio. It’s the same night that Larry Michael is going to give a talk to all of us. He’s a former, we call them mucers, M-U-C, former guy at Maryland. He’s going to go talk to all the radio guys. He walks in at 5:58. I’m cutting tape of the Lefty interview. He goes, “Oh where’d you get that from? Is that on the feed?” I go, “No, I got that from the press conference.” He says, “Say what?” He goes, “The press conference wasn’t that long ago. I said, “I know.” He goes, “You were there?” “Yeah.” “You got a one on one?” “Yeah.” “Well, how’d you get back here?” I said, “Well, quite frankly, I sped.” “Why?” “Because I knew you were talking today, and I wanted to hear what you had to say. He looked at me like oh okay. He gave me a job offer that night.
A Ockershausen: Is that right?
Mutual Radio – Producer for Bill Rosinski
Chick Hernandez: Took a job with Mutual Radio. I produced for two years for Bill Rosinski and Dan Miller, who’s now the voice of the Detroit Lions.
A Ockershausen: Where was the Miller office, I mean, the-
Chick Hernandez: The Mutual offices were in Arlington.
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Chick Hernandez: Crystal City.
A Ockershausen: Crystal City, right. My son worked over there one summer. I know where you mean.
Sports News Network
Chick Hernandez: I did that for two years. Then the Mizlou Sports News Network was trying to begin a cable operation. They wanted to do what ESPN news is now. They were going to do it first. They had this idea to do this round the clock sports thing. They had to hire a bunch of bodies. They hired a bunch of bodies and then realized we don’t have enough. I was in the second call of people to come in and just work. I was the lowest of the low.
A Ockershausen: Still in Arlington? Where were they headquartered?
Chick Hernandez: They were at the Gannet building.
A Ockershausen: Gotcha.
Chick Hernandez: Literally I was the, they called the commercial coordinator. I had to watch when the commercials hit the hit time and then log it, so that they knew the next morning at 11 a.m. when we came back on live, what exact time was it. Was it 11:00:13, whatever it was? I did that. I always hung out with the anchors. I was literally there from midnight to 6 p.m. because I would do my shift and then hang out with the anchors.
A Ockershausen: Smart man.
Chick Hernandez: One day out of the blue, the Executive Producer, Brad Fuss, he says, “I need you to step into the office for a second.” I said, “Did I do something wrong?” “No,” he said, “We’d like to make you one of the anchors.” I said, “You have to be,” can’t say the word. I said, “No.” He goes, “Isn’t this what you want to do?” I said, “I want to do it, but I can’t. You can’t just throw me in the, you know.” I came up with the idea of let me do a couple stories first. I did the story on Dave Parker, “The Cobra”, former Pittsburgh Pirate and Milwaukee Brewer. Then I covered the Caps Islanders six overtimes, just out of the blue.
A Ockershausen: Wow, went on and on and on.
Chick Hernandez: They said, “Your reporting’s fine. Let’s put you on the anchor desk.” Me and Wally Bruckner did my first show together. I was nuts and bolts, let me just get it right. There was no humor. That’s what they saw in the news room. They saw me yucking it up with the news anchors. On the air, I was about as vanilla as you could get. Literally, they were happy. It was solid, but nothing like, you know whatever.
A Ockershausen: Nothing like what you could do.
Chick Hernandez: We went bankrupt not too shortly after that. Wasn’t because of me. I got a job in Augusta, Georgia. My first tape I put out, went to Augusta, Georgia.
WRDW – Augusta, GA
A Ockershausen: WRDW.
Chick Hernandez: WRDW. Yep. I used to go to the Maryland library and the broadcast magazine, the back of the magazine on Wednesdays was all the job openings, right. I’d look and look and look. I saw oh there’s one. Sports director. Augusta, Georgia. I’m not a golf addict at this point, but I’m like I’ll take Augusta. I send one tape out, my first tape out. They call and say, “Can you come down for an interview?” Interviewed, got the job as the Sports Director. Did two and a half plus years there.
A Ockershausen: Wow, Chick, you got great call letters. I’ve been to the Masters enough to see those call letters.
