Bill Dwyre, one of the great sports editors of the era, says goodbye to the LA Times

DwyreAnother in a series of farewell columns. This time, it is Bill Dwyre.

Dwyre has been writing columns since 2006. Yet he is known for building a truly great staff during 25 years as sports editor of the Los Angeles Times. His work was recognized by his peers when he received the prestigious Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors in 1996 for service to sports journalism.

Now it helps to have a clean-up hitter like Jim Murray as your columnist, as was the case during much of Dwyre’s long run as sports editor. But Dwyre also launched and nurtured the careers of many sportswriters. There’s this entry from his Wikipedia page:

Dwyre rose to national prominence with the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics, for which he mobilized a staff of more than 100, including 59 credentialed reporters, at that time the largest of its kind for Olympic coverage. The staff published 24 special daily editions, most of them 44 pages, of Olympic coverage in addition to the paper’s regular sports section. It was an unprecedented display of newspaper Olympic coverage for which Dwyre had seemingly boundless budgetary and personnel resources. The success of the ’84 Summer Games as reflected in the excellence of the L.A. Times’ coverage garnered Dwyre several awards, including National Editor of the Year from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.; the National Headliner Award from the Press Club of Atlantic City; and the Los Angeles Times Award for Sustained Excellence, all conferred in 1985. 

Dwyre also excelled in his Act 2 as a columnist. I always looked forward to reading his columns on golf’s majors in the Chicago Tribune.

In his farewell column, he wrote about “a red-haired college grad who found a way to feed his family and fell in love with that way.”

(He) never forgot the feeling he had one day, back in Milwaukee, a stop along his way. He was so green he could hide in front of Jack’s beanstalk, but he talked his way into a chance to write an actual story.

He was assigned to a high school cross-country meet. There may be lower-profile news in sports, but you’d have to look long and hard.

He so badly wanted to write something that didn’t belabor the obvious, a disease on many sports pages. But there wasn’t anything. Teenage boys ran, some faster than others. Their coaches were either happy or unhappy. He saw no story. He had no hope.

And then, as if dropped from heaven, came a tiny figure climbing the final hill, struggling. His name was Torre Fricano, he was an undersized freshman at a high school named Messmer. He was so far behind in dead last that he was in danger of missing the team bus.

He collapsed across the finish line and was scooped up by a man the size and build of a big bear. He was Don Simeth, Fricano’s coach, and his gentle message to the sobbing youngster was that finishing last was not a bad thing. Not finishing was.

The young reporter wrote about that. Not the winner. Not the best team. Not the course or weather. He wrote about the freshman last-place finisher and his burly coach.

It got in the paper that way. He was called in and told he should have at least mentioned the winner. Three or four callers to the sports desk said the same thing.

He never felt he had done it wrong. He found a story where there wasn’t one. He learned there is always a story, that you just have to look harder. He never forgot the lesson, or Fricano and Simeth.




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