This space is normally devoted every Sunday to a numbers-based debate between myself and a colleague about a sports issue in the news.
We’re going off-script this week for a couple of reasons: First, it’s been one of the most extraordinary weeks in recent memory and talking about current sports seems a little strange. Second, if there’s one thing that’s still more extraordinary than this past week, it’s this: Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman turns 100 today.
As a tribute to Sid, here are some of the numbers that only begin to do his career justice.
• Sid has had 21,149 bylines in his career (so far). It would take a VERY long time to add up all the words from each of those stories and columns individually, but let’s make a fun estimate.
Sid’s columns these days usually roll in at a little over 1,000 words. So let’s say that’s the standard for everything he’s ever written. That would mean that he has written more than 20 million words during his three-quarters of a century in newspapers.
By comparison, wordcounter.net says Leo Tolstoy’s book “War and Peace” — one of the standard-bearers as far as long works go — checks in at just under 600,000 words.
So if you’ve read everything Sid has ever written, you have read a collective work that is roughly 35 times as long as “War and Peace.”
Sadly, Tolstoy died in 1910 — meaning he missed the chance to be a close personal friend of Sid (born in 1920) by a decade.
• Virtually every existing (and some departed) major Twin Cities pro sports team began playing after Sid’s first byline in a daily metro paper — Oct. 28, 1944, in the Minneapolis Times (which was also almost exactly 32 years before I was born!).
That’s all 9,419 regular-season Twins games (but who’s counting), almost 2,500 Timberwolves games and nearly 1,000 Vikings games, among others. For the Vikings, he was present for all four Super Bowl losses and has been to 31 Super Bowls in all.
Oh, and his tenure spans every Minneapolis Lakers game — since, you know, Sid ran the team while he was also a newspaperman.
• Sid started covering the Gophers in 1944, and the U has had 15 athletic directors overseeing men’s sports from then until now. Lou Keller was in charge when Sid started, and Mark Coyle is in charge now.
Some have been in their roles longer than others, but even the longest-tenured (Paul Giel, 1971-89) would have needed close to 60 more years to match Sid.
• This shouldn’t really be a surprise, but it’s still pretty cool: Cards are issued to members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America every year in order of seniority. The lower the number on the card, the longer someone has been a member. Sid’s card? No. 1.
• In the Star Tribune’s internal, searchable online library — which goes back a little more than three decades — you will find the phrase “close personal friend” on a column or byline story by Sid exactly 100 times (including, most recently, a column that appeared in Thursday’s paper).
That’s a perfect bit of serendipity to reinforce the most amazing number of all. Sid is now 100 years old, and he is still producing a high volume of columns for an award-winning major metropolitan daily newspaper.
Through war and peace: legendary.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More North Score: startribune.com/NorthScore