Joe Jares, our latest baseball-wars correspondent, enjoys the distinction of having broken into print in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED at a younger age than any other staffer. "I was first published in the magazine when I was in college," Jares says. "An angry letter to the editor." (Like most writers of angry letters, Jares claimed to be a charter subscriber.)
"I've been a baseball fan since age 10 when I was an avid L.A. Angels man," the unreconstructable Southern Californian says. "I would often take the bus east on Venice Boulevard and transfer to the streetcar south on Vermont Avenue to Wrigley Field to see heroes such as Cecil Garriott, Johnny Ostrowski and Frankie Gustine.
"I wasn't much of a player. As a 10th-grader at Hamilton High, alma mater of Peanuts Lowrey, I got to bat once and struck out."
Jares has since struck out hardly at all. A graduate of USC, he was Phi Bete, managing editor of the Daily Trojan, journalism-fraternity president, recipient of a prize scholarship and forward on the freshman basketball team.
April 30, 1967
"I am a fan of USC, movies and Mexican food, in that order," says Jares, who is an enchilada aficionado, doesn't remember ever having seen a bad film and whose angry letter to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED concerned a fancied slight to Troy. "I still live and die with the Trojans," he admits. "The eternal sophomore and all that."
It goes further. At the drop of a name, Joe will tell you more than you want to know about any USC water polo player, living or dead, complete with statistics and (California) home town. He can also give you a pretty good rundown on all prominent alumni of Hamilton High.
Before proceeding to Jares's other accomplishments, we should remind you that he is the son of Frank August Jares, a professional wrestler who fought for a time, villainously, as The Thing. Joe wrote about him in a 1966 SI article. My Father The Thing, which he plans to expand into a book.
"It is happily in accord with all the laws of natural cussedness," another staffer mused at the time of the article, "that the son of a bad, nasty, cheaty wrestler should be a compulsively neat, bespectacled and affable young man. However, it is terrible to consider the feelings of The Thing as he watched his son grow up doing all that smiling."
"He sent me to the Los Angeles Athletic Club to learn wrestling once," Joe says, smiling (consider the depth of filial affection implicit in the son's use of "he" rather than "it"), "but all I did was play basketball."
Jares Sr. had further reason to ask himself where he went right as a parent when Jares Jr. co-authored a book. White House Sportsmen, and went to work for the Los Angeles Herald-Express, UPI and the Los Angeles Times, where he won prizes for a five-part on the Little League.
Although he has been with SI since February 1965, writing everything from Rugby to volleyball, this will be Jares's first extended hitch on major league baseball. However, he did do a Connie Mack baseball story in New Mexico last summer and was made an honorary Navajo. When he worked for the Times, Jares reported such things as topless waitresses ("my alltime favorite assignment"), fires, murders, plane crashes and a Black Muslim riot. That should adequately prepare him for any eventuality on the baseball circuit.