Chick Hernandez: Fell in love with the Masters and golf, played four days a week. First few weeks were tough because I got a lot of death threats, a man of color down south. My news anchor, who was like the Gordon Peterson of Augusta, Rick Sykes, he saw the first phone call I got, the first death threat. He’s like, “You all right?” I said, “Dude some guy just said I’m going to kill you.” He said, “What?” I said, “They just said are you going to leave sooner or later.” I was like, “Well, I get off at 11 o’clock.” They said, “No I mean like are you going to leave the market sooner or later?” I said, “I don’t know.” He goes, “Well, you’d better leave sooner because I’m going to kill your.” I went, “Uh.” My news anchor Rick, he saw it, and he said, “Hey Chick, I get death threats. My people are stupid.” I relaxed. Within six months, I kind of won the region over.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely. You’re the man.
Chick Hernandez: It was far different. I couldn’t go to dinner.
A Ockershausen: At Augusta.
Chick Hernandez: In Augusta. My last year and a half, small pond, kind of thing. I could not go to dinner without people with no teeth walking up going, “Hey, I want you to meet my daughter.” I’m like okay great, can I just get this bite of steak down?
A Ockershausen: These are the same people you see at the wrestling match too.
Chick Hernandez: Yes.
A Ockershausen: Chick, but that background has made you what you are as far as you get. Where was the step from Augusta? I want to get into that. This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. There’s a step from Augusta to Channel 5. I want to hear about that.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen. We’re talking to Chick Hernandez.
Chick Hernandez: Is it your town or Our Town? It’s your town. It really is your town. I know it’s our town.
A Ockershausen: It used to be my town, but I’m a has been.
Chick Hernandez: I’m a never was.
A Ockershausen: No you aren’t. You are there. You’re the man. Chick, I’ve got you in Augusta. You’re enjoying life. You’re playing a lot of golf, and an opportunity comes to move to the big market.
On the Road to Market 7 – Fox 5
Chick Hernandez: Friend of mine, who I grew up with from high school. I have a very close knit group of guys, guys from first grade that I’m still close with, picked up guys in junior high and high school.
A Ockershausen: You’re a clown all the way.
Chick Hernandez: All the way. High school, well actually in junior high we started a thing called the BS club, which you can imagine what that was, but we also made it the boys service club. We did food drives. We went and hung out at the old folks home. We did a lot of good stuff. My friend Sock calls me up and says, “Hey, I just heard on the Don and Mike show,” he goes, “Rudy Martzke, every Friday, he does a piece on them, and the last thing they do every Friday is they say, ‘Hey, Rudy give us one inside tidbit to the news and what’s going on.'” He goes, “I just heard Rudy say, ‘Gus Johnson’s leaving Fox 5,’ so you can go get that job.”
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: I said to Sock, “Dude, I’m in market 112. That’s market 7. I’m not making that jump.” I hung up on him. I’m like, “You’re crazy.” Hung up on him and about a half an hour later I’m sitting there, and it just kind of dawns on me, at least give them a tape, so they can tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong. Never in my mind, Andy, did I think I would get the job. I sent the tape. My agent calls like two days later, and he’s flustered. He’s, “They want you, they want you. They want you to be the sports director.” I said, “Hold on a second. Buckhantz is the Sports Director.” He goes, “No you’re right, you’re right. They want you to be the weekend guy.” Okay. “What do you mean by that?” He goes, “Well you got to go up for an interview.” I came up for an interview. This is my home town, so I come in. I tell nobody, not even my mother. I fly in straight to Fox 5. I knew one of the producers, Gary Asteroff I hung out, watched the operation. Gus was there. We talked about the job. I met Buckhantz. I’d watched Buckhantz obviously as a kid because he was so much older than me.
A Ockershausen: You did not know Buck when you got there?
Chick Hernandez: Not know him personally, but I definitely knew-
A Ockershausen: You’d seen his work.
Chick Hernandez: Look I was the kid who interned for Glenn Brenner and James Brown at Channel 9. That’s really where my roots are. I knew everybody in the market. I knew what it was supposed to be like. That’s why the only inkling I had that I had a shot was I knew what this market liked, right.
A Ockershausen: You’re a native of Our Town.
