These underdogs could play with best

September 12, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

They will get together and toss the last shovelful of dirt in our faces Friday and there may be a tear or two shed but, for the most part, it will be hail and farewell to The Evening Sun.

Time marches on, a pundit once uttered, and we're stuck with it. Ah, progress, where would we be without it?

That's much too weighty an issue to take on at this point, so why don't we simply deal with a reality or two.

A history of The Evening Sun will be included in that final don't-forget-to-save edition and, in typical fashion, writer Carl Schoettler turns in a solid performance. However . . .

In an epic measured in feet (about 14), not inches (175), sports is passed off in a couple of short paragraphs: Just 61 words total, including a supercilious assessment of a longtime sports editor's writing ability. Worse, sports gets mentioned as sort of an afterthought in the introduction of another so-called main character in the paper's 85-year history.

Allow us to correct this mammoth oversight, usually fully intended by editors, columnists and writers from other sections of a newspaper who labor under the impression that all sportswriting is is showing up at an event, gorging oneself with free food and drink, then authoring glowing tributes to the objects of fan affection.

Well, yes, there are times when one has to answer in the affirmative to the queries about riding on the "very same" buses with the ballplayers, and getting to stand in front of a Hall of Fame quarterback as he towels off and explains away victory or defeat. And yes, the oatmeal cookies and cherry tomatoes former baseball team owner Charley Finley used to pass out with reckless abandon were gratis. Still, honest folks, representatives the Fun & Games Department have always felt they were serving as capably as the rest.

Let's start out with a little yarn about how some sports types got involved in a breaking news story and performed masterfully. As was the custom, a few sports reporters, photographers and pressmen hung around after the final edition at the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram one morning to check on the running of the cards, known sometimes as poker.

An eyewitness relates that he was about to fill an inside straight when a huge explosion fairly shook the windows out of the building facing Front Street. The police radio suddenly went berserk. The home of Louis Thayer, judge in the infamous trial of supposed political radicals Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, had been bombed.

Out the door a guy who wrote boxing and another college football sprinted. They were back in a flash. So were two photographers with great shots of the scene. Stereotypers and pressmen did their duty and, by 5 a.m., the contingent had

produced a gem. The classic extra was delivered to the houses of the owner, the publisher and a few more bigwigs, the hour of the early-morning blast being mentioned prominently.

Next day, actually the same day, when all the people involved showed up for work, there was a simple message on the main bulletin board: "Henceforth, there will be no late-night card-playing in the office."

I'm here to assure you that over the last three decades I'm familiar with, men and women who wrote sports for the stepchild of The Sun easily held their own with big brother. Aw, the heck with being modest: We moidered da bums.

Prior to 1965 and going all the way back to 1925, when Paul Menton was named sports editor at the age of 24, Evening Sun sports was the looser, often irreverent sheet in town that attempted to entertain as well as inform.

In my time, the diamond scribes (alias baseball writers) included Mike Janofsky, Phil Hersh, Dan Shaughnessy, Terry Pluto, Jim Ellis, Doug Brown, myself, Ken Rosenthal, Jim Henneman and a few others I've probably forgotten.

The football guys were Walter Taylor, Larry Harris, Jim Miller, Jim Walker, Mike Klingaman, Clark Judge, Jack Mann, Ken Murray and various and sundry other operatives.

Excellent sportswriters who went on to other things, some of which might be described as bigger and better, included Tom Callahan, Jim Hawkins, Bob Ibach, Jack Chevalier, Ernie Accorsi, Larry Hargrove, on and on.

Will anyone dare to suggest that The Evening Sun didn't "own" the fishing, hunting and outdoor beats with Bill Burton? Same goes for Bill Boniface for years and Ross Peddicord of recent vintage in the horse racing department.

Just about everyone had a shot at columning, making the most of it, and folks like Sandy McKee, Paul McMullen and others were instrumental in getting people to sit up and take notice of so-called minor or specialty beats: Auto racing, track and field, sports on television, racquetball, running, you name it.

It's all down to a couple of days now and, symbolically, that's about all we have left conducting this rear-guard operation: A couple of former sports editors with about 80 years on the scene here, Bill Tanton and John Steadman, the ol' Tuesday Evening Quarterback of bygone days, and the guys given the unenviable task of making this page look different from AM Sports in about 20 minutes time the last three years, Larry Harris and Chris Zang.

Some of the guys calling the shots -- Tanton, Red Sears, Mike Davis, Jack Gibbons -- have been fine to work with, but there were others who weren't. C'est la vie.

Dozens of people should have gained mention here, but space (( and memory take their toll. Also, the pressure of the countdown. After today, three and counting.

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