Dolgan has long been one of my favorites, even though he has written much more infrequently over the last 4-5 years.
The man nicknamed "Sudden" Sam McDowell, and even punched him out in a bar one night. He essentially created "The Dawgs", which has made the Browns millions and millions of dollars over the last 20 years.
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So many stories
The typewriters have left the office, and after 45 years of service at The Plain Dealer, it's time for me to go
Friday, October 20, 2006
Plain Dealer reporter
One writer would take a small swig of whiskey before composing his story. My weakness was cigarettes. I could not write without one in my mouth.
After the paper was put to bed, the card games began. One winter night in 1959, Indians General Manager Frank Lane called and said he had just made a trade for Johnny Temple, Cincinnati's All-Star second baseman. We quickly ripped the paper apart. I wrote the story, and the editor put it on the top of Page One. Then we went back to the pinochle game.
We wanted to get the story in before the afternoon papers, the Cleveland Press and the Cleveland News, got it.
I was a proud member of the journalistic profession. I was making $78 a week and working with Gordon Cobbledick, James E. Doyle, Harry Jones, Chuck Heaton and John Dietrich, whom I had been reading all my life.
Being young and romantic, I believed in the fantasy of the great reporter who could write the best story, outdrink and outfight anybody in the bar, and get the most beautiful woman.
My first big story was on Jim Brown in 1957. We were both rookies. He had just tied the NFL record for most rushing yards in a game, 237. There were no radio, TV or small-town newspaper reporters in clubhouses then. I sat on a chair next to Brown, asking him questions. He was always cooperative with the press.
Ted Williams, the great hitter, was the first ballplayer I ever interviewed at the Stadium. That was in 1959. "Why do they always send you new guys to me?" he remarked. It wasn't a very good interview. It wound up with Williams giving me a batting lesson. Today I am a much better reporter. But I was a better writer then.
I succeeded Jones as baseball writer in 1961 and nicknamed Sudden Sam McDowell. In 1964, when I was a Thistledown publicist, I had a fistfight with McDowell. Five years later, a policeman stopped me for a traffic violation. When he looked at my license, he let me go, explaining, "I was in the bar the night you punched out McDowell."
I had a good time on the Indians beat, hanging out with the half dozen or so ballplayers on the team who enjoyed nightlife. I got my share of scoops. The best was when Gene Green quit the team and I located him in his favorite bar, where he excoriated manager Birdie Tebbetts.
I nearly blew the job at my first World Series game in New York in 1961. After an all-night revel, I woke up at noon, the time the game was to start. I panicked and raced to Yankee Stadium, arriving in the fourth inning. Cobbledick, the sports editor who hired me, was sitting next to me. I began sputtering an apology, but he quickly said, "That's all right, Bob. Every baseball writer worth his salt is going to go on a bender once in a while." I had not had a day off since spring training began in February, covering the beat seven days a week.
Later, after I became a sports columnist, Hanford Dixon, the Browns cornerback, was the centerpiece of a good story. I noticed him and Frank Minnifield standing over fallen opponents in a game, bobbing their heads.
I asked Dixon what he and Minnifield were doing. "We're barking," he said, revealing the Browns defensive unit called itself "The Dogs." That led to the Dawg Pound and all those dog masks fans still wear today.
I loved the hurly-burly of the job. Bill Rodgers, the great marathoner, was in Cleveland. I called him at his hotel for an interview, but he said he had to leave to catch a plane. "Stay there," I said. "I'll drive you. I'll be right there." I dashed from my house in my pajamas and picked up Rodgers. I was still interviewing him in pajamas and house slippers as we walked toward his plane.
I often had luck with people who disliked being interviewed, convincing Bill Russell, Steve Carlton, Kirk Gibson, Jim Rice and Eddie Murray to talk. Dave Kingman refused me at first, so I said, "My editor told me I'd be fired if I didn't get an interview with you." He frowned and said, "All right, what do you want to know?" It was the only time I ever pulled that one.
Sportscaster Joe Tait produced the most unusual story. I heard him make a slighting reference to Indians manager Frank Robinson on a talk show. Tait was announcing Indians games at the time. I phoned him, expecting him to dodge the issue. Instead, he lambasted Robinson harder than ever. It was perhaps the only time in baseball history a team announcer knocked a manager. It was a front page story.
In more recent years, I did a lot of nostalgia writing, with many of the stories reprinted in the book, "Heroes, Scamps and Good Guys." I conducted the Glad You Asked feature the last 13 years.
Amid all the hustle and bustle, I have been fired once, demoted twice, won several writing awards and been elected to the Cleveland Press Club Hall of Fame. The guys who fired or demoted me are either dead or gone. I have been at The Plain Dealer 45 years, the last 39 years consecutively. Now it is time to go. Today is my last day at The Plain Dealer. Thanks for everything.
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