General

My visit to see “The Dean”

In October 2005, the White Sox were rolling through the Major League Baseball playoffs.

And I was, well, rolling my eyes at it all while working the late shift at the Tribune Tower.

Manning the phone for the paper’s Metro desk, my chief duty from 5 to midnight each night was to keep tabs on murder and mayhem in Chicago.

On one evening, however, as it became apparent that the Sox were almost certainly going to win the World Series, I did a bit of moonlighting for the Trib’s sports department.

And it left me with one of my more memorable Tribune experiences.

That evening, the sports staff was simultaneously covering the Series and putting together a commemorative book for the Sox’s impending championship, so things were hectic.

As a result, around 11 p.m., I was plucked from Metro, ordered to hustle down to the parking lot behind the Tower and take a company car up to Evanston.

My mission was to pick up and deliver back to Chicago the foreword for the commemorative White Sox book that was written by a retired sports reporter who wasn’t too keen on e-mail.

That reporter?

None other than Jerome Holtzman, the longtime Tribune and Sun-Times baseball writer, who passed away Monday at the age of 81.

Known as “The Dean” in baseball circles, Holtzman was a sportswriting titan who invented the “save” statistic, earned a spot in Cooperstown and was named by Bud Selig as Major League Baseball’s first official historian after retiring from the newspaper biz in 1998.

On Tuesday, Holtzman’s remarkable career — and his troubles with those pesky computers — were detailed in the Trib through a collection of his colleagues memories.

As a former sportswriter myself and lifelong admirer of Holtzman, whose stories I’d read at the breakfast table while growing up in Bourbonnais, I was thrilled with the little assignment.

And as I weaved my way along Sheridan Road in Evanston, looking for Holtzman’s home in the dark and the rain, I remember thinking how every time I had ever seen the man on TV or in a photograph he was always wearing suspenders.

Finally, once I found Holtzman’s darkened home and knocked quietly on the door, the Hall of Famer appeared, type-written foreword in hand and clad in a pair of dark slacks, a white T-shirt …

And suspenders.

I loved it.

Still do.

Rest in peace, Jerome.

And, you know, if you get a chance to bend God’s ear, ask if he could maybe cut the Cubs a break this year.

Lord knows, they need it.

  • Harvey

    Ha. I remember when they were putting together that book. coincidentally, i was working the same shift as you back then. Good Times. nice story….can’t believe you met the dean!!