The inimitable 96-year-old Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman was formally recognized Tuesday with a luncheon to honor him and the media entrance that bears his name at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Former Vikings coaches Bud Grant and Jerry Burns, former North Stars coach Lou Nanne, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and Timberwolves President Chris Wright, as well as Twin Cities media and much of the Vikings’ front office, were in attendance, along with several dozen of Hartman’s friends, family and colleagues from his decades in the business.
Among those who spoke at the luncheon: Grant; Bob Hagan, public relations director at the Vikings and Chad Hartman, the son of the reporter most know simply as “Sid.”
Hagan talked about meeting Hartman in 1991 when he started with the Vikings and Hartman was a young reporter of 71. Hagan has set up many interviews for Hartman over the years and on occasion served as his volunteer chauffeur because Hartman no longer drives.
“Sid does not discriminate; he is equally critical of me as he is of the paid drivers,” Hagan said.
Chad Hartman said his father will never slow down despite occasional entreaties from his family. “No one is more competitive than that gentleman right there,” he said.
Grant, who has known Hartman since the 1940s, said, “I’m the original Sid Hartman’s close personal friend.” He talked about Hartman’s dedication first and foremost to University of Minnesota sports (with the possible exception of women’s sports, Grant noted).
In a speech recounting their relationship over the years, Grant mixed humor and sentiment. He talked about meeting Hartman for the first time with the columnist pestering him at a basketball game about where he was going to go to college. “I said, ‘Sid, I’m in the Navy, we’ve got to win the war first,’ ” Grant recollected.
In 1946, when Grant was out of the service, he recalled walking with Hartman, new to the beat, into Cooke Hall, neither of them knowing where to go. Grant said they had nothing in common, but a life-changing friendship had begun.
Grant, a three-sport athlete for the Gophers, said money was tight for him and that frequent dinners paid for by Sid at Cafe di Napoli on Hennepin Avenue got him through school. When his GI Bill money ran out two semesters shy of his degree, Grant said Hartman got him on the roster for the Minneapolis Lakers. Now with the media entrance in his honor, Hartman will always be a part of the community and the stadium, Grant said.
The entrance includes a Derek Gores mosaic of Hartman at the microphone for WCCO Radio as well as a wall-sized mural of reproduced newspaper clippings.
In the closing line of his comments, the famously stoic Grant cracked, saying, “As one man can love another, I love you, Sid Hartman.”
The two hugged before Hartman had the last word. “I love what I do and that’s why I have fun,” he said.
Hartman’s first column ran on Sept. 11, 1945, in the Minneapolis Daily Times. He’s covered the Vikings since the team’s arrival in 1961. The Vikings play their first preseason game in the new stadium on Sunday.