In the old — good old? — days of yesteryear, before social media that distorts more than reports, notes columns were all the rage. They also were fun to do, not to mention easy, and certainly informative. I had “At Random,” and “Briefly Told,” and “Some Opinion, Mostly Fact,” not exactly world-wide leaders in originality. Actually, my favorite tag was taken by Bill Millsaps: “Some Folderol for You All.” Oh, and his predecessor as sports editor, Chauncey Durden, used “A Little Chatta of Disa and Data.”
This is called “backing in” to the latest crawl down memory lane after 47 years writing sports for The Times-Dispatch (and beyond), another short-takes piece. Volume 22, “Why Golf Is Not a Sport.”
Responding to a request from a party of one … getting stories in from the field to the office is a snap nowadays, thanks to computers and WiFi. It hasn’t always been so. In the summer of 1959, when I came to the newspaper at $82/week (and happy to get it), we did one of three things: Cover your assignment then return to the office to write on a manual typewriter; Or, if too far away, dictate to some poor soul in the office or, in some rare occasions, give your copy to a Western Union operator. The latter two invariably required patience that would have tested even Job of biblical fame.
Dictation could be a problem if the person taking it wasn’t a good typist — which I wasn’t, much to the chagrin of our baseball writer who almost always got yours truly, working in the office, on deadline. The trouble with Western Union was the operators were usually old and feeble and, more often than not, they’d send the entire piece in one, very long paragraph. Maybe it was the machine’s fault. I never asked.
By the time I started covering the Richmond Braves in 1969, we were using telecopiers to transmit from out of town. They were big, heavy things you carried in a large suitcase, along with a big, bulky manual typewriter plus a suitcase for clothes and attache case for scorebook and records for, say, a week-long road trip. When functioning properly, the telecopier, with telephone inserted in the carriage, would take four minutes to send each page of copy to the office receiver. Unfortunately, all too often, the page would come in totally black or the writing split down the middle, requiring sending it again … and again, sometimes again.
Once, while traveling with the Richmond Robins hockey team in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after three or four failures to connect, I hung up the telephone, picked up the telecopier and slammed it on the floor. I then tried again, and guess what? Worked perfectly. I showed the darn thing who was boss. Sure I did.
Then came computers, downright primitive by today’s standards, and they were a nightmare for a while, too. You had to key in the articles with a password provided by our tech support people who were learning on the job, too. The passwords didn’t always work. Also, our Radio Shack computers had very narrow screens that allowed the writer to view only a few lines at a time. In addition, I don’t know how many times I hit the wrong key(s), lost everything and had to start over. On deadline, that’s a killer. Likewise, we had to use a land-line telephone, long before cellphones, and many times there weren’t nearly enough to accommodate the press corps properly.
Name one team that had a better, stronger lineup of play-by-play men than hockey’s Richmond Renegades (1990-2003). From Josh Lewin, Brian Hamilton, Andy Davis to John Emmett.
From Rochester, N.Y., Lewin passed through town en route to … just about everywhere. He will be 52 next month and, since 1990, has worked for Fox (football, baseball and hockey), MLB’s Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox and NFL’s San Diego Chargers. He joined UCLA as voice of football and basketball in 2016, a month after Bill Roth left to return to Virginia Tech.
Lewin refers to himself as an “itinerant” sportscaster, saying, “You grow up wanting to be Cal Ripken Jr. (21 seasons with one team, Orioles), and you end up being Edwin Jackson.” The latter, a 37-year-old right-hander, has played for a major league-record 14 teams, including three twice.
Allan Harvie was responsible for Renegades I and II (2006-09), which was appropriate because he’s something of a renegade himself. No telling what the native of Canada, now living near Williamsburg, will do. During the first season of RII, a fan offered Harvie $3,000 if he would suit up and play in a game. Harvie said yes, of course. He was in the process of raising $25,000 for a scholarship in the name of a booster’s daughter who died suddenly while attending Ohio State. And he did know how to lace up the old skates, having played the game as a youngster and later as a senior.
Harvie is 74 now, which means he was 60 then, too old not to know better. But for three grand, for a good cause, what the heck! His coach, John Brophy, “didn’t like the idea,” recalled Harvie recently. But he did it and survived. If anyone had a notion to run him, he had to do it immediately. Harvie went over the boards for one faceoff, never touched the puck, and left, never to return.
“The kid who lined up against me said, ’Hi, Mr. Harvie, how are ya doing?’” Harvie said. Just fine, young man, as soon as I can get off the ice before someone gets hurt, namely me.
Robert Pratt, who is one of two majority owners of Sycamore Creek Golf Course and, therefore, my occasional boss (sort of), not to be confused with “The Boss” of 60 years and counting, spent most of his NFL career with the Baltimore Colts. In an interview for an earlier look-back piece, he was asked about coach Don Shula’s return to Baltimore with the Miami Dolphins. The funniest thing didn’t make the original text.
According to Pratt, at game’s end, a Colts player who had been cut by the Dolphins grabbed a football “and threw it at Shula. I don’t think he hit him.” Pratt said he’d rather not identify the teammate. Oh, about the “occasional boss” reference … I’ve been a volunteer (starter, marshal, etc.) at Sycamore Creek since retiring in 2006.
Quoting: Harry Bosch, played by actor Titus Wellever on Prime Video’s “Bosch” series, had this line about golf … “If you can smoke and drink while playing it, it’s not a sport.”
Speaking of imbibing … You almost had to feel sorry for I. Brooks Bowen, whose boxing promotions at the old Arena always seemed destined to go haywire, from fighters’ no-showing, to contestants being uncommonly overmatched, to questionable decisions by the judges, to abject disinterest by the public, to allegations of a fix, to slipping some bubbly to a fighter.
