Bob-Blehead Schieffer

Feb 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Mark your calendars, Insiderentsia. On June 16 the minor-league Fort Worth Cats are holding Bob Schieffer Appreciation Night, complete with a special “Bob-blehead doll.”

Mr. Schieffer was honored in 2004 when the journalism department at his alma mater, Texas Christian University, was named after him. But not everybody knows that Mr. Schieffer was a catcher whose dreams of playing in the major leagues ended when he was beaned in the eye during his freshman year by Paul Dean Jr., the son of Dizzy Dean’s brother Daffy, during a game against Southern Methodist University.

He told The Insider, with one of his frequent and infectious laughs, “It doesn’t get any better than having your own Bob-blehead doll. It just tickled the sh*t out of old Bob.”

So has his ride since March 2005, when he became interim anchor of the “CBS Evening News”-a year in which “Evening News” has gained 160,000 viewers, while its counterparts at ABC and NBC have lost 830,000 and 730,000 viewers, respectively-in addition to continuing as moderator of “Face the Nation.” With Mr. Schieffer’s first anniversary as the interim successor to Dan Rather coming up, The Insider had a few questions for him. And Mr. Schieffer, double duty or not, had a few minutes to kill.

The Insider: Define “interim.” And how has that definition changed in the past year?

Bob Schieffer: Life is a temporary assignment, and those of us who have survived bladder cancer understand that. Nothing is forever. It didn’t bother me when they called it interim in the beginning, and it doesn’t bother me now. When [CBS CEO Leslie] Moonves called me and asked me to do this, he said, “Six weeks or two months at the outside.” He said, “Just until we can figure out what we want to do here.”

The Insider: Are you sure you aren’t just playing hard to get?

Mr. Schieffer: Oh, no. Trust me on this. In 1980, when Dan got the job and Roger Mudd and Charles Kuralt and I didn’t get it,

I really wanted it. The day after, I was up in New York doing

the “Morning News,” which was a disaster. I went in and asked to be sent back to Washington. So I lived happily ever after.

The Insider: When the inevitable successor (sotto voce: Katie Couric) is named, what will you miss most about “Evening News” duty?

Mr. Schieffer: What I won’t miss at all is getting on that shuttle at 7:30 every Monday morning and then catching that old shuttle at 8:30 on Friday night. What I will miss is the fun and excitement of putting together this newscast. It’s like putting together a puzzle in which the size and pieces keep changing. And I really believe I’ve had a hand in identifying who the young people here are that they’re going to build this news department around.

The Insider: And what will you do with all that spare time?

Mr. Schieffer: I’m going to hang around here for a while and be as helpful as I can on that front. Then I’m going to go back

to “Face the Nation” and the very nice life I had before all this started. You know, I went out with my wife Pat the other night and discovered she’s a very nice person. We have a lot in common. And we do have fun together. I’m going to enjoy being around a little bit more.

We’ll see what happens. I don’t make plans too far in advance on anything. I’ve said in the past that I’d like to retire on my 70th birthday. [He turned 69 Feb. 25.]

The Insider: Should we assume that you’re feeling a little bit different about retiring at 70?

Mr. Schieffer: I don’t know if I do or not. I suppose everything’s negotiable. But that might be just a very good time to say adios.

The Insider: But you’ve made “Face the Nation” more competitive on Sundays.

Mr. Schieffer: We’re a good strong second, and we were third when I got here. I will never totally retire. I was getting ready to write another book when all this started, and I’ll do that. I’m a painter, and I really want to go back to art school and get back into that. When I was doing the morning news in New York I was going to the Art Students League just down the street full time for a while.