: Baron, thank you for speaking with the
Mid-Atlantic Gateway this evening. It’s great to
talk with you.
Von Raschke: Okay,
. I’m glad to talk with you.
First off, congratulations on your recently
being honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club. Your
former Mid-Atlantic partner Paul Jones was honored
at the same time, I understand.
Well, thank you very much. Yeah…Paul was out
there, and a lot of my good old friends.
How was it out there in
for the CAC event?
It was nice to get together with a lot of guys
that I hadn’t seen for a long, long
time…catching up on the news of different people
around the country. There were also a lot of great
fans out there…and people I had never met in the
business. It was great!
What was it like seeing your old partner Paul
[Paul] really enjoyed being out there this
year, and I understand he went out there last year
for the first time and really had a good time
year, he was honored also…and his brothers and
his son were there. So, it was really very nice.
That’s great….and particularly nice that
both of you were honored in the same year!
leaving the present and heading back in time for a
bit…despite the ‘Baron From Germany’
wrestling persona that so many people know you
from, you actually grew up in
, I believe?
I was raised in
You were an outstanding wrestler in
from an early age, weren’t you?
I was high school state champion in wrestling
my senior year. Also, during my junior year, we
won the state high school championship in
there, I went to the
…I went there originally on an academic
scholarship. I walked on, and later got a football
How long did you play college football for the
I played football for my first three years.
Great football fans at
Oh yeah…great fans! They follow them
probably doubles in size on football Saturdays!
I didn’t realize you had such a football
background at the
! I have to ask you about (former Oakland Raider
coach) Bill Callahan, your new coach out there?
(laughing) I don’t know him…I’ve just
read a little bit about him in the paper. That’s
Big 12 country now, and I live in
now which is Big 10 country…we don’t get too
much Big 12 coverage here.
kind of like being on the west coast and not
hearing much about [ACC] basketball…but you
still know it’s the best!
(laughing) That’s right! Now…you continued
to wrestle when you attended the
, didn’t you?
Yes, I continued my amateur wrestling there.
Luckily for me, they hired a wrestling coach named
Bill Smith before I got there, who was an Olympic
Champion. He taught me a lot of good stuff about
amateur wrestling. I had some good years there.
Didn’t you win a wrestling Championship in
college as well?
Right, I placed second in the Big 8
(Conference) my sophomore year…freshmen
weren’t eligible. I was in it my junior year,
and won it my senior year in 1962.
And, your wrestling accomplishments continued
to build after you graduated from
Yeah, after college I was drafted into the
Army. After boot camp, they heard about my
wrestling and talked to me and sent me to
…so I was able to continue my amateur career and
represented the Army for two years.
between, by the way, I did make the
team in the World Games and won a Bronze Medal in
Greco-Roman wrestling. The World games were held
then…this was 1963. I was the second American to
ever place in the World Games in Greco-Roman.
Impressive! You also collected some accolades
when you wrestled in the Army, didn’t you?
I won Gold Medals in the Army Wrestling
Championships…these were in 1964 and 1965. In
‘64, I also won AAU National Championships in
both Freestyle and Greco-Roman.
1964 was also an Olympic year. I understand
that you made the 1964
Olympic wrestling team, but through some
incredibly bad luck you were not able to travel to
and participate. Please tell us what happened.
I made the Olympic team, but I got injured at
the training camp in
…at the Academy. I got a hyper-extended elbow
two days before the plane was to leave for
…so, I didn’t get to go.
Wow…I guess ‘disappointment’ doesn’t
even begin to describe what you felt at that
To say the least. You remember the old show on
ABC called the Wide World Of Sports?
‘The thrill of victory, and the agony of
de-feat.’ My ‘feet’ hurt real bad!
was a bit of bad luck…but that’s life. I’m
over it now! (laughs)
(laughing) Well, that’s good to hear! As
they say, time heals all wounds!
did you rebound from that setback with the
Actually, while I was in the Army I was
working out and messing around with a smaller guy,
about a 145 pounder, and I got my leg stuck in the
mat the wrong way and it popped. So, I had to go
in for knee surgery…
Baron, you really did have a run of bad luck
in the mid 60s!
I was in the
. I was in the Army, and they put me in a
Anyway, a guy off of an atomic submarine was
in [the hospital] with me…his name was John
Cunningham. He was about my age, and John had the
same operation on the same morning I had mine. So,
being next to each other in the hospital, we got
to be pretty good friends because we were going
through a similar experience.
At that time, I wasn’t a wresting fan…a
pro wrestling fan---but John was. So, every
weekend he would drag me down to the TV room to
or wherever it was from.
What were your first impressions of
I said, ‘Gee, that might be something I’d
be able to do.’
Despite being a great amateur wrestler,
professional wrestling didn’t mean anything to
you until John got you to start watching it on
No, I wasn’t interested in [pro wrestling]
at all before that.
Being such an outstanding amateur wrestler,
did you look down on the professional side at that
I basically had no opinion about it then…
But obviously, you eventually took a liking to
the professional side of wrestling!
Yeah…John got me to watching it on TV, and
before too long I wrote to the promoter in
, Joe Dusek. I sent him a list of my credentials,
and he wrote a nice letter back to me.
What did Joe tell you?
He said he didn’t have the facilities to
train anybody, but told me to come and see him
later on after I got out of the Army, and he would
introduce me to Verne Gagne.
I got my first teaching job. When I first got out
of the Army, I decided I was going to teach
school…and I did for about a year after I got
out of the Army.
What did you teach, Baron?
Biology and general Science. That was the only
year I taught full time. I taught fifteen or so
years as a substitute (teacher)…not wanting to
be tied down with it.
after the year of teaching, I thought I would see
what I could do about trying professional
Did you get back up with Joe Dusek then?
Yes…I contacted Joe Dusek again. They used
to have a live television taping in a studio in
Omaha…Verne Gagne came down from Minnesota, and
Joe introduced us then.
Did Verne show immediate interest in you?
Verne told me if I wanted to come up (to
), he’d train me. So…right away I jumped in my
brother’s car and drove up there. I got a hotel
room, and contacted the Office. They let me sit
there for six or seven days!
Finally, I got Verne cornered enough to where
he started to train me. And, after a couple of
months of training, I got to get with guys like
Wilbur Snyder. Verne had a ring set up at a farm
where we would train.
a few months of that, they gave me the job of
hauling the ring around and setting it up in the
different towns and for TV. And they also had me
refereeing some of the matches then. So, that was
sort of my introduction to the business.