The Offer – Hitting the Ground Running
Chick Hernandez: Literally, I come up for the interview, do it all. I distinctly remember being in the cab ride. I said, “I just came back from the interview at Fox 5.” The guy said, “Well, great.” He goes, “I hope you get the job. You get to come back home.” I was like, “Yeah, that’d be nice.” I went home to Augusta, and I got a call like four days later and said, they want me. I think I wet myself. They said, “Here’s the caveat. We want you. You’re going to sign. Buckhantz is going on two weeks vacation. Your first show is this Sunday night,” which this was a Thursday, “This Sunday night you get to do a half hour show.” I’m like, “What?” I came in. I had to do a news hit, the end of the 10 o’clock news, and then do a half hour show, Sports Final I think it was called.
A Ockershausen: That was before cable.
First Night On Fox 5 – Rookie Mistake
Chick Hernandez: I’m on the set with Morris Jones. I think Hillary Howard, and Sue was doing weather, maybe. I told nobody. The only person I told was my mother. I said, “I need a place to stay.” I came in, and then I called everybody. I called everybody and said, “Hey, you’ve never seen me do work from Augusta.” They’d never seen me on the air, my friends. Channel 5 was going to use a piece that I’ve done in Augusta. You’re going to get a chance to see me do some work on TV. They said, “Okay, we’ll all watch.” It was actually the news show. At 10:40, 10:45, Morris Jones introduced me as the new weekend guy at Fox 5. Well, here’s the rookie who makes a mistake. I’ve got my phone on, and here comes the phone calls. Bring, Bring, Bring. I had 21 voicemails, and they were all yelling at me. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you got the job.” We met at the bar that night. We had a great time. Buckhantz was the guy who signed off. We had a great relationship. We still do. I still think, I put our shows up against anybody together.
A Ockershausen: Oh my gosh.
Chick Hernandez: Sunday nights, had so much fun.
A Ockershausen: You were the face of Channel 5.
Chick Hernandez: No, Buckhantz was the face of Channel 5.
A Ockershausen: No, no, Buck was too nice.
Chick Hernandez: He was very nice, and he shared the mike with me, and he knew that I was a little bit different. If I didn’t get-
A Ockershausen: Did you have a manager named Betty Endicott? Were you there?
Chick Hernandez: I was there after Betty.
A Ockershausen: Before I had to call Betty because I had made a deal that he was going to do, no James Madison basketball because the coach down there was named Lefty Driesell. The coach said, “Okay, well let him do it.” Then I hired Buck to do Navy football for WMAL. They were going to the Hula Bowl. Betty Endicott, whoever the news director, wouldn’t let him go.
Chick Hernandez: Really.
A Ockershausen: Said that’s a rating period. I said, “Well, nobody cares about rating period. Here’s a chance for him to get a major bowl.” They wouldn’t let him go. I had to beg her, and she wouldn’t let him go. I thought Buck did great with football.
Chick Hernandez: He did great football. He’s been great with the Wizards.
A Ockershausen: A good guy. He’s a good person.
Chick Hernandez: He’s a great person. To welcome me in, and to share the mike with me. Like I said, if I could make him cackle, when he gets to his cackle laugh, I know that anybody who’s watching us, they’re laughing right now too. That’s the thing. It’s the thing that Glenn Brenner taught me back in the day – if the girlfriend or the wife also watches you. I had plenty of husband and wife say we watch you. That meant that the lady who normally wouldn’t watch the sports back in the day, it’s different now.
A Ockershausen: It was more than sports.
Chick Hernandez: Right. It was about entertainment. We did some wacky, wacky … I rode a 2,000 pound Brahma bull, bruised my spleen.
A Ockershausen: Brenner was the leader of that.
Chick Hernandez: Yeah, Brenner was phenomenal.
A Ockershausen: Brenner used to drive George Michael crazy because George was straight. Glenn couldn’t be straight.
On Glenn Brenner and Internship
Chick Hernandez: It’s impossible. My first foray with Glenn as an intern, literally the first day we met, he came in and talked to all the interns and said, “You guys know who I am, right?” We’re like, “Yeah.” He said, “I like humor. I like funny stuff.” Then he walked out. They sent us on our way to do our assignments. My first assignment was to do Women’s basketball to watch and log the USA versus Russian women’s team.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Chick Hernandez: Oh great. I’m like, “What am I doing watching this crap?” Introductions come out, and they introduce the center on the Women’s team, for the Russian team. I swear to you, my first reaction was oh my God. My next reaction was, later in life was, I think that was Gheorghe Mureșan, I’m not sure. She was not an attractive woman. I went to Glenn’s office, knocked on the door. I said, “Mr. Brenner.” He goes, “Yes.” I said, “I think I have something funny.” He looks at his watch, he goes, “It’s been 10 minutes son.” I go, “I think it’s funny.” I had to bring it to union shop. Can’t touch anything. Bring him all the way back. This guy Steve, the engineer, punches the tape. She walks out, and Brenner just goes, “Oh my god. That looks like my first blind date.” On the air that night, that was his line. Maureen Bunyan almost fell off the set. I thought here we are. Here we go now. We are kindred spirits. From that day forward, he looked at me. He was like, “All right, this kid’s-”
A Ockershausen: You had it going, baby.
