Cubs’ Pitchers Had Problem

Scorekeeper comment 07-12-1965The day after I graduated Central High School in 1965, I showed up bright and early to start my Missourian summer internship. To my dismay, my first assignment was to fill in for the sports editor, who was going on vacation.

Southeast Missourian sports editor Chuck Murdoch c 1966I confessed to Chuck Murdoch that I knew virtually nothing about sports and was in deep trouble. He took a couple of sucks on his ever-present pipe and a look of relief passed over his face as he realized his job was safe: this was ONE high school kid who wouldn’t show him up. He gave me the crash course in sports journalism (something that I always thought was somewhat of a contradiction in terms).

He explained that the first thing I had to do when I showed up three hours before the rest of the staff was to go to a dropbox on the Broadway door to retrieve an armload of youth league score books the coaches had dropped overnight. I was to take those score books and interpret scratches and scrawls that showed every batter and every play and write a play-by-play of the high spots of the games. I prayed for a tight paper so I could get by with just a game summary.

I got the job done, but I felt like a monk translating ancient scrolls from one language into another. So far as I know, nobody ever complained about my accounts.

Last night I found this comment written by a coach who either had a great sense of humor or a flair for understatement: “Cub’s pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone and walked 22 batters.”

First AP story

AP Sports clipI thought it amusing enough I phoned it in to the Associated Press, which put in on the wire. I’m pretty sure that was the first time anything of mine moved on a news wire. It was a real thrill when I heard the clatter of the teletype and discovered that it was my brief that was going out to the world (well, maybe the nation or the region or the state. I don’t remember the codes well enough to know how far it was broadcast. It didn’t win the Pulitzer, I know that.).

I didn’t do too badly covering government and cops, but the society and agriculture beats were a bit of a stretch. I loved it.

Flood Creates Big Thirst

A Florida Power & Light dike containing a cooling pond at a power plant in Indiantown, Fla., broke in the middle of the night in 1979, washing a railroad locomotive off its tracks and sending residents scrambling to their rooftops for rescue. At first light, I waded into this bar in Port Mayaca because I saw people coming and going from it.

Thigh-deep water didn’t keep them from serving drinks.

The photo moved on the Associated Press wire. This is the original print I transmitted, including the caption. Click on the image to make it larger.

Decoding the caption

WPB-9 – this was the ninth photo we had transmitted from our office in West Palm Beach that day. We might go weeks without moving a photo, so to have transmitted nine meant that it was a big deal.

(AP LASERPHOTO) – was a required slug.

(ps041645mbr) – I think this was some kind of time stamp. “mbr” meant we we a member newspaper, not an AP staffer or PR flack.

MO MO NOT FOR USE IN FT PIERCE, STUART, FT LAUDERDALE OR MIAMI. Local TV out. – This is where I wasn’t playing nicely with the Associated Press. MO Means Magazines Out. (If they wanted to use the photo, they had to negotiate with us directly.) We were in a highly competitive area, so we “embargoed” our photos from being used by any competing media. I got into quite a set-to with the head AP guy who complained after we expanded our embargo to read, “Florida Out; USA Today Out,” meaning that no paper in Florida nor USA Today could use our photos. The AP guy said, “USA Today is a national paper. They don’t compete with you.”

“They’ve got a paper box in front of my office. I consider that competition,” I retorted, standing my ground.

One of my gripes with the AP was that they were very demanding. They wanted the pictures right away, not caring if you had to meet your own newspaper’s deadlines or or you hadn’t eaten or slept for 36 hours. Oh, yeah, they paid you five bucks a picture and didn’t give the photographer a credit line until just a few years ago.

Why am I running this?

Why am I running this? It’s two in the morning, I don’t have the car packed and I’m supposed to pull out for Cape in the morning. It was this or nothing.

The photo won a couple of national awards. Maybe it was because some folks thought it was news that people around Lake Okeechobee COULD pour water out of a boot without having the directions written on the bottom.