Posted by speaking of Sportsphone... on March 16, 2012 at 14:07:05:
Very interesting - very honest:
Like many youngsters in CHICAGO, I wanted to be RON SANTO or FERGIE JENKINS. I realized rather quickly that because of my DISABILITY that wouldn’t be possible. Being BLIND in RIGHT EYE and DEAF in ONE EAR has posed many challenges on and off the field. I was a terrible hitter in baseball. Always had problems fielding. The only two things I could do believe it or not was be a PITCHER in BASEBALL or play POINT GUARD in BASKETBALL.
However, I was too short for basketball and had problems making jump shots while in BASEBALL there problems making pitches since my fingers were small. Obviously, I wasn’t as good as I thought since I failed to make the varsity baseball team at TAFT. I decided to become a sports reporter to be a part of the game.
Once again I want to thank TAYLOR BELL, RAY BENDIG, JIM HARINGTON, JOHN BONK, MIKE BAILEY, TOM WINIECKI, and BOB OCIEPKA for assisting me in my career. BELL gave me an opportunity while BENDIG always edited my stories for grammar and accuracy. Both are good friends to this day. BONK, BAILEY, HARRINGTON, WINIECKI, and OCIEPKA isn’t a law firm. They are high school coaches in CHICAGO who helped put me in the ILLINOIS BASKETBALL COACHES HALL OF FAME. The best thing they did was teach me about football, basketball, and life. The coaches also allowed me to travel with this team for road games. Sometimes they even stopped the bus near my house so I could walk home.
My greatest moment was joining the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES in 1984 and in that same year interviewing MICHAEL JORDAN of the BULLS. My worst moment was being fired by the SUN-TIMES in 1993. Luckily, I was able to join the CHICAGO TRIBUNE in 1994 and that job lasted until 2010 when my free lance contract wasn’t renewed for some unknown reason. I believe it was because I am disabled and don’t drive or own a portable computer. I do appreciate the TRIBUNE giving me an opportunity to continue my career in 1994. However, management changed and I was unfairly terminated because of my disability. There is nothing in the handbook that states you need a car and a portable computer to contribute and cover high school sporting events. All I wanted was the chance to cover one game a week for our prep sports roundup, which is normally put together after talking with high school coaches who would phone in stats and scores. Things have changed as high school sports reporters rarely phone in their stories. Now reporters use twitter and facebook to update fans. I am on FACEBOOK but not twitter.
Let’s go back to the beginning. My first foray into the business was with LEADER NEWSPAPERS. LEADER was a weekly neighborhood newspaper in CHICAGO. I joined their staff on a regular basis writing a weekly sports column in 1978. I actually did my first article in 1975 and rejoined the paper after starting high school at TAFT. My opening salary was $5 A WEEK. The only way to make serious money is be on television, radio or be a columnist. There was no sports talk radio in 1978.
Probably the most memorable moment of 1978 was seeing SULLIVAN stun LANE in the PUBLIC LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP game at SOLDIER FIELD. I also met a young man by the name of ISIAH THOMAS who would later star with INDIANA UNIVERSITY and DETROIT PISTONS. I sacrificed my personal life for my career. I won’t kiss and tell in this book. I never got married nor do I have any children. I had some nice people help me in my career including CHET COPPOCK, CHUCK SWIRSKY, WAYNE LARRIVEE, RICH KING, and MARK GIANGRECO. All of these are fellow reporters who were nice to me and allowed me air time on radio. I would cover the state finals in FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, and BASEBALL and these men were nice enough to put me on the air.
I enjoyed my time at LEADER and did my column covering LANE, GORDON, WEBER, and ST PAT’S in CHICAGO until 2002 when the newspaper folded. My original dream was to cover the CUBS. I grew up listening to JACK BRICKHOUSE and HARRY CARAY in CHICAGO. I worked in college radio at UIC, COLUMBIA COLLEGE, and LOYOLA. I began my radio career at WUIC in 1978 covering PUBLIC and CATHOLIC LEAGUE high school football and basketball. I am also grateful to ERIC CLEMMONS and CHRIS BODEN who were my sports directors at UIC and COLUMBIA. They put me on the air despite having an average voice and a lisp.
During my time at COLUMBIA and UIC, we had a weekly sports show wrapping up the week’s events in pro and high school sports. In 1979, I went to ST JOSEPH HIGH SCHOOL in WESTCHESTER and interviewed THOMAS. THOMAS grew up on the west side of CHICAGO honing his basketball skills. I interviewed ISIAH during his senior year at ST JOSEPH. THOMAS led the CHARGERS to the CLASS AA basketball championship game in 1978 where they were lost to unbeaten LOCKPORT.
The CHARGERS were favored to win the state title, but they were upset by DE LA SALLE in the state playoffs on a long shot at the buzzer by ALBERT WILLIAMS. THOMAS fouled out before WILLIAMS made his stunning shot. I covered that game for LEADER NEWSPAPERS. I covered many memorable games. I prefer games over feature stories and off the field issues. I never enjoyed going into the locker room to interview athletes. In fact, it’s nice to see that pro teams now bring players and coaches out to a podium to speak with reporters.
