In a former life, I used to be “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio. And even though I don’t talk about it much or brag on as I probably should, I was a nationally-syndicated sports talk host on 425 radio stations across the United States back at the turn of the century. And every night when I was done my four hours of laughs and conversations, I handed the baton to a far better man than I named “Papa” Joe Chevalier.
Chevalier died yesterday at the age of 62 in Las Vegas from the complications of a stroke he suffered in March.
Papa Joe was a simple man. He’d always come booming into the offices about 90 minutes before his show and always with a hearty laugh and always penning his opening monologue and script on a legal notepad and rehearsing it on those who would hear him. Sometimes, I’d run into the bathroom to take a leak at the 5:40 break and he’d forever be trying out some one-liner on me or engaging me in sports talk – even if it was calling the Ravens “jailbirds” or digging some fun at something Baltimore-related.
Papa Joe Chevalier was old school – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He KNEW sports. He KNEW gambling. He KNEW the mentality of big business in sports and where the money came from. He was no fraud when it came to sports knowledge. He was the real deal!
Because I broadcast the majority of my shows from the second story bedroom at my house on Springhouse Circle in White Marsh, I didn’t get to see Papa Joe every day. But I heard his show every day because my station here at WNST-AM 1570 in Baltimore carried his show even before I ever met him or knew him. And the really sad part is that because we always crossed shifts, I never really got to go out for a beer after work in Chicago with him other than at work functions, when he truly held court with the staff of young producers. Everyone in that building liked Papa Joe.
He would always send me outta the studio when his shift would begin with a standard phrase: “I love ya, kid!”
And I think he did, too, even when I was on the backend of a few “Bite Me Wednesday” segments, which was his “airing of the grievances” and beefs.
My unique “broadcast from Baltimore” contract language created a scenario for him that opened the door for him to do shows back in his adopted Las Vegas. So my negotiating and hardcore “I’m not leaving Baltimore” stance with management at SNR bought him some leeway that he loved. And it seemed like he was in Vegas every weekend so I never got to go to Wrigley Field or Comiskey Park with him but that would’ve been a real hoot.
That Sporting News Radio circle of people in Chicago was really a wonderful team of great sports fans in retrospect. It was truly like a WKRP family of people, most of whom I really, really LIKED. I would start naming names but because they’ll all wind up reading this it I want to be careful not to leave anyone out. But there are at least a dozen people whom I keep in very regular contact with because I liked them so much and those memories are so dear to me as I learned a lot about the big corporate world during that period of my life when big money and agents were trying to “make Nasty Nestor a star.”
Chevalier, however, didn’t really care whether he was a “star” or not. He was a quirky old bird, indeed.
Our programming leader Matt Nahigian would implore “Papa” Joe to simply say his name before and after every break – a very typical, simple radio request that allegedly helped Arbitron ratings and “brand familiarity” but Chevalier wanted no part of it.
“I do the damned show every night,” he would squeal. “They all know who the hell I am!”
And who was he? A throwback – a real old-timer from Pittsburgh whose Steelers’ swagger didn’t play so great with me during those years because the Ravens won the Super Bowl on Jan. 28, 2001 when I was sitting in the national sports talk chair and I really had the upper hand on him every time during that fragile period in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh wars of two centuries. Anytime the Pirates and Orioles would come up he’d start pretending to blow the whistle of Omar Moreno’s wife to drive me nuts. And he’d routinely play “We Are Family” and send it as a “shout out” to me on national radio.
And while most of my angst against Pittsburgh and all people from Pittsburgh is legendary, I can honestly say his ribbing never bothered me because it was part of the beauty of our friendship.
We bet a dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa on the radio every time the Ravens and Steelers played and he lost a LOT. And he never, ever paid up! And for that I’m really, really sad! I would’ve loved a three-hour dinner talking sports with Joe over some sloppy steaks and red wine and we probably would’ve slipped upstairs for a café and a nightcap of ice cream and whiskey amidst conversations of Clemente and the Robinsons, Unitas and Bradshaw. And that would’ve been one helluva sports conversation, he and I — especially if we had added a few drinks and some microphones.
I found out he died late Saturday night from my pal Bernard Bokenyi on Facebook via this Las Vegas newspaper obit and writing about him makes me feel good and brings a smile to my face. Just thinking about the fuss we’re all making over him would make him bristle.
He was a really neat old guy and I never spent a moment with him that I didn’t enjoy. And his audience was immense, loyal and loved his charm. He created a fan “Bill of Rights” during the baseball strike of 1994 and had people all over the country send in baseball cards that he destroyed.
He was a man of the people and he was truly the same dude in real life as he was on the radio. Full of loveable bluster and an unending source of sports information!
In a media world fraught with frauds, phonies, liars, cowards and fools he was a man who had knowledge, integrity, an incredible sense of humor and we had a mutual respect that was unusually genuine.
I really LIKED Papa Joe. And he really liked me. It was a cool relationship and one that I probably didn’t cultivate or appreciate quite enough.
I hadn’t talked to him in a few years but I loved that old man. And I’m going to miss him and his soft voice. He was a really good man!