Shama: At 93 Sid Hartman Still Chases the News


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Nov 11, 2008
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per Shama:

Sid Hartman started chasing sports news for a Minneapolis newspaper in 1944.

Who could have predicted that 69 years later he would still be sniffing around locker rooms for a scoop?

Hartman’s 93rd birthday will be Friday. He writes a sports column four times per week for the Star Tribune. His comments are heard three times each morning Monday-Friday on WCCO Radio and on Sundays the station airs the Sports Huddle program with Hartman and Dave Mona.

To the outside world, sports journalism looks like a cushy job. But sportswriting and broadcasting involve long hours and weekend assignments. Journalists work under the pressure of deadlines, and in today’s Internet and social media world there’s a constant appetite for news.

In this town many of the sports reporters are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Only a few are in their 60s and nobody approaches Hartman’s age. At 93 he could be the great grandfather of reporters he competes against.

Where does the drive come from to be working like this seven years away from being 100 years old? What motivates Hartman to attend as many or more games, practices and news conference as most anybody in Minnesota? And when there are no formal news opportunities, he is likely to be stopping by Jerry Kill’s office or visiting Winter Park, or some place else where there might be a scoop, or at least a column note.

To understand Hartman’s work ethic look at his background. Hartman, who never attended college, grew up poor on Minneapolis’ North Side. In his biography, Sid, he described a family of four children with a sickly mother and alcoholic father.

“We had nothing,” Hartman wrote. “We ate chicken every night. My mother would go down to the Jewish butcher and buy two chickens for a buck. She would make chicken soup, chicken this, chicken that. To this day, I hate chicken.”

Hartman learned about hard work as a child. He began selling newspapers when he was nine. By the time he was in his 20s he was writing for the Minneapolis Times. Although his writing skills were minimal, he had something that attracted his newspaper bosses and provided opportunity.

In his biography Hartman wrote that his first boss in the sports department told him: “Don’t worry about writing. Give us the news. Writers are a dime dozen. Reporters are impossible to find.”

Despite limited education and training — or perhaps because of it — Hartman has worked seven days per week pounding his beat for information. “He found out the way to advance was to be aggressive, and I think that’s served him well during his career,” Mona told Sports Headliners. “I think he’s relished the role of the under dog.”

Hartman, divorced from Barbara Balfour decades ago, remains married to his work. “He is what he does,” Mona said. “Literally there is no doubt that Sid is always working or thinking about work.”

It’s admirable that at 93 Hartman has the energy and will to be so active. He moves around like a spry 70-something, fortunate to come from a family tree that included relatives who lived long lives. And Hartman has helped his cause by not smoking and doing a lot of walking.

“He is in remarkably good health, except for the hearing loss which he acknowledges and which is probably becoming even more obvious on the air,” Mona said. “I think in every other manner he’s incredibly fit. I would say robust.”

Mona, 69, has known Hartman since he was seven years old. Mona’s father, Lute Mona, was a successful Minneapolis high school basketball coach. Mona recalled that most reporters would telephone the house and ask, “Is your dad around?”

Not the uber-aggressive Hartman who commanded: “Hey kid, put your old man on.”

Hartman and Mona have worked as hosts on the Sports Huddle since 1981. It required time but Hartman came to trust Mona who jokes that the probationary period was only “20 to 25 years.”

“I think now that he respects that I am never going to hang him out there,” Mona said.

Hartman was born in Minneapolis on March 15, 1920. By now Hartmanologists have concluded that the man WCCO Radio’s Dave Lee refers to as a “Hall of Fame” sportswriter is never going to retire.

Those Hartmanologists are correct.

Mona said he receives text messages asking about Hartman’s future. “If it seems like we haven’t touched on the subject (retirement) for a long time — or maybe in advance of a birthday — I’ll ask him on the air. But I know the answer because we’ve talked about it so many times,” Mona said.

Hartman has watched sports figures who continued their careers into their 70s and even 80s die soon after retiring. People like Hartman who were totally wrapped up in their careers. “I think that Sid knows there’s a certain amount of immortality attached to continuing work,” Mona said.

So Hartman’s career —covering eight decades in newspapers and seven on radio —continues on. The legend grows, his name associated with the notable figures in this state’s cultural history. And like a Kirby Puckett or Jesse Ventura, Hartman long ago was even honored with his own bobblehead.

A week ago Sunday the Star Tribune published a New York Times story about a California man who at age 93 was still delivering newspapers for a paper he once owned. But guess what?

The Strib has a better story in its own sports department.

Go Gophers!!


Nov 20, 2008
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The day Sid retires will be the day he...well, you know.

He's a deserving legend.

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