The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


April 7, 2013

A Chris Larick column: The times, they are a changin’

With a satisfied sigh, I close the last of three scrapbooks kept diligently by Tom Naylor’s mother.

Without the efforts of the mothers of Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame inductees’ mothers, my job in chronicling their athletic careers would be much more difficult. I can’t imagine sifting through years of newspapers to get the relevant facts of players who played decades ago.

Well, on second thought, yes I can. I’ve done it. And it’s an arduous project.

So kudos to the mothers of Naylor, Dick Hill, Hiram Safford, Tiffany Leonard and others.

One wonders, though, if my job, or that of those who succeed me in these efforts, will become infinitely more difficult in the future, when scrapbooks become a thing of the past.

What if the Conneaut News Herald, Star Beacon and other newspapers hadn’t covered high school sporting events as well as they did? What if we didn’t have writers keeping track of virtually every football and basketball game played in the county?

This seems to have been true in our county even back into the 1940s, as evidenced by the articles written about players like Carl Stokes and Dick Hill. But I believe it became particularly true starting in the 1960s or 1970s, when first coaches, then players began to be interviewed after every contest and lengthy articles were written about almost every game.

That period, to me (though I admit I’m prejudiced) will always be the Golden Age of Sports Coverage in Ashtabula County.

I remember when Darrell Lowe first took the job as sports editor of the Star Beacon, I believe in 1978. Darrell assembled a staff that eventually included, at various times, such writing stalwarts as himself, Karl Pearson, Tom Riggs, Marty Gitlin, Ed Puskas, Don McCormack, John Kampf, Mike Scully, Tom Harris, Aaron Dorksen, James Johnson, Adam Raeder and, yes, myself. It was probably Darrell  who insisted we expand our box scores to include details other newspapers didn’t.

After our Friday football or basketball night deadlines (sometimes as late as 3 a.m. or so at one time), our staff would head to Perkins or some other local restaurants and discuss our games and our game stories (“Who had the best lead tonight?”) and figure out who was leading our Fearless Forecast.

Those were great days, among the best of my life.

Of course, we had competition to our west. The News Herald was already covering a few Ashtabula area games when they decided to staff an office right here in Ashtabula. So did the Plain Dealer, to a lesser degree.

Don McCormack, our then — and current — sports editor, got that glint in his eye that I’ve often seen. “We’ll drive their (butts) out of the county!” McCormack, competitive in everything he does, vowed.

We all renewed our efforts to cover area sports even more comprehensively than we had before.

We had homecourt advantage. We all knew our territory, much better than the competition. After all, most of us were local. Only one other writer I can think of, John Kampf (after he left the Star Beacon), enjoyed that advantage. And eventually, we did drive them out, first the Plain Dealer, then the News Herald.

The downturn in the fortunes of the Ashtabula Mall and consequent loss of advertising dollars may have had something to do with that, but this is my story, and I’m sticking to this: We were too much for them to compete with.

Sadly, newspapers will probably never be as big a force in the community as they were then. The Plain Dealer and the News Herald, I have read, both have significant financial difficulties.

There are fewer sports writers, too, unless one counts “stringers” (freelance writers) like me. When I retired, the Star Beacon employed four full-time writers: McCormack, who was editor and thus didn’t have as much time to write as the rest of us; the late Karl Pearson; James Johnson; and me; plus Tom Harris, who was usually putting in 30 hours a week. Now, they have two (Don and Vince Peluso).

The rest of us, including Bob Ettinger, Steve Goldman, Rich Kelly, Jon Hall and David Negin, get paid by the story.

That means the Star Beacon cannot cover sports like it once did, though I know Don tries to do all he can. The newspaper covers less schools and cannot cover as many games. It’s not the paper’s fault, just the nature of today’s beast.

Which brings us back to scrapbooks. There’s no way that future mothers of athletes will find as much written about their sons and daughters as was once true, assuming they even have the time to keep such a record with so many more women in the work force.

There is enough reason to be concerned about the very continued existence of newspapers given the current attitude toward them.

That’s sad. People may prefer the lack of expense and convenience of television and the internet, but how many local stories are covered by those media? Try to make a scrapbook out of those rare scraps of information.

Ten, 15, 20 years down the road, the reader will know much less about high school contests and athletes.

Times change. I know that. But I cannot be persuaded that that particular change will be for the better.

Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.

Text Only
  • Sam Going strong!

    Back on track... and still alive and kicking, er, hitting!

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 18U Outlaws split first two

    A stirring rally in their last at-bat allowed the Ohio Outlaws 18-and-under squad to prevail in its first game at the Eastern National Tournament on Thursday in Sterling, Va.

    August 1, 2014

  • UMC rolls to church title

    The Andover United Methodist Church co-ed softball team capped a successful season by applying the basics. Timely hitting and solid defense both came into play as they polished off the losers’ bracket winner, New Life Fire of Geneva, 10-4, to claim the Ashtabula Church Co-ed Softball League — Thursday Massucci Division championship.

    August 1, 2014

  • Indians Mariners sink Tribe

    Another difficult day on the trade front ended with a disappointing loss for the Cleveland Indians.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • Taylor Outlaws edged by a run

    The slimmest of margins proved to be the difference in determining the outcome of a clash between the Ohio Outlaws Gold and the Virginia Shamrocks in the USA-ASA 16-and-under Nationals on Wednesday in Salem, Va.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Olivia-smile A Don McCormack column: Holt right at home at Mount

    When a young person from this area goes off to college and continues to play sports at the next level, we do feature stories on them.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Twin State Night at Raceway 7 next

    This week is the annual Twin State Club night at Raceway 7. Regular racing will be presented in all five divisions. With the points races nearing their conclusion the racing will be hot as August weather Friday night.

    July 31, 2014

  • Tribe Kluber twirls gem

    “The ace is gone. Long live the ace.” That’s how Indians fans might be looking at matters today.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • SB1 Let’s play another

    It pays to have the right hitters at the plate at the right time.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Outlaws roll again

    They may be Outlaws by name, but the Northeast Ohio-based Ohio Outlaws Gold are certainly running with the in crowd at the USA-ASA 16-and-under Nationals in Salem, Va.

    July 30, 2014

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video