tabloid “Star” journalist), cartoonist Mike Ricigliano (who is still in Baltimore almost 25 years later, is one of my dearest friends and whose children actually nicknamed me “Nasty” in the late 1980s during a baby-sitting fiasco when I sent them to bed early…instead of “Uncle” Nestor, I became “Nasty” Nestor), and of course, the great John Steadman.
But I wasn’t getting paid! And I had a pregnant girlfriend!
When the Los Angeles Olympics came, in the Summer of 1984, SportsF1rst needed all the help it could get and I was the cheapest labor possible!
I worked every night, did the Harborplace food run (cheese bread was a staple of the sportswriter diet on the copy editor’s desk as was an occasional post-edition Burke’s onion ring celebration) and caught my big break one night when local swimmer Theresa Andrews won a gold medal in L.A.
It was my job to get on the phone with her local coaches and family and write a small “family reaction” story. It not only appeared in SportsF1rst the next morning, it actually made the regular editions of The News American as well. It was my first byline, and you can only imagine how many editions of that paper my Pop ran out to Eastpoint Mall and bought.
He kept a copy in his wallet, one on the wall and put a few away for safekeeping, which I still have!
He was so unbelievably proud that his boy was writing next to the great John Steadman!
In September 1984, once my son Barry was born — and you can only imagine the pariah I was around the high school and the neighborhood with a baby boy during my senior year — and I somehow, someway, survived the purge of SportsF1rst people.
I was on my way in the sports media world.
I did a half-day “work/study” program my senior year in 1985 — I signed up when my girlfriend was pregnant because I knew I’d need a job — and was easily breaking a bunch of labor laws working 30 to 50 hours per week (my school day ended at noon) at $3.33 per hour. The minimum wage then was $3.35 an hour.
I’ve only had two other jobs in my whole life and they were both during that period in 1984 when my girlfriend was pregnant: I worked at Sound Waves at Eastpoint Mall for about two months and I worked in a medical office at the old City Hospital for a skin doctor who was doing research on a rare and horrible disease called “mycosis funguides.”
THAT was the WORST job ever, and it steeled my resolve to never have a crappy job again. I don’t think I lasted three weeks there. Nice work for someone, but it definitely wasn’t me!
A few months into my senior year, they actually bumped my pay to a flat “legal” $3.50 per hour and that silly 17 cents made all the difference to me. It made me feel “legitimate” in some bizarre way, and some of my friends were “only” making $3.35.
By the end of 1985, when it became very clear that The News American wasn’t going to survive, most of the intelligent sportswriters (is that an oxymoron?) had found greener pastures elsewhere, many up on Calvert Street at The Baltimore Sun.
One of the guys who had swapped newspapers was Bob Nusgart, who was our assistant sports editor and my boss at The News American and who had been at The Evening Sun for about a year. He called me late one night and said there might be an opening for an editorial assistant (we actually called them “agate” clerks…agate as in small type, as in stats for the then-Scoreboard page in the sports section).
On Jan. 6, 1986, Executive Sports Editor Jack Gibbons hired me and I began my