Korby's Connections: Reflections
... on the passing of Sid Hartman, Bob McDonald and too many others
October 30, 2020
When sports columnist and celebrity Sid Hartman, of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and WCCO radio, passed away last week, it pushed me to pause and reflect. Sid was 100 years old. He had an article that he had written printed in the newspaper on the day he died. He had more than 20,000 articles published in his 70-plus year newspaper career. He was friends with Bud Grant, for God’s sake. Didn’t matter your sport of choice or gender, most Minnesota athletic enthusiasts had heard of the infamous “Sid.”
For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been submitting mainly sports articles to the Pine Knot News newspaper. At the rate of an article published per week or so, I’d have to live to be about 400 to match Sid’s record. Don’t think I’m going to make it, and I probably would have outgrown my welcome from the Pine Knot long before that anyhow. Sid’s story and accomplishments are mind-boggling.
Another local sports icon, Bob McDonald, the high school basketball coach from Chisholm, passed away recently too. Bob did succumb to Covid. He was 87 and diagnosed with the virus about two weeks prior to his death. He had more than 1,000 coaching victories and coached for 59 seasons, mostly at Chisholm, but he actually got his hardwood and teaching start in Barnum and McGregor.
About 25 years ago, my brother and I were coaching a team of sixth-grade boys from Cloquet in a youth basketball tournament in Hibbing. We made it to the championship game. Chisholm was our opponent. Like the high school team, Chisholm utilized a full court press and fast break and beat us rather handily. We looked up in the stands after the game and there — smiling and congratulating the Chisholm sixth-graders and his future roster of players — was none other than crew-cut coach Bob McDonald. For sure, no other high school coach was there in the gymnasium. It became clear to me and my brother why McDonald and Chisholm had three state tournament titles and had such a successful program … he followed his players practically from womb to tomb. McDonald had a big impact on thousands of students and athletes with his discipline, addressing kids' questions while growing up, and helping them with their overall approach to life.
Although not directly found on the death certificate, Hartman’s son said Covid-19 did have an impact on Sid’s passing. “He was such a people person” said Chad Hartman, “and with the virus, he wasn’t able to go out and freely meet with the folks he was writing about daily.” His routine, as has everybody’s, changed in 2020. Many have had family and friends pass away in 2020 right here in Carlton County, deaths at least partially pandemic-related. How? It could be from delaying treatment or medical procedures due to hospital or operating restrictions, or not being able to visit with loved ones with serious conditions, and losing hope. No understatement, the pandemic has been hard on all of us.
In fueling my somber, reflective mood, it’s World Series time, so I’m a happy fan, but Baseball Hall of Famers, and my heroes, are passing away at an astonishing rate this year. As of this writing, Al Kaline — great right fielder for the Tigers, Whitey Ford — Yankees and World Series left-handed pitcher, Joe Morgan — Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” MVP second baseman, Tom Seaver — right-handed pitcher for the “Miracle Mets,” Lou Brock — leadoff hitter and expert base stealer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and another Cardinal, the outstanding right-handed pitcher and World Series hero Bob Gibson, all have died in 2020. None of them were spring chickens, most in their 80s, but it’s still hard and puts a chink in all of our personal armor. All of these players were first-round draft choices in the late ‘60s Scanlon Dice Baseball League. In the Baseball Hall of Fame, “Say Hey” and “Hammering Hank” and others are about 90, so we’ll likely have more sports legends passing soon (sigh).
Many of my stories have reflected on people or events 25-50 years ago. However, I recently have had the privilege to interview some current high school and college scholars and athletes. Our future is bright! Sorry if I made any readers glum, and have them looking in the mirror. We certainly don’t need that this year. Hang in there, 2021 will be better.
Steve Korby’s interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. Steve loves sports, especially golf. He welcomes human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans.