Writing a column as I turn 100 years old is hard to believe. Writing it as the sports world has completely shut down around the world is even harder to believe.
There have been a lot of twists and turns in my career, but this has to be one of the unique moments in all of my years of covering sports.
When I look back, I have worn many hats, not just as a columnist. And I would never have gotten a shot at the long career I’ve had without a lot of support.
The truth of the matter is that I got started in the circulation department of the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1920s, long before I was a sportswriter.
That was when I quit high school in 11th grade to take that job.
A district manager at the Tribune by the name of Babe Bullis had taken a liking to me as a newspaper boy and hired me when they split the north Minneapolis neighborhood deliveries and gave me the Camden district to deliver the Sunday and morning paper.
At the same time, I was the first guy to handle the boxes where they sold newspapers on street corners in that district. I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to fill the boxes with newspapers.
Furthermore they assigned the downtown area for me to distribute the Minneapolis Times newspaper to hotels and places like that.
I sold papers on the corner of 5th Street and Nicollet Avenue and 6th and Nicollet with newsstands, and I had a number of papers I delivered to businesses downtown.
I also sold the Sunday paper — the Saturday night edition — on 5th and Hennepin and worked from 7 p.m. Saturday night until 3 a.m. Sunday. They called that the 3 a.m. streetcar lineup.
In fact, there was a Minneapolis patrolman by the name of Nathaniel Johnson who was in charge of making sure youngsters working downtown were licensed. But since I wasn’t 12 years old at the time, he kept on trying to stop me from working.
Luckily, the bosses at the Tribune liked me and helped me keep that job.
My dad, Jack, delivered furniture during the Depression and made only $12 per week and we struggled. We had chicken for dinner every night. That was all we could afford.
My mother, Celia, ran a dress shop that got old dresses from her sister, who ran a store in Rochester.
I had a sister, Bernice, and two brothers, Harold and Saul.
One of the reasons I started working for the newspaper at such a young age was because it helped my family have extra money at that time.
Cullum, Johnson helped me
In 1941, John Cowles, who had bought the Minneapolis Star in 1935 and the Journal in 1939, changed everything. He bought the Tribune in April 1941 and changed the Times-Tribune to just the Minneapolis Times, which Cowles kept as an afternoon newspaper after the Star-Journal merged.
There was a man by the name of Louie Mohs who ran the circulation department for the Times and recommended me to Dick Cullum, the Times’ sports editor.
Mohs told Cullum that he should hire me as a part-time sports editor. The fact is, I had already met Cullum when I was a 12- or 13-year-old newsboy, and that was one of the reasons he hired me.
So I worked a combination of jobs — I was still distributing papers while also working on the paper itself. My first assignment was covering St. Thomas, and then I got my first column in the Times for Cullum covering the University of Minnesota, and I covered it from then on.
I had also met Charlie Johnson when I was a newsboy and spent time at the Minneapolis Star, where Johnson was sports editor. He took a liking to me. I had dinner at his house many times, and Johnson got me a job on the morning Tribune.
That was a big moment in my career, because Cowles shut down the Times in 1947, when I was working my sports run and doing my first sportswriting job.
But the second that Johnson got word that I was looking out of a job, he called and offered me a spot at the Tribune covering the Gophers beat.
Eventually I became sports editor of the Tribune and then started my weekly sports column.
The fact is that without the help of Cullum and Johnson, I never would have had this kind of career covering sports in Minnesota.
And I have to also give a great deal of thanks to former Star Tribune sports editor Glen Crevier and current sports editor Chris Carr.
Followed the path
I believe a lot of my work ethic came from those early days when I was working multiple jobs for the paper and when I really made my name as a reporter.
I have followed the advice that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Even at 100 I can say I still love what I do.
And the fact that I get to enjoy my career and enjoy my time with my family, including my son Chad; his sons Hunter, Griffen and Quintin; daughter Chris; her children, Justin and Kally; and the rest of my family makes it even better.
• Bob Stein was one of the greatest Gophers football players of all time, so it’s fitting he will join the College Football Hall of Fame after being selected for induction this past week. The former All-America linebacker also played eight seasons in the NFL, including one with the Vikings.
• The Vikings’ decision to release defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes gives the team $19.3 million in salary cap space, the fifth-lowest number in the NFL, with 47 players on the active roster.
• Vikings safety Anthony Harris could be a top target in free agency for Washington, according to ESPN. The Redskins have $61.9 million in cap space.
• It’s a shame that the Gophers baseball team might have seen the last of Max Meyer, who might be the team’s best pitcher in a decade. His 15 strikeouts vs. Utah on March 6 was the most for the program since Glen Perkins struck out 15 in 2004. Meyer’s 46 strikeouts through four games finished tied for fifth in college baseball.
• The Timberwolves’ biggest steal in all their trades this season might be Malik Beasley, the 23-year-old shooting guard out of Florida State. He has averaged 20.7 points in 14 starts with the Wolves after averaging 7.9 points in 41 games for the Nuggets.
• Before the break in play, the Wolves ranked last in the NBA in attendance at 15,066 per home game. They averaged 15,305 last season, ranking 28th in the league.
• When play resumes, you have to wonder if Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff will get a shot with the big-league club after hitting .429 with two homers and two doubles in 10 spring games. Only Nelson Cruz posted a higher average for players who played at least five games.
• Pro Football Focus sees Gophers wideout Tyler Johnson going to the Jets in the second round of the NFL draft. That would reunite him with college teammate Blake Cashman.