At the high school level, THOMAS was the best basketball player I ever saw while BARINGTON’S DAN WILSON who later played for the MARINERS was the best prep baseball player. Picking a football player would be more difficult. I certainly enjoyed watching MT CARMEL’S SIMEON RICE, WHEATON NORTH quarterback KENT GRAHAM, JOLIET CATHOLIC’S MIKE ALSTOTT, and DUNBAR’S ROCKY HARVEY. The most memorable game was the CLASS AA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP in 1989 between EAST ST LOUIS LINCOLN and PEORIA CENTRAL. LINCOLN beat PEORIA in 59-57 in triple overtime to win its third straight state basketball title. When I was younger, I was influenced by PHIL DONAHUE who moved his talk show from DAYTON to CHICAGO. In fact, originally I wanted to have my own talk show. I would have just done a half hour show if given the opportunity. Games are great, but I will never forget interviewing MICHAEL JORDAN, RYNE SANDBERG, and PETE ROSE during my time at COLUMBIA COLLEGE.
JORDAN was impressive because he made good eye contact with me and spent five minutes talking to me after the BULLS beat the ISIAH and the PISTONS in a regular season game. SANDBERG had a decent rookie season with CUBS after starting 1-for-32 he was eventually moved from third base to second base by LEE ELIA. Most people remember SANDBERG being camera shy even in his MVP season of 1984. I spoke with SANDBERG in 1983 and he was gracious and kind. I talked to him after a game at WRIGLEY FIELD. SANDBERG was nice and thoughtful and even thanked me. I met with PETE ROSE during his time with the PHILLIES before returning to the REDS where he broke the career record for most hits set by TY COBB. ROSE was nice but self absorbed even asking me if he needed to fly to CHICAGO or call me on the phone to be interviewed. I believe these interviews gave me the confidence to go the SUN-TIMES and ask TAYLOR BELL for a job in 1984. JORDAN and ROSE were a big deal at the time while SANDBERG we knew was on the verge of stardom.
I’d be lying if I told you, I wasn’t nervous. However, athletes are people too. Sometimes reporters including me forget that fact. Athletes have bills, relationships, kids, and obligations like all of us. I think sometimes the PUBLIC holds them to a higher standard than they would hold themselves to. SIN is SIN in my mind. Athlete are no worse or no better. It would be wise to set a good example. Politicians should be held to a high standard since they make the laws. When I was young, I reached most of my goals despite my disability. I accomplished these things with help from my parents and friends. One of my goals was to work for SPORTS PHONE in CHICAGO. SPORTS PHONE was a launching pad for many reporters in CHICAGO such as LES GROBSTEIN, DAVE SCHUSTER, JEFF JONIAK, LOU CANELLIS, BRIAN WHEELER, ERIC CLEMMONS, GEORGE OFMAN, CHRIS MADSEN, CHRIS BODEN and RON GLEASON. I joined SPORTS PHONE in 1985 as an overnight producer during the BEARS SUPER BOWL winning season. I worked from 1 AM- 9 AM getting interviews and programs ready for the next day.
This job was fun but not without controversy. I have to be honest at times, I was treated poorly and co-workers made fun of my voice. I would eventually be fired for poor performance after one year. One thing needs to made clear it isn’t right to make fun of any co-worker or student. Some people at SPORTS PHONE were nice and some not so nice or professional. One of my last stops in my long career was with the CHICAGO TRIBUNE in 1994. At this time, I would like to thank BOB SAKOMOTO and BOB VANDERBERG. VANDERBERG was my assignment editor while SAKOMOTO was PREP EDITOR. There was a change in management in 2009. PAUL SKRBINA took over as PREP EDITOR and for some reason we never got along. Eventually I was released in 2010 with little or no explanation.
I was very disappointed since no explanation was really provided. Currently doing volunteer work for wellesparkbulldog.com covering high school sports in my old stomping grounds on the NORTHWEST SIDE. Having a great time covering games involving LANE and GORDON. Now, I use a hearing aid, tape recorder, and binoculars to cover games. I want to thank PAT BOYLAN and JANE RICKARD for giving me another chance. To be honest, I don’t miss deadline and running to a phone or using my cell phone. I do stories once a week just like the old days at LEADER NEWSPAPERS. I’m sure some people believe I have an axe to grind or sound like sour grapes. I have thanked people for their help while criticizing others for unprofessional behavior. I have always spoke from the heart maybe that is weakness. After all, KENNY ROGERS said “you have to know when to hold and know when to fold”
As I look back on my journey, maybe I should have become a coach or team manager and worked my way up the ladder that way. I went for the top jobs in the business because I believe I was blessed and talented enough. Clearly I have made some mistakes that I regret. I have seen other people in society get second chances. I did a very stupid thing at SUN-TIMES and was fired in 1993. Probably the biggest regret of my career besides being pink-slipped by SPORTSPHONE. I had bouts of depression in my life which included a SUICIDE attempt in 1987. Very happy to be on disability and contribute to the BULLDOG news on part-time basis. I am still proud of joining the SUN-TIMES in 1984 at 20 years old. No one can ever take that away from me. Thank you TAYLOR BELL. I think I need to thank ISIAH, JORDAN, ROSE, and SANDBERG for atking the time to speak with me as well. Now, if the CUBS can only win the WORLD SERIES. That job is now in the hands of THEO EPSTEIN who should hire SANDBERG as the next manager of CHICAGO CUBS.
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