The Pirates and Orioles are battling down on the field at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in early fall 1979, and I’m a young guy just graduated from the University of Maryland standing in the press section waiting to spring into action.
I’m four months into my job as sports editor of The Prince George’s Journal, too green and not yet at the right spot to be covering this World Series. But my former boss while I was part-timing at the Washington Post during school has hired me to coordinate the runners, a crew that will grab copy from the hundreds of writers from around the country, sprint it to a room down in the stadium’s guts, and place it on a telescope machine to be sent to editors waiting in the appropriate newsroom. It’s new technology at the time.
Mike Lupica grabs me during the first game in Baltimore and tells me to make sure his column gets to his New York City newsroom as fast as I can.
I know his face from his logo and reputation from his words.
I am a sports reporter, too, I tell him, a man who writes columns and fights deadlines of his own. Your copy will get to the office.
He smiles. Mike Lupica takes a moment and asks me about my work, gives me an attaboy, and returns to his typewriter, page in the roll.
It seems like yesterday, I think two weeks ago as I watch the final edition of The Sports Reporters on ESPN.
Mike Lupica sits at the center of the panel he’s been part of so many times during this Sunday show’s 27-year run on the world’s foremost sports television network.
The industry has changed so much in the decades since that World Series that saw me help get the copy describing Pittsburgh’s World Series crown to newspapers around the country.
Deadlines are easier to meet than ever.
The Internet! Websites!!
Newspapers race to adapt to the new model, but the revenue side proves to be more challenging than the news coverage side.
My job of 30 years at the big daily goes away in the layoff of 2013.
Now ESPN, grown to include a massive online presence to keep up, finds itself in that pickle. A second round of layoffs in the past few years left 100 without jobs two weeks ago.
The Sports Reporters was a victim at the same time.
I can’t say I watched the show every Sunday morning. But from the founding years with the marvelous Dick Schaap in center chair to the decade with his successor, the fantastic John Saunders, I always clicked to it when I had the remote in my hand during that time period. Those two gentleman were true TV news warriors, smart and well-spoken, interesting and compelling. May they rest In peace.
Regular panelists William C. Rhoden of the New York Times, Mitch Albom of many books and Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe always brought something bright to the morning. Yes, they were chosen for the final show.
And Mike Lupica’s New York prism on the world of sports always spoke to this guy born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island.
Lupica hinted that the show might come back on Podcast someday soon. Good luck with that. I still prefer the entertainment I can easily find on my big living room screen rather than hunt down on my smaller gadgets. But that’s another story.