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Ring the bell: 'Wrestling at the Chase' book coming in the fall

Ring the bell: 'Wrestling at the Chase' book coming in the fall

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From the diamond to the ring: That's the latest move from St. Louis Browns diehard Ed Wheatley.

The best-known fan of STL's old American League baseball franchise, Wheatley just shared the news that his new book about "Wrestling at the Chase" will hit the shelves later this year.

The show was one of the most popular in local television history. Large audiences tuned in to KPLR (Channel 11) at 9 p.m. every Saturday night, or for the replay shown on Sunday mornings.

Even better news, as far as Wheatley is concerned, is that the cover for the coffee-table book has been selected.

"We had to do some work on it — to get 'Dick the Bruiser' on the cover," Wheatley said, speaking of arguably the most popular pro "rassler" for STL fans.

Cover to new book "Wrestling at the Chase"

The cover to the new book "Wrestling at the Chase." (Photo by Reedy Press)

Wheatley said the book does not yet have a release date, but the aim was for a release around September or October. Pre-orders are being taken by local publisher Reedy Press.

The show emerged just when live audiences for pro wrestling cards were beginning to dwindle in the late 1950s.

And it was an airplane flight out of St. Louis that got the local ball rolling.

In the fall of 1958, legendary local promoter Sam Muchnick happened to be on the same flight as Harold Koplar, a local businessman who had just started KPLR and was looking for cheap programming. During the flight, the two men cooked up a plan to broadcast a local wrestling show.

First coming from the Khorassan Room of the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, "Wrestling at the Chase" made its debut in May 1959 and stayed on the air for more than 24 years, until September 1983.

(Bit of trivia: The show's first host was STL baseball player and sportscaster Joe Garagiola.)

Wheatley, president of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and co-author of a book about the team, compared the show to the baseball Brownies: something good, but now gone, that needs to be remembered.

"Watching that show was just such a staple of growing up in St. Louis," he said. "It made St. Louis the pro wrestling capital of the world."

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