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Legendary Minnesota sports journalist Sid Hartman dies at the age of 100

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Updated: 3:55 PM

Sid Hartman, who wrote the sport in Minnesota for the Star Tribune and WCCO radio for decades, has passed away at the age of 100.

Hartman’s son, Chad, tweeted Sunday afternoon that “my father’s extraordinary and resilient life has come to a peaceful end surrounded by his family.”

It’s a sad day, Star Tribune sports editor Chris Carr told the Associated Press. He’s the Star Tribune in many ways, at least in terms of sports. It speaks to his amazing life that he dies even at 100 and a half years old and we still can’t believe it.

He kept his pace even after his 100th birthday party was canceled on March 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hartman continued to write three columns a week for the Star Tribune at its centenary, four during the football season, and co-hosted a Sunday morning radio show on WCCO-AM.

Mark and Zygi Wilf, owners of Minnesota Vikings, released a statement saying “our hearts are broken with the news that Sid Hartmans has passed away.

It’s nearly impossible to put into words what Sid meant to the sports world and Minnesota. He was an iconic sports figure, tenacious reporter and tireless advocate for his beloved state, they wrote. His tenacity and work ethic were unmatched, but it was Sids’ ability to nurture relationships that really set him apart. He was a confidant and a loyal friend to countless athletes and coaches across the country. “

If you love what you do, you will never work a day of your life

Hartman’s first column in the newspaper was published on September 11, 1945, just over a week after the end of World War II, and he continued to write for more than 75 years. He had a column on the Vikings in Sunday’s Star Tribune.

I took the advice that if you love what you do, you never work a day of your life, Hartman wrote in a column in March celebrating his 100th birthday. Even at the age of 100 I can say that I still love what I do.

Hartman grew up poor on the north side of Minneapolis, the son of a Russian immigrant father and a Latvian mother who started selling newspapers on downtown street corners at the age of 9. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade on a news broadcast, picked up papers and left them in dropboxes.

In 1944, the circulation manager recommended Hartman for an internship at the sports desk of the old Minneapolis Times. A year later, he was in print with an overview of news and notes, a style he continued throughout his career. Hartman always called himself a reporter, not a writer. After the Times closed in 1948, Hartman joined the Minneapolis Tribune for his beloved University of Minnesota.

Former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant remembers attending college after World War II and meeting Hartman on Hartmans’ first day as a beatwriter. Grant and his wife became friends with Hartman, and when Grant announced his first retirement as a Viking coach in 1984, he only shared the scoop with Hartman.

They said off-the-record, and to Sid that was off-the-record. He never broke trust with anyone I’ve ever known, Grant once said.

Hartman was a non-apologetic throwback to the days when the wall between sports writers and the teams and players they covered wasn’t so defined. Colleagues referred to Sids Rules, which applied to Hartman and no one else. It was a bit like the Wild West, and Sid was the best gunfighter, said Dave Mona, co-host of Hartmans Sports Huddle since the WCCO-AM radio show debuted in 1981.

The favorable coverage he provided to local sports teams gave Hartman unparalleled behind-the-scenes access to players, coaches and executives. He was given a free hand to roam where he wanted, when he wanted.

Hartman was instrumental in luring professional teams to Minnesota. In his autobiography Sid! (co-written with fellow Star Tribune sports columnist Patrick Reusse), Hartman wrote that in 1947 he offered $ 15,000 to the owner of the National Basketball League’s Detroit Gems for the franchise and then went to Detroit to deliver the check. The team became the Minneapolis Lakers and Hartman was the de facto general manager. Led by great man George Mikan, the Lakers won the NBL Championship in their first season and five NBA championships. Hartman left the Lakers operation in 1957 and the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

He did all of that while continuing his newspaper work, a blatant conflict of interest by today’s standards, but an accepted practice at the time.

All smiles

Sid Hartman (left) with his ‘close personal friend’, former Gophers soccer coach Lou Holtz, in an undated photo.

Credit to the Star Tribune

Still, he always tried to outsmart other reporters for firsts. He was a familiar face at most games and news conferences, with a large, clunky, outdated tape recorder and a thick black book full of phone numbers.

Hartman frequently referred to famous Minnesota and national sports figures in print as close personal friends. From George Steinbrenner to Bob Knight to Pete Carroll, Hartman’s rolodex has long been a who’s who of the sports world.

When asked how he scored interviews with hard-to-get athletes, Hartman told MPR’s Cathy Wurzer in 2009 that I either knew someone who was the subject of the interview or someone who knew them. For example, (sports journalist) Howard Cosell was a good friend of mine and he had good contacts. He knew the great quarterback for the Jets, Joe Namath, and he helped me get him, and he also knew Muhammad Ali and I was able to get him after a few fights, so that’s how it worked. I’ve gotten a lot of phone numbers over the years.

Hartman’s signature gruff, slurred speech and malaprops made him a favorite of listeners, media colleagues and the players and coaches he treated to impersonate. On the radio, Hartman sometimes hung up or rebuked caller geniuses, as Hartman called them who expressed opinions he disagreed with. Despite his reputation as a curmudgeon, Hartman was routinely approached by fans for autographs and was always obligated to them.

He was inducted into the media wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the Curt Gowdy Award. In 2010, a statue of him was unveiled outside Target Center, where the Timberwolves are playing. He had over 21,000 name lines in the Star Tribune during his decades of writing.

In 2010, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, a statute was unveiled on a corner outside Target Center, the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, showing Hartman holding a radio microphone, an oversized tape recorder and a Star Tribune under his arm. keeps.

Part of my job was to bring it into the 80’s. Sometimes it came quite easily and sometimes it didn’t, said former Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire. He was always too much of a booster, and he loved his Gophers. But he was always a journalist.

Hartman was also a frequent critic of women’s athletics, which he thought cut spending on men’s sports at the University of Minnesota. His archaic, former Star Tribune sports editor Glen Crevier said about Hartmans’ stance in 2009, but at least he no longer writes negatively about them. He just avoids them.

Hartman’s son, Chad, followed his father in sports coverage, as a play-by-play announcer for the Timberwolves and a local talk show host.

In a 2009 interview with MPR News, Hartman spoke of his success in journalism despite not having formal training as a reporter.

One thing I’ve done, if someone gave me an interview I’d write him a letter and thank him for that and I think that was a hit with those guys because not a lot of people do that. Other journalists) just assume that these athletes owe the reporter something, Hartman recalled. I think that helped me a lot.

You enable MPR News. Individual donations support the clarity of our reporters’ coverage in the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure that MPR continues to be a tool that brings together minnesotans.



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