Cleveland sports lost a great one today, when Hal Lebovitz passed away. He was 89.
I'm not sure how many of you will know who Hal is, he's been semi-retired for some time. He was one of the greatest sportswriters ever to work in Cleveland and a member of the writer's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I didn't get to know Hal that well, he was 62 years older than me and was already a legend by the time I was born. But even a newbie working in the Cleveland-area media felt his presence. He came from a different age, when political correctness and absolute objectivity weren't as valued as they are today. His style was both a reminder of a different world and yet a breath of fresh air. He worked for decades at the Cleveland News, the Plain Dealer and the Lake County News-Herald.
Until his final days, Hal wrote a Sunday column in the News-Herald that almost weekly broke news. I can't ever remember seeing him at the Cavs game over the last few years, but he was actually the guy who broke the news that Danny Ferry was going to be the new Cavs general manager last summer. Said Bob Finnan, the Cavs writer at the News-Herald: "I'm scrambling like a mad man, calling this guy, who's calling this other guy, trying to find out what was happening and Hal makes one call and breaks the news."
He had many famous stories, none more than "Never Cut a Boy," an essay he wrote in the 1960s about why high school coaches should never make cuts. It is still re-run yearly by some publications.
Until recently, Hal pounded out his stories on an ancient Tandy word processor that ran on double A batteries. In an age of wireless high-speed Internet, he hooked up couplers to his old telephone to transmit them after his wife proofread them. He would have team PR people read press releases to him over the phone even though they begged him to let them buy him a fax machine. Cavs VP of PR Tad Carper often spent hours on the phone with Hal, I'm sure especially the day they drafted Martynas Andriuskevicius.
Recently the News-Herald bought him a new computer. He never did get it, as Finnan famously tells, when the technicians were setting it up he quizzically asked: "Does this thing have w-w-w on it?"
It reminded me of when I showed the Internet to my own grandfather, who died at the age of 91 a few years ago, and he said: "So what's the big deal." You know, I didn't really have a good answer for him.
When I was a boy I used to read the Sporting News and every week looked forward to Hal's "Ask the Referee" column. I later shared the same chair with Hal on More Sports and Les Levine, where Hal was a weekly guest and dubbed as the "Man in the Know." For that, I was honored.
I never got to know Hal well and he surely wouldn't understand the point of this blog, but that isn't the point. Hal entertained and informed millions with his stories of the sports we love and in his footsteps all us hacks follow.
Here's to you, old-timer.
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