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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

STRIKING IT RICH AS SPORTS EDITOR

Winter quarter of 1955 flew by as we all basked in the glory of the Buckeyes' 10-0 season on the gridiron. Except for the dozens of half-mile walks to and from the Journalism building, much closer to the stadium than it was to my fraternity house, the period was bearable.. Spring quarter was a different story. I had been reporting on some minor sports for The Lantern, when Sports Editor Bill Schecter gave me the assignment of covering The Ohio State baseball team As  back-up catcher on the team, he couldn't play and cover the game, so he  handed me a plum  job.  I was a rabid baseball fan, and, I attended several games in 1954. OSU lost the Big Ten title in the final day, but in 1955 we won the championship. One particular game still stands out in my memory. I was sitting in the dugout between Marty Karow, the baseball coach and Woody Hayes, the legendary football head coach. It was the last game of the season and we beat Michigan 5-1. We had the game in hand, but in the top of the ninth inning, Michigan put a couple of runners on base. The  next batter hit a long drive to center field. Howard "Hoppy" Cassady, who would win the Heisman Trophy later that year, was in center. He raced back, leaped, caught the ball and hit the wooden fence, crashing to  the outfield grass. Woody, with his hefty build, and Marty, who I estimated to be in his late 50's, bolted from  the dugout to tend to their star player.Woody won the race by twenty yards. He always called me "young fellow", probably because he didn't know my name, and I always teased him about winning the race to the outfield. We got a lot closer during the football season.

Two weeks before  the end of the quarter, The Lantern's front page headline blared, "VINOCUR NAMED LANTERN SPORTS EDITOR." What an exciting day that was. Carols's 18th birthday was near and I bought her a gold locket. Her parent arrived to take her home and I met them for the first time. Her mother was still leery about me, but her Dad and I hit it off immediately. They took us to an upscale Columbus restaurant and for the first time I did not look at the prices before ordering. They presented Carol with two gifts, a diamond and sapphire ring made from a grandfather's stick pin and a cashmere sweater. I had to admit I only knew girls who wore Orlon. The next day they started on the drive home, and I traveled to Cleveland to slave once again at the USPS In August I received a phone call from Ron Bailey, the newly appointed Lantern editor asking if I could return to Columbus a couple of days before the quarter started. No problem, I told him.

Two women joined our editorial board, Sharon Moloney, the managing editor, and Fran Lottridge, the women's editor.After our meeting I went to my desk and began to attack a stack of mail  and found some unexpected surprises came with my new job. All four of us would receive small stipends for our work, which I later learned, was three to four hours after dinner to edit and make-up the next day's edition. We'd be off Friday and Saturday, but worked Sunday evenings for Monday's paper. I also found an offer from The Chicago Tribune to work as a stringer during the football season at $25 a game.Another proposition  came
from CBS. The network had a Saturday program called Football Roundup.  The pay was $35 per game.For the Trib, I'd write a recap of each quarter and send it via teletype. CBS was easier. I had a direct-line telephone to the New York studios. After each score I'd pick of the phone to report the details. Another call was made at the end of each quarter.And with each of those assignments, I received two passes to  the relatively new press box on the 50-yard line. With two  passes from the Lantern, I had a total of four.

My entrepreneurial  instincts came into play. Back in those days, students purchased a season pass for $10. It was punched each time the owner attended a game. The press box offered warmth, not to mention free food and drinks, I approached fraternity brothers with an offer they couldn't refuse. I would then go to the stadium an hour before each game, sell  our seats, and tell the buyer that I needed their driver's license for security. If they were staying at a hotel, I'd arrange to meet them at 7:30 p.m. so I could attend both locker rooms' press conferences. OSU played nine games back then, and six of them were at Ohio Stadium. My biggest take came at the last home game versus Iowa. The negotiations took 20 minutes, but I pocketed $250 for the four tickets that were sold to two couples from Iowa.

The final game of the season was against Michigan, our arch rival. I traveled when the team was on the road and Carol went with me. It was a blustery, snowy and freezing November 19, three days after my 21st birthday. Before the game I told some of my player friends , Ken Vargo, Moose Machinsky, Jim Parker and Hoppy I expected a win as a present, and the came through with a 17-0 victory . enabling OSU to finish the season with a seven wins and two losses.  Later, I  told, it was so cold, the spectators sat on the feet of the people behind them. Back in the day, Michigan had a wooden press box, offering no significant  barrier to the wind or the cold. I sat next to Mel Allen, the famous Yankee announcer (and on the 1936 USA Olympic team with Jesse Owens of OSU). Mel was calling the game on radio. As in the past, his brother, Larry, would do all the pregame interviews and was Mel's gofer. At the beginning of each quarter, Larry would bring Mel a pint of Rye whiskey, which Mel willing shared with me. After the game was over I was so inebriated Larry had to drive me  across campus to the AEPhi sorority house where Carol was waiting for me. Stumbling across six inches of snow, I went to kiss her hello. She looked at my glassy eyes and demanded, "Have you been drinking?" I sheepishly answered, "Is it that obvious?" At that point she shoved me into a snowbank and went back inside.