Contrary to the opinion of several readers, I didn't die or drop off the face of the earth, but midterms, my internship and newspaper obligations have kept me from posting daily. You'll notice that in the blog description I have removed the word "daily." I'm a realist, and posting on here daily just isn't going to happen. Though there is something to talk about in the world of sports everyday, there isn't always time to talk about it.
Unfortunately, my long-overdue post will be a somber one. Everyone who follows Cleveland sports and pays attention to the Northeast Ohio media probably keeps one name synonymous with all the happenings in the worlds of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers: Hal Lebovitz. Lebovitz, who had once served as the sports editor for The Plain Dealer and numerous other papers and wrote the famed "Ask Hal" column, died this week at the age of 89. I read his writings in the Mansfield News Journal, which syndicated his columns. Numerous Ohio journalists have written tributes to Hal, and I hope there's room on the bandwagon for this humble blogger.
When I was eight years old in 1993, I loved Bernie Kosar and the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, Kosar's career was showing its downslope in the middle of the season and the team's second quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, began to shine. I typed Hal a letter on an old Tandy 1000, printed it, and after a little parental editing, sent it off to him. I wanted to know if he thought it was a good idea for the Browns to make a quarterback switch and bench the local legend. Two weeks later, Kosar was released. I had forgotten all about the letter in my anguish of seeing Bernie go, but sometime in December, I got a hand-written letter in the mail from Hal. He was very courteous, saying that he anticipated the Browns' management's move, and mentioned that even though my question was moot now (this was when I learned what "moot" meant), he wanted to make sure he replied.
Another story--at age 11, I really felt that my Little League team had gotten railroaded by the umpire on a double play call while we were batting. I'll spare you the details of the play, but in my angst, hoping to prove that I was right, I wrote Hal. It was a longshot that my question would even appear in the column, but it was definitely worth the time to punch out a letter to send to my favorite writer. Sure enough, a question about baseball rules from John Carlisle, Shelby, Ohio, appeared in the paper. The irony was that Hal told me the umps got the call right. I was a little miffed, but I respected his decision because I knew he had years of playing and umpiring experience.
These anecdotes are two of thousands people will use to remember Hal. To be honest, he is probably the reason I have this blog right now. When The Chimes asked me to write a column, his were the ones I modeled mine after. He believed in a straight-forward "Here's what I know, and here's what I think about it" column. The result? A loyal readership and the admiration of players, coaches and owners of the Cleveland area. In the 70s, Indians owners kept considering moving the team out of the city but Hal convinced them otherwise--three times. When Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, Hal tried to persuade him also, but it fell on deaf ears. According to sources, Lebovitz and Modell haven't spoken since.
Lebovitz's style of journalism and sports writing epitomize integrity and loyalty. I will miss his writings greatly, and I send condolences to his family. Thanks, Hal.