Sid Hartman owned a spacious condo on a top floor in Fort Lauderdale for many years. Much like a Cadillac with 20,000 miles, I would guess it was advertised as “lightly used’’ when sold a few years ago.
When the skies of November turned gloomy, and the months of December, January and February turned intolerable in Minnesota, Sid had the option of spending much time with a grand view of the Atlantic Ocean … waves roiling in a bright sun.
It was an option seldom-used by Sid, for it would have meant not being in attendance for a Gophers football game, or a few Vikings games, or some Big Ten action for the Gophers in Williams Arena. Sid was also a regular attendee at North Stars games and remains so with the Timberwolves.
The Wild … ah, that whole St. Paul deal has been an adjustment for a man who always fought the good fight for the Minneapolis side of the river.
Bottom line: It was never a contest between 80 degrees and a view of the Atlantic, and trudging through snow and a minus-10 to the Met, to the Dome or to the Barn.
Trudging always won.
On Sunday, Sid was again scheduled for a triple-header:
He would star in his morning WCCO radio show with Dave Mona, he would move through the Sid Hartman Press Entrance to cover the Vikings-Colts in the new dome, and after collecting postgame quotes on the world’s most-durable tape recorder, he would head to the Star Tribune office to produce a column on the Vikings’ unsettling performance.
Sundays such as this were quadruple-headers for Sid until September, when a fork was stuck into “The Sports Show,’’ a half-hour sitcom that had a 20-year run and generally was taped at 8:15 p.m.
This was Sid’s plan until Friday, when he was walking from his house to a car that was awaiting him, declined an offer of assistance and took a fall on a slippery spot. Sid was helped to his feet, claimed he was OK and then eased into the passenger’s seat.
Ron Zamansky is a prominent local attorney and a close personal friend of Sid’s, and Ron was throwing a 95th birthday party for his mother. This was quite a landmark and Sid had promised to attend, even though Sid had left 95 in the rearview mirror (turning 96 this year on the Ides of March).
Rumor has it, Sid stayed at the birthday party for a couple of hours, although that would have been a show of patience uncommon for Mr. Hartman.
For instance: Acquaintances of Sid attending the same funeral have been known to make wagers on when he will first look at his watch. Peace be with the eulogist who takes more than eight minutes in Sid’s company.
When Sid got home from the birthday party, he found himself unable to get his legs to work. Before the night was over, he was admitted to a hospital and was quickly informed by two more close personal friends — orthopedic surgeon Pat Smith and internist Sheldon Burns — that he had a broken right hip.
Broken hips are bad, and for nonagenarians, they are much worse than that.
The surgery took place Saturday night. He was taking a couple of steps Sunday. On Tuesday, I stopped at the hospital for a few minutes, and Dr. Smith happened to make a visit.
He smiled, pointed at his patient and said: “This man is a survivor.’’
He is all of that. He sneaked in as a kid to watch Bronko Nagurski play football for the Gophers. And nine decades later, he watched Rodney Smith surpass 1,000 yards and rush for 15 touchdowns.
Gene Mauch would use this phrase when encountering odd behavior by a civilian or a player: “He’s ours, and we aren’t trading him.’’
That’s how I look at Sid and the state of Minnesota: “He’s ours, and we aren’t trading him.’’
All those years, he could have been on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, enjoying sun and surf, but he was here, trudging to games, making sure the proper hopeful view would be offered in radio and print to followers of the Vikings, Gophers, et al.
For more than 70 years, from driven in the mid-1940s to crotchety in the mid-2010s, Sid has been able to uncover an angle that tells you there are better days ahead.
Right now, barring the broken hip, he would be going to bat strongly for Tracy Claeys as Gophers football coach, while also willing to be impressed by the guy who replaces him, if it comes to that. Sid was scheduled to be transferred Wednesday to a rehabilitation/living center to continue his recovery from this very serious obstacle. We will pray for Sid, and also offer this caution to his therapists:
Patience is not Mr. Hartman’s No. 1 virtue.