Chick Hernandez: Yeah it was cool. Miss that guy awfully. Miss him.
A Ockershausen: We had Ernie Bauer sitting where you are, telling Glenn Brenner stories. I knew about because he used the Dancing Crab, home away from home. To use entertainment, which I always thought sports was. Now I know and have known for years, that’s what it’s all about. If it ain’t funny, it ain’t worth watching, baby.
Chick Hernandez: I agree with you completely. I look for the humorous things in everything.
A Ockershausen: So much humor in life.
Chick Hernandez: There is. So many people are stuck in the mud people, especially … When I was in Augusta, I had a beaten path to the GM’s door. His office was down the hallway, and when I would do something, when I walked up after a show, I’d just see the long arm and the finger just kind of going come down to my office. I would go down there, two or three times a week. The first six months, he was like, “What are you doing?” The first night, I said, “God.” He said, “You don’t say God in the Bible belt.” I said, “Okay.” Then I said, “Gosh.” He goes, “Gosh, too close to God.” I’m like, “What can I say?”
A Ockershausen: Georgia, baby, Georgia on my mind. That’s what led you in 2001 I believe to accept the position with the fledgling, it wasn’t fledgling, we were alive then.
On to Home Team Sports
Chick Hernandez: HTS was alive and Comcast Sportsnet, well, what happened was-
A Ockershausen: We were Home Team Sports then, right?
Chick Hernandez: You were Home Team Sports, and I was told that, I signed with Fox Sportsnet. I signed with Fox Sports Net because they were going to purchase Home Team Sports.
A Ockershausen: Correct. I knew that story.
Chick Hernandez: I thought okay great. I’ll sign. I wanted to leave Fox 5. We had some personality issues there. I was like-
A Ockershausen: Really, with the talent?
Chick Hernandez: Sure, whatever you want to say. I was like, I need to get out. It wasn’t healthy. I was starting to feel bad at home. I’m like, this is not good. I was like I’m looking for an out. Fox Sports Net came. I was covering the Terps in March Madness in Minnesota, got a call from a guy at Fox Sports Net that said, “We’re going to buy Home Team Sports. Would you be our number one hire, a Face of our network?” I said, “Oh my lord, absolutely. I don’t have to move?” “No, you don’t have to move.” Okay, great. I signed my deal.
A Ockershausen: This is your town.
Chick Hernandez: No, this guy was at SNN with me through the bankruptcy. My deal with him, I said, “This has to be guaranteed.” “Well, we don’t do guarantees.” I said, “I’m not coming because me and you have both been through a bankruptcy.” That was when I was single. Now I’m a father of two. I’m not doing bankruptcy. He agreed to a two year guaranteed contract. Two weeks later he called me and says, “We got an issue.” “What’s that?” “We didn’t buy Comcast sports. We didn’t buy Home Team Sports. Comcast SportsNet did.” “Who is Comcast SportsNet?” “Well, they’re based out of Philadelphia.” I said, “Well, okay.” I said, “Doesn’t mean much for me.” He goes, “Why not?” I said, “Because I got a two year guaranteed deal. You’re paying me no matter what.” He’s like, “Oh crap.” I said, “Yeah.” I basically was on loan to them for nine months while we tried to work out a deal with Comcast Sportsnet. I covered the Super Bowl, playoff series-
A Ockershausen: For 5?
Chick Hernandez: No for Fox Sports, Fox Sports Net.
A Ockershausen: Oh.
Chick Hernandez: They just called me up and said, “Hey can you do this?” Sure. I got to do great stuff. For nine months while the third child was being born, I was home with my wife. It was great.
A Ockershausen: Honeymoon.