In 1970 (April 29), Tony Johnson, the winner of the main event, had his purse held up after a member of the state athletic commission, sitting ringside, alleged Johnson was given an alcoholic beverage by his trainer between rounds. “How can I be guilty of anything wrong if I don’t know the rule?” reasoned trainer Chris Cline. “Giving fighters brandy is commonplace. I know some big-time promoters who allow it.” Maybe so, “but it’s against the rules in Virginia to give a fighter liquor,” said commission secretary Bill Brennan.
The city, occasionally, got involved with closed-circuit coverage of boxing, usually resulting in reasons not to do it again. On the eve of April Fool’s Day, 1972, a breakdown of the projection equipment showing the Ali-Mac Foster title fight led to a riot at the Arena. Several people in a crowd of 1,500 smashed windows, broke into the ticket office, set fires and turned over two police cars. An Arena employee was robbed of the ticket proceeds as well as his own money then beaten. He was hospitalized.
In 1976 (Sept. 28), a crowd of 2,430 paid $32,346.26 to watch Ali-Ken Norton on closed-circuit at the Coliseum. This was their third — and last — fight. Leaving viewers cussing the judges, Ali won a much-disputed 15-round decision after being hit often and hard by Norton. It was considered the beginning of the end for the heavyweight champion.
Quoting: Junior lightweight Gene Hatcher after scoring a third-round TKO on ESPN (1982) … “I’ve got a pretty good chin on my shoulders.”
Don “Red” Christman calls late friend Pat Lamberti “the toughest man I’ve ever known,” which is no faint praise because, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t come any tougher than Christman, former University of Richmond center and linebacker (Class of 1962). Lamberti was outstanding in football for UR, too, but he also boxed as an amateur and wrestled as a professional.
Unfortunately, Lamberti wasn’t big on talking about his athletic prowess. At the last minute, just when I thought he finally felt comfortable discussing his brief fling in rasslin,’ he begged off — and passed a few months later in 2007 at age 70. His boxing success already was documented. In 1956, Lamberti was named MVP of a two-day Golden Gloves tournament at the Arena. He won both of his fights by second-round knockout.
Added Christman, “If he wasn’t the toughest, I’d hate to run into the person who was.”
“The World’s Greatest Soccer Coach” has had more good moments than bad since leaving the University of Virginia, where his teams collected five NCAA championships, for the cutthroat professional ranks. Bruce Arena won five Major League Soccer titles and led the U.S. National men’s side to the quarterfinals in World Cup 2002, which was/is unprecedented for a country that still doesn’t take the “World’s Game” as seriously as the rest of the planet.
Although he welcomed the challenge, he says, stepping in at the last minute to coach the national team in its quest to qualify for World Cup 2018, it’s doubtful anyone — including Arena — thought it would come to this. On Oct. 10, 2017, needing no worse than a tie at Trinidad and Tobago in their final qualifier, the Americans lost 2-1 and failed to make the Cup field for the first time in the last eight tries. As it turned out, a first-half own goal did in the USA against the division’s worst side. From the soccer media’s perspective, this was apocalyptic. Sports Illustrated call it “the most embarrassing night in U.S. Soccer history.”
Naturally, fingers were pointed at Arena, who resigned the next day. So why take the job, when it wasn’t your team? “It was the next challenge,” he said in a recent interview. “I don’t regret that at all.”
So he took a big-time roasting, so what? “You know the reality in sports, especially on the professional level: You prepare a team, and the players have to respond,”Arena said. “We had a bunch of guys who didn’t respond that day — and we were a little unlucky, too. Listen, I’ve never taken full credit for winning games, and I don’t take full blame for losing them, either. The players play a pretty big role in sports, don’t you think?”
He’s 69 years old, running the MLS New England Revolution for the Kraft Family and making a lot of money. It seems like forever ago that he was coaching at Virginia (1978-95). “The greatest time of my life,” Arena said.
Regrets, like worrying, are a waste of time. But, there are two sports folk I wish I had interviewed that, given the opportunity, I put off until it was too late. One was “Red” Barber, rated No. 1 on my list of all-time best sportscasters. He was doing a weekly show for public radio in Florida when the station sent an invitation to interview him not that long before he died in 1992 at age 84. The other on my now-impossible wish list was Aloysisus Martin Thesz.
Lou Thesz was more than a great pro wrestler, who was considered a world champion three times for a record 10 years, three months and nine days. Or, for his longevity in a tough if make-believe sport. Having turned pro in 1932, the 6-2, 225-pounder officially retired in 1979 but laced them up a time or two after that before one last hurrah in 1990 at age 74. Only Thesz and Abdullah the Butcher (born Lawrence Robert Shreve Jan. 11, 1941, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada) are recognized as having rassled over seven decades.
What really made Thesz different from the rest of the grunt-and-groan crowd, other than winning 936 matches in a row from 1948 to 1956, was his wrestling ability not to mention his attitude. He was what they call in the business a “shooter,” meaning he tried to make the whole thing as real as possible. Thesz didn’t mind hurting opponents, especially those he didn’t like.
For sure, he didn’t like what modern-day rasslin’ had become since Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment became dominant. “It’s choreographed tumbling … with no dignity,” Thesz was quoted as saying. “ I was a wrestler … not a clown.” He spent most of his later life living in Newport News, and I was asked to talk to him but decided to wait. Thesz had moved to Orlando, Fla., when he died in 2002, the result of triple-bypass surgery. He was 86, which was very old for someone in his given profession.
Until next time … when we go short again, hoping to answer the question … whatever happened to One More Broad?
Jerry Lindquist can be reached
by email at email@example.com.