Legendary Minnesota sports columnist Sid Hartman dies at 100

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, greets sports journalist Sid Hartman before a news conference in advance of the Super Bowl 52 football game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. AP photo

Hartman's first newspaper column was published in 1945. He kept up his age-defying pace even after his 100th birthday party on March 15 was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Oct 18, 2020 3:57 PM
Updated: Oct 19, 2020 6:14 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota sports columnist and radio personality Sid Hartman, an old-school home team booster who once ran the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers and achieved nearly as much celebrity as some of the athletes he covered, died Sunday. He was 100.

Hartman, whose first newspaper column was published in 1945, died surrounded by his family, Star Tribune sports editor Chris Carr said.

“It's a sad day,” Carr told The Associated Press. “He is the Star Tribune in many ways, at least in the sports department. It speaks to his amazing life that even at 100 and a half years old, he passes away and we still can't believe it.”

He kept up his age-defying pace even after his 100th birthday party on March 15 was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hartman continued to write three columns per week for the Star Tribune as a centenarian, four during football season, and served as co-host of a Sunday morning radio show on WCCO-AM in Minneapolis.

“I have followed the advice that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life,” Hartman wrote in his column published on his 100th birthday. “Even at 100, I can say I still love what I do.”

Hartman grew up poor on Minneapolis’ tough north side, the son of a Russian immigrant father and Latvian mother who at age 9 began selling newspapers on downtown street corners. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade for a news run, picking up papers and leaving them in drop boxes.

In 1944, the circulation manager recommended Hartman for an internship on the sports desk at the old Minneapolis Times. A year later, he was in print with a roundup of news and notes, a style he continued throughout his career. Hartman always called himself a reporter, not a writer. After the Times folded in 1948, Hartman went to work at the Minneapolis Tribune covering his beloved University of Minnesota.

Former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant recalled attending the university after World War II and running into Hartman on Hartman’s first day as a beat writer. Grant and his wife became friends with Hartman, and when Grant announced his first retirement as Vikings coach in 1984, he shared the scoop only with Hartman.

“They’d say ‘off-the-record,’ and to Sid that was off-the-record. He never broke a confidence, with anybody I ever knew,” Grant once said.

Hartman was an unapologetic throwback to the days when the wall between sportswriters and the teams and players they covered was not as defined. Colleagues referred to “Sid’s Rules,” which applied to Hartman and no one else. “It was kind of the Wild West, and Sid was the top gunfighter,” said Dave Mona, Hartman’s “Sports Huddle” co-host since the WCCO-AM radio program debuted in 1981.

Often because of the favorable coverage he gave to local sports teams, Hartman was granted unparalleled behind-the-scenes access to players, coaches and executives. He was given free rein to roam where he wanted, when he wanted.

Hartman was instrumental in helping lure pro teams to Minnesota. In his autobiography “Sid!” (co-written with fellow Star Tribune sports columnist Patrick Reusse), Hartman wrote that in 1947 he offered $15,000 to the owner of the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League for the franchise, then went to Detroit to deliver the check. The team became the Minneapolis Lakers, and Hartman was the de facto general manager. Led by big man George Mikan, the Lakers won the NBL championship in their first season and five NBA championships. Hartman left the Lakers operation in 1957, and the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

He did all that while continuing his newspaper work, a blatant conflict-of-interest by today’s standards but an accepted practice in those days.

Yet he always tried to outwork other reporters for scoops. He was a familiar sight at most games and news conferences, lugging a large, clunky, outdated tape recorder and a thick, black book stuffed with pages of phone numbers. From George Steinbrenner to Bob Knight to Pete Carroll, Hartman’s rolodex has long been a who’s-who of the sports world.

“Sid Hartman was a singular figure of the Minnesota sports scene throughout the entire history of the Twins franchise, and a friend to so many throughout our National Pastime,” Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement. “Appropriately, he was member No. 1 one for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at the time of his passing, as well as the organization’s longest tenured member. "

Hartman’s distinctive gruff, slurred speech and malaprops made him a favorite of listeners, media colleagues and the players and coaches he covered to imitate. On the radio, Hartman would sometime hang up on or chastise callers — “geniuses,” as Hartman called them — who voiced opinions he disagreed with. Despite his reputation as a curmudgeon, Hartman was routinely approached by fans for autographs and always obliged them.

In 2010, to mark his 90th birthday, a statute showing Hartman holding a radio microphone, carrying an oversized tape recorder and with a Star Tribune tucked under his arm was unveiled on a corner outside Target Center, the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Part of my job was to bring him into the ’80s. Sometimes he came fairly easily and sometimes he didn’t,” said former Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire. “He always was too much of a booster, and he loved his Gophers. But he was always a newsman.”

Hartman also was a frequent critic of women’s athletics, which he thought cut into expenditures for men’s sports at the University of Minnesota. “It’s archaic,” former Star Tribune sports editor Glen Crevier said of Hartman’s attitude in 2009, “but at least he doesn’t write negatively about them anymore. He just avoids them.”

Hartman’s son, Chad, followed his father into sports reporting, as play-by-play announcer for the Timberwolves and a local talk show host.

When his 100th birthday column was published, the Star Tribune put his career byline count at 21,149.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 912370

Reported Deaths: 9506
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1780492023
Ramsey736781043
Dakota67355574
Anoka63852570
Washington40349356
Stearns33475276
St. Louis29443403
Scott25842181
Wright25830216
Olmsted22258128
Sherburne18919126
Carver1661066
Clay12033104
Blue Earth1144868
Rice11410138
Crow Wing11170122
Chisago992378
Kandiyohi9800106
Otter Tail9758127
Benton9018125
Beltrami816094
Goodhue805597
Douglas7849100
Itasca769597
Mower731249
McLeod710983
Winona708657
Isanti697883
Steele682731
Morrison671579
Becker627174
Polk599484
Freeborn559646
Carlton543474
Mille Lacs529474
Lyon527261
Nobles524754
Nicollet521160
Pine512642
Cass500553
Todd490743
Brown469757
Le Sueur457733
Meeker431457
Martin385843
Wabasha373610
Waseca372332
Dodge359811
Hubbard354749
Roseau315531
Fillmore304315
Wadena301740
Redwood281245
Houston270717
Renville268051
Faribault257032
Pennington251030
Sibley251017
Kanabec248136
Cottonwood229232
Aitkin221550
Chippewa219442
Pope206710
Watonwan197420
Yellow Medicine187723
Rock177428
Koochiching176023
Swift172622
Stevens167011
Jackson160816
Clearwater157520
Marshall153122
Murray151811
Pipestone149529
Lake132224
Lac qui Parle122125
Wilkin120616
Mahnomen105914
Norman10489
Grant101110
Big Stone9465
Lincoln8745
Kittson73023
Red Lake71310
Unassigned629124
Traverse6056
Lake of the Woods5255
Cook3070

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 523052

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Unassigned66470
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
Audubon74917
Adams5748
Rochester
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 50°
Mason City
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 53°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 44°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 54°
Charles City
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 52°
Tracking chances for rain and snow
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events