On to Comcast SportsNet
Chick Hernandez: Then Comcast SportsNnet came calling and said, “We’d like you to be the guy.” I said, “Absolutely. I’m not moving.”
A Ockershausen: That was Cuddihy correct?
Chick Hernandez: That was Jim Cuddihy and Sam Schroeder.
A Ockershausen: Well, everybody knew your work from Channel 5.
Chick Hernandez: Right. I think Ernie Bauer is really the one who kind of said, “Hey, you need to get this guy.” That’s what I really think.
A Ockershausen: Ernie, this was the transition period. People came from 5. We, and the sports department and the sales knew we needed to have somebody on the air that people knew who they were.
Chick Hernandez: Sure, sure.
A Ockershausen: It was necessary. To get Chick, and the sports department was so happy because they didn’t have to sell you. Everybody knew you. As a matter of a fact, they didn’t know anybody else.
Chick Hernandez: It was cool. We came right in. What we did the first year, we had Maryland’s National Championship. I had a great relationship with Gary Williams who gave us access to others didn’t get.
A Ockershausen: 17 years ago. That’s incredible.
Chick Hernandez: That is ridiculous. Geez. March 4th, no April 4th 2001. That’s the first day. I thought to myself-
A Ockershausen: You’re coming up on your 16th year. You established that relationship with Maryland, but you also established one with the Washington Redskins, which at the time was the Tiffany of sports franchises. I don’t know if that’s true anymore or not, but you lived through the tough years. You were the point man for the team, right?
On Washington Redskins’ Owner, Dan Snyder
Chick Hernandez: It was tough, it was tough because you just didn’t know what was coming each day. They were doing so many crazy things. A brand new owner at the time, Dan Snyder, who our first live shot … We went to school together, me and Dan at Maryland. Nobody knew that prior to the live shot I did with him from the suite. My opening line was here with the new owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder. Not many people know this, but we went to Maryland together. Obviously we went to different classes. You laughed. You laughed. He just looked at me like I’d spoken Chinese. I looked back at the camera and said, “Well, this is going to go well.” I’m like what is that? Off and running. Dan knows it. He was-
A Ockershausen: Did he ever recognize that fact?
Chick Hernandez: No, not until much later. We’ve gotten to know each other. We did a-
A Ockershausen: You did a lot of one on ones with him.
Spectacular Interview with Dan Snyder at a time when he wasn’t giving them
Chick Hernandez: I did one a year and a half ago that was spectacular because he didn’t want to do it, and so he kept trying to get out of it.
A Ockershausen: Right. He didn’t want to talk to anybody.
Chick Hernandez: He didn’t want to talk to anybody, yeah. He agreed to do it. Then he said, “How about I interview you?” I thought to myself in the back of my head, let me let this happen for a few minutes. That’ll calm, ease his pain. He interviewed me for six minutes. We put it online because it was hysterical to watch this guy ask me questions. What do you like eat? All kinds of off the beaten stuff. By the time we turned it around, I did him, it was good.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely. Got a lot of accolades. I know the story.
Chick Hernandez: He’s a good guy, I mean, he’s a fascinating guy who just used to step on his own feet. I think he’s done a good job of staying out of the fray and hired the right people.
A Ockershausen: Well, we all hope and pray so, but there seems to be a couple different voices from camp. We’re talking to like Drew Mills when he’s talking when he’s involved with GEICO. He’s got-
Chick Hernandez: Bruce Allen.
A Ockershausen: Bruce Allen on one side and the general manager saying they’re not in the same place. Dan’s not saying anything, so they’re confused. Chick, you lived though the bad years. They’re not good yet. I’m distressed with the changes in the coaching, only because continuity I think important. They don’t have any now.
Chick Hernandez: Well, I mean, the good thing is Jay Gruden is got a good job, and he’s done a good job. He was still learning, and he’s still learning.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Chick Hernandez: The good news is you were good enough that people wanted to take from your staff. If Sean McVay goes to LA, I think they’ll be fine. Jay goes back to calling plays. It’s all about what you do. It’s all on Scot McCloughan right now. This draft and who they get. He’s done a good job, I think, getting like Josh Norman. Unfortunately, Junior Galette. Junior Galette would have been a huge boon at linebacker, but he’s popped two Achilles, and he’ll never … He’s coming back. We’ll see what happens, but he would have been a difference maker on that defense, which was like a sieve last year.
