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KPLR celebrates 60 years on air this Sunday

KPLR celebrates 60 years on air this Sunday

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A scene from "Westling at the Chase' in the early 1960s

In a scene from the Khorassan Room for the show "Wrestling at the Chase" in the early 1960's, Bulldog Dick Brower stands over Guy Mitchell in a match refereed by Milo Occhi.

For sports fans, it was the Cardinals' station. For kids, it was the Three Stooges on "Captain 11's Showboat."

And for everyone else, it was "Wrestling at the Chase."

KPLR (Channel 11) turns 60 years old on Sunday and will kick off a yearlong anniversary celebration.

The first independent television station in St. Louis, the station was founded by Harold Koplar and hit the airwaves on April 28, 1959. Its studios and offices were in the Koplar-owned Chase Park Plaza Hotel.

Koplar's son and successor, Ted Koplar, sold the station in 1998. It now is owned along with KTVI (Channel 2) by Tribune Broadcasting.

The first program aired on the station was a Cardinals baseball game. This Sunday, broadcasters Al Hrabosky and Rich Gould will throw out the first pitch at Busch Stadium when the station is recognized at the game against Cincinnati. (KPLR carried Cards' games until 1962, then again from 1988 to 2006.)

A month after its debut, the station began running Three Stooges comedy shorts as part of an after-school cartoon show hosted by Captain 11, played by local radio personality Harry Fender. The show air until 1968.

Three Stooges pose with Captain 11

The Three Stooges pose with Captain 11 on the set of his Showboat program at KPLR-TV in St. Louis. 

The station's cash cow in the early days arose in the fall of 1959, when Koplar and legendary pro wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick were on the same airplane flight and cooked up the idea to broadcast a local wrestling show.

"Wrestling at the Chase" was first broadcast from the Khorassan Room of the Chase and became a huge local hit until it went off the air in 1983.

This weekend, the station will show the one-hour retrospective “Wrestling at the Chase: A Look Back.” It is set to air at 8 p.m. Saturday and at noon Sunday.

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