and that wasn’t his last name — because he thought at some point, it would allow me to “catch a break,” in his words.
My first “break” in the media was at The News American in February 1984.
Not really even at “The News Post” (which is what my 87-year old mother still calls it to THIS DAY!), but at SportsF1rst, which was a sister publication — a daily, tabloid local Baltimore newspaper that was strictly dedicated to sports. It was usually 64 pages every day, with about the last six chock full of news, stock quotes and weather. The other 58 pages were ALL SPORTS, and most of it was local stuff!
It was a “test run” thing for the company, a prototype for other markets if it worked.
It began in September 1983 with the Orioles about to win the World Series and when Baltimore was a two-sport town — three if you consider the MISL Baltimore Blast a big-league team, and at that point with sellouts of more than 12,000 per night at the Civic Center, they were about as big league as you could get. But SportsF1rst folded during the anniversary week of its first year, in September 1984 with the Colts gone for good and the Orioles’ pennant hopes for 1984 long-since vanquished by the runaway Detroit Tigers, who began that season with a smoldering 35-5 run and never looked back.
That was also the week of my son’s birth — September 22, 1984. I was three weeks shy of my 16th birthday. And someone I didn’t even know came up to me in the newsroom and told me that the paper wouldn’t be coming out tomorrow.
Somehow, someway — two weeks into my senior year at Dundalk High School — they actually HIRED me instead of firing me! I had been an unpaid “intern” for the previous eight months. Now they were offering me $3.33 per hour “under the table” to answer phones, run for coffee and do extreme on-the-job training.
There were two things they NEVER needed to train me on: knowing sports, and hustle!
But my phone skills — let’s just say there was a LOT of Dundalk in me, ok? — and my nonexistent typing skills weren’t in my favor. But I caught on quickly because being around sports and working in sports was important to me.
What could possibly be better than being paid to watch sports and put out the newspaper that I was going to read the next day, anyway?
Getting my “foot in the door” was actually a complete fluke, really.
I was in the final year at Holabird Junior High School in 1982 and we had a substitute teacher named Marty Bading, who was actually a parent of a classmate of mine. He worked in the pressroom at The News American. He was one of those “old school” guys who put the hot metal type