Author’s note: This is going to be a virus-free column. We all need a break. It might even lift our spirits.
Sid Hartman turned 100 Sunday.
But wait. There’s more. His latest sports column, which debuted in 1945, appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on his 100th birthday Sunday. He also joined in on the WCCO sports-talk show that he seemingly has been doing since Marconi sent out the first wireless chatter. His ``close personal friend'' Lou Holtz was among the well-wishers who called in.
The Sunday column was Sid's 21,149th byline in the Star-Tribune, the paper noted. And counting.
I know Sid a little from press boxes. I always enjoyed bantering with him. He seemed to feel the same way.
I mention this today because Sid Hartman is a heartwarming example of our enduring devotion to sports. Because there has been less sports news to report the last few days, the beautiful tribute written by AP sportswriter Dave Campbell probably has made more people aware of Sid’s remarkable milestone.
Then again, Sid has always been in the right place to spread the news. As Campbell noted, a Sid Hartman trademark is great relationships with athletes.
I first met Sid Hartman in the football press box at old Milwaukee County Stadium before a 1984 game between his beloved Minnesota Vikings and the common enemy, the Green Bay Packers. He was outgoing, inquisitive and engaging. (``So you’re from Chicago?’’) I was new to sportswriting. It was fun meeting people like him.
Then the game began. And Sid was not having fun. He was fuming. The Packers, who weren’t very good, were putting a 45-17 beatdown on the Vikings, who were terrible. This was the first, and as it turned out, only season of the Les Steckel era.
Steckel, a handsome young former Marine, was not up to the task of succeeding legendary Bud Grant.
And Sid was outraged. He was ranting and raving at the Vikings’ incompetence, which he attributed to Steckel. He was racing back and forth, sharing his outrage, which was not easy to do in that press box, which was about the size of a two-person phone booth.
If Soviet tanks had rolled down Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, I don’t know that he would have been any more upset.
With winners, though, Sid was charming.
At the 1988 Fiesta Bowl, when Notre Dame was on the brink of capturing the national championship, Sid and Pat Reusse, who was from the rival St. Paul Pioneer-Press, showed up in Phoenix with a special angle. Lou Holtz, who had revived Minnesota’s Golden Gophers before bolting to Notre Dame, was great stuff for Twin Cities writers.
The only thing was, Reusse had called Holtz ``The Music Man,’’ a jab at Holtz’s motivational sleight of hand, while Sid had kissed the ring.
And so, after the morning interviews at the Notre Dame hotel, the Irish behemoths were filing into a ballroom for lunch. I was standing outside talking with Sid and Reusse when Holtz came up. He nodded at Reusse. And started gushing all over Sid.
``How are you, Sid? Great to see you! Come on in for lunch.’’
So Holtz and Sid went off to lunch, leaving me and Reusse standing there. Reusse didn’t mind. And I guess I didn’t, either. Lou Holtz always treated me very well. I was simply impressed by the long reach of Sid Hartman.
Here’s what really impressed me: In Campbell’s story, I learned that Sid Hartman brokered the deal that led to the founding of the Minneapolis Lakers. He also served, Campbell said, as the ``de facto’’ general manager of the Lakers, who went on to win five championships in their first six seasons before moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
In other words, what a life.
``I have followed the advice that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life,'' Hartman wrote in his column on Sunday. ``Even at 100 I can say I still love what I do.''
Happy Birthday to you, Sid!