A Ockershausen: You don’t do the beat anymore because you’re still are the Redskins man on Sundays. Any time, you’re the pre and post show.
Chick Hernandez: Yeah, I still do the pre and post. I still go out. JP Finlay was our beat guy per se, but I was still out there every Wednesday and Thursday because I wanted to be still in contact with the guys.
A Ockershausen: You have to because you’re doing the Sunday show.
Chick Hernandez: You have to do that. If I say something that’s not positive, I don’t want to be hiding from the team or appear to be hiding. I go in the locker room. I’ll get some gruff every now and again from a coach and/or player saying what was that about that you said on Sunday? I said, “Well, was I lying? Were you not a sieve? Swiss cheese? Did you stop anybody? They ran for 257 yards. Is that somehow good?” I call them on it. I like to be out there. It also affords me some relationships. We had Vernon Davis come into the studio out of the blue. I called him and said-
A Ockershausen: Maryland boy.
Chick Hernandez: Maryland guy. “Hey can you stop by? Let’s do a thing online.” I didn’t even ask him to do TV. I said, “Let’s just do something online.” He walks in the news room, and they see him. They’re like what’s going on here?
Maryland University and Lefty Driesell
A Ockershausen: Chick, but you’re such a big part of the scene. It’s great. Now you’re going back to your Maryland days, you never did work with Dick Dull, did you. Was he gone when you-
Chick Hernandez: No, when I was a student, Dull was there. I was there for Lefty’s ousting. Yes. Joe F. Blair.
A Ockershausen: Lenny Klompus and all those guys had a network going. We work with him. Lefty is such a unique, unique character. I used to have to negotiate deals, and he would tell me, “Andy I found out that Dean is getting $200 a show. I’m not getting $200.” I said, “Well, how many championships have you won?” He said, “That don’t make no difference.” I said, “It does to me.”
Chick Hernandez: The coaches are always that way. They want to know who’s getting what. Lefty, like I said, is my guy. I just spent last week with him when he came back for the banner thing.
A Ockershausen: The Dukes. When he went to the Dukes.
Chick Hernandez: He should be in the Hall of Fame.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Chick Hernandez: It’s a crime that he’s not.
A Ockershausen: Not only was he a coach, he was an entertainer. He did his stomping.
Chick Hernandez: His son Chuck Driesell says, “I used to think he was just going to work. I didn’t realize really what his work was until I played for him.” He’s like, “This guy is a showman. It’s not just a job. This is what his passion is.” The fact that he’s not in the Hall of Fame is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve seen in sports in a long time. He’s got more wins than many of the guys already in there.
A Ockershausen: You did a comparison, right?
Chick Hernandez: Did a comparison. He invented Midnight Madness. He integrated Maryland in the ACC, integrated. Went into homes, into places that other coaches wouldn’t go. He would go in. I think it was Derrick Lewis who told me, “He walked in my house, and within five minutes, he had taken his shoes off, put his feet up on the ottoman, and I thought to myself, what is this white man doing in my house?” Five minutes later, his parents were like “You’re going to Maryland.” He already sold the parents.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely. What a great, great-
Chick Hernandez: Guy had Moses Malone. He had signed Moses Malone, right. Then Moses said, I’m going to go to the pros, which was probably the smart move on Moses’s part.
A Ockershausen: Chick, it’s amazing all these things you know. I don’t know what you can do about it, but I would promote Lefty every night on the show.
Chick Hernandez: I would try.
A Ockershausen: Whatever you can. You got to do it, and Buck’s got to do it. Chick, this has been so delightful. Time has flown by.
Chick Hernandez: I’ve rambled.
A Ockershausen: No you didn’t. It’s you, and that’s why you’re so unique. You are you. You never hide behind that. Never take that lid off unnecessarily. Chick, you’re a great guy and a great, I’m telling you, what you do on TV is so special. It made Home Team Sports. It made Comcast Sportsnet, and it’s going to make NBC big someday.
Chick Hernandez: I appreciate it.
A Ockershausen: Chick Hernandez, you’re the greatest. This has been Our Town with Andy Ockershausen and thanks to Janice Ockershausen our producer.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, season two presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL radio in Washington DC for hosting our podcast. Thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% of more on car insurance.