- Freezing rain
CINCINNATI - I hadn't seen Pat Harmon for a couple of years, but I thought about him every single time I drove through Wyoming. Pat and Anne Harmon lived on a tree-lined street that ran off Springfield Pike. They raised 11 children in their house.
I did a story on Pat when he retired as sports editor of the Cincinnati Post in 1985 and I interviewed him at the house. He proudly showed me pictures of his children, "my own football team" he called them. He would line them up for a Christmas picture every year. They each wore a football jersey bearing a number that indicated their age. He chuckled about his house full of kids.
He felt that my boss, Al Schottelkotte had outdone him. The Schottelkotte kids numbered an even dozen.
I thought about that visit to Pat's when I learned Sunday night that he had died just a month shy of his 98th birthday. He was a trooper. Up to a few years ago, I would still see him occasionally at Bengals games in the press box. But he couldn't see very well anymore. And seeing is what allowed Pat to become a Cincinnati institution.
He was on the sports page of the Cincinnati Post for more than 34 years. He was the sports editor and columnist. His beat was whatever happened locally. He wasn't outrageous and he didn't take cheap shots at anyone. He'd just offer his perspective and that perspective stretched back to the early 30's in Freeport, Ill.
When Pat retired, Ira Berkow devoted an entire column to him in the New York Times. Berkow wrote that "Pat Harmon began his career as a 17-year old in Illinois in 1932. During those Depression days, he hitchhiked from game to game, slept on wrestling mats in school gyms and sneaked into chow lines with the teams he covered."
Pat came to the Cincinnati Post in 1951 and wrote about sports until 1985. He told Berkow that the most remarkable athlete he ever saw was a Westsider by the name of Rose. But it wasn't Pete. It was Pete's dad, Harry. Pat told Berkow that Harry Rose was still making "ferocious" tackles at the age of 44 in amateur football games.
When Pat retired as historian for the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005, Chicago Tribune Columnist Fred Mitchell wrote