Thanks to the wacky calendar of ancient Rome, as well as William Shakespeare, March 15 is known across the globe as the “Ides of March,” the day that Julius Caesar met his demise.
There is a geographical exception to this: Minnesota, where March 15 is less the occasion of Caesar’s death than Sid Hartman’s birth.
I’d put it at 1995 when this date officially became “Sid’s Birthday” within our borders. That’s the first occasion that I was moved to write about it, anyway … Sid turning 75.
I had traveled to Baseball City in Florida to see Gene Mauch, who had signed on as Kansas City’s bench coach for rookie manager Bob Boone. I received the traditional greeting from Mauch: “How’s Sid doing?”
Me: “Mean as a snake.”
Mauch: “Good. That means he’s perfect.”
It should be noted that the piece celebrating Sid’s 75th was being written at a point when Sid was determined to acknowledge only the birthday, not the number.
That’s why there was this passage in the column of March 15, 1995:
“ … there is reason to believe this birthday is a sparkling landmark near the midpoint of Sid’s golden journey from 50 to the century mark.”
That was intended to be witty, not a prediction.
And that century mark — Sid made it, sliding up to 100 by producing three or four columns per week (with the loyal work of Jeff Day as his right-hand man) for the Star Tribune.
There is also the radio job for the Big Neighbor, and still highlighted by a guest-filled Sunday morning show that remains the bane of existence for P.R. and communications directors with our major pro sports teams and the Gophers.
I was walking in the press box level of Hammond Stadium in mid-February. Dustin Morse, the Twins’ media maestro, was in his office with the door open.
“I’ll do my best,” he was saying into a phone. “We’re just getting started with workouts. I’ll do my best.”
I looked around the corner and asked quietly: “Sid?” Dustin nodded and lightly shook his head.
Some people refuse to take “no” for an answer. When Sid’s hunting radio guests for Sunday, he won’t take “I’ll do my best” for an answer.
Sid wants guarantees — preferably notarized.
Nobody in the long history of Sid’s Sunday radio show listened with more apprehension than Tim McGuire, who spent two decades dealing with Hartman as managing editor and then executive editor at the Star Tribune.
When Sid’s ardor for supporting team owners or the Gophers went way over the top (key word “way”), it was McGuire who would summon him to the office and demand restraint.
“Invariably, that would lead Sid to go on the Sunday radio show and say, ‘McGuire’s going to be mad at me for saying this, but …’ ” McGuire said last week. “It was bad enough that he was ignoring what I told him; he would announce to his sizable audience he was ignoring it.”
McGuire laughed and said: “There are few people that I got angrier with than Sid, and no one who has been kinder to my family and me than Sid. What I’m wearing right now is a cross he gave to me, and it says, ‘With all my love, Sid.’ ”
To me, nobody in the ever-expanding Twin Cities sports market has dealt with Sid in finer fashion than Bob Hagan, nearing his 30th year working with the media for the Vikings.
Hagan is a loyal friend to Sid, rather than a “close personal friend.” Makes sure to get him to lunch regularly. And Hagan walks that fine line of treating Sid with full respect while also applying the “needle,” now endangered but long a grand part of inner-sports.
Best prank ever: Sid takes a fall on ice and breaks a hip in mid-December 2016. Curtains for most 96-year-olds, an inconvenience for Sid.
Two days later, the Vikings play the stinker of the first season in the ZygiDome, losing 34-6 to the Indianapolis Colts. Two days after that, Sid’s out of danger and Hagan shows up at Fairview Southdale with a football signed by many Vikings.
“This is the game ball from Sunday’s Colts game,” Hagan says. “The players wanted you to have it.”
Hartman had been through Hades for four days, but he remained sharp enough to throw profanities at Hagan, and more of those while bad-mouthing the players for their lousy effort.
- A century of Sid
He’s still telling it. Three times a week. Four in the fall.
100 Sid Hartmans, one city
This isn't an inch of the Twin Cites Sid hasn't got covered
Recounting 56 years with Mr. Awesome
Close, personal friends
Fans share birthday wishes
100 years. 100 Sid things.
A fun fact for every year
The Sid Century
Major days from a life
Hearing has been a problem for Sid for years, but he retains the vision of a hawk. This ability to observe allowed Sid to attach apropos nicknames to people, thus permitting him to not remember names.
There was Mr. Shirts, Mr. Page One, Mr. Mortuary, George Halas Jr., nicknames all the way down to the guy who collected Vikings’ urine samples for drug testing at Winter Park being called “Mr. …”
Four letters. Take a guess.
Here’s my Example A of Sid the Observer:
In the days of a confined newsroom at the Star Tribune, we had a young woman on the support staff with an attendance problem. There were several workers in this group, and Sid would breeze past the area in which they resided on the way to his office.
One late afternoon Sid stopped abruptly in front of her and said: “Nice you could make it, Cal Ripken Jr.”
I’ve been around forever, and Sid has been around this long:
He started as a sportswriter in 1944 when siding with the home team was basically required, and he fought the “negative geniuses” through the decades when neutrality was the sword on which most of us fell, and now in this world of massive sports media and outlets fighting to be the leading supporters of home teams, Sid’s still at the front of the pack.
Mr. Hartman is an old dog who hasn’t had to learn new tricks. He helped invent those tricks.
Age 100. Three columns reliably per week. Awe.
Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and including his name in the subject line.
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