Chris Elsberry / Hang out the 'welcome home' banner
Published 4:16 pm, Thursday, September 25, 2014
In October of 1982, I saw it as the greatest job in the world.
After spending a year with the weekly Darien News-Review -- where the job entailed not only being the sports editor but also the police reporter, the town meeting guy and the occasional obit writer -- I moved up in the Brooks Community Newspaper chain to what then was the Fairfield Citizen News, where the job was covering sports at three high schools and two universities.
Roger Ludlowe and Andrew Warde high schools and Fairfield Prep, plus Sacred Heart and Fairfield universities. And for an up-and-comer in the journalism game, this was going to be like nirvana. Sports, sports and nothing but sports. No Friday mornings going to the police station to check the blotter, no listening to some selectman blab on and on over some trivial issue as the clock pointed to midnight, This was just going to be sports.
It was going to be great.
And for two years, it was. But another opportunity awaited just up the road. In September 1984, the Bridgeport Post was looking for a night editor, working from midnight to whenever, to put the paper together. It was a daily, around 70,000 circulation and once you got your foot in the door at a daily, you usually never left.
There's a saying that, "What goes around, comes around" or better yet, "Coming full circle" and I guess both of those apply to me. After 30 years at the Post, I'm back at its sister paper the Citizen.
And it feels like home.
A while back, Hearst Connecticut Newspapers bought the Citizen and other weeklies from in the Brooks chain. I sort of knew that, but really, I was so involved in writing for the Post that I didn't pay much attention. For me, it was UConn this or Fairfield U. that or Sacred Heart this -- with the occasional UConn Final Four or Yankees World Series or New York Giants Super Bowl or U.S. Open Tennis thrown in for good measure.
Now, it's back to writing about the kids.
Back in the day, I wrote about kids a lot. I remember a freshman at Ludlowe in the spring of 1984, a pitcher by the name of Charlie Nagy. Quiet kid. Shy. Great fastball. Went on to play a couple years at UConn, got drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1988 and ended up pitching for 14 seasons -- including the 1995 and 1997 World Series. He even won a gold medal with Team USA in the 1988 Olympics.
I've got to get him to sign one of my baseball cards.
And there was Matt Merullo too. Played baseball at Prep for veteran coach Ed Rowe (now that guy was a tough nut) got drafted by the White Sox in the '86 draft. He was a junior when I started at the Citizen. And there was Bob Olah, who played baseball at Notre Dame and got drafted by the Mets in '86. He was a sophomore when I first covered him. He got as high as Class A but called it quits after five seasons.
I remember what a gentleman Prep football coach Earl Lavery was. The man coached for 24 seasons and never had a losing record. In 1982, that first fall I covered the Jesuits, they defeated Greenwich 18-6 to win the CIAC Class L championship.
For me, that kind of happened a lot. In 1989, I covered the Trumbull Little League team that won the Little League World Series. In 1990, my first year as the Post's beat writer covering the NFL Giants, they won the Super Bowl. In 1994-95, my first year covering the UConn women's basketball team, they went undefeated and won the NCAA title.
I covered Jack McFarland, who played baseball, football and basketball at Warde until he graduated in 1984. One of the grittiest players ever. Today, he coaches baseball at Staples. I remember Ludlowe baseball coach Jack Mullady, who coached Nagy. I can't believe its been 22 years since he passed away. I remember Warde's great basketball player Cary Herer and Notre Dame's talented tailback Willie Fuller.
Working for the Citizen was the first time I met Fairfield University men's basketball coach Terry O'Connor -- and then met all of his predecessors, Mitch Buonaguro, Paul Cormier, Tim O'Toole (I covered him when he played for the Stags, too), Ed Cooley and now, Sydney Johnson. It was also the first time I met Dave Bike over at Sacred Heart. My hand still is swallowed by his whenever we shake.
While six coaches came and went at Fairfield U., Bike stayed at SHU for 35 years until his retirement before the 2013-14 season. I met and became good friends with Fairfield University baseball coach/athletic director Don Cook and so many others at both the college and high school levels. Some of them -- that means you, Dave Schulz at Ludlowe -- are still hanging around after all these years.
Now, it's time to revisit a few old friends and make a lot of new ones.
I'll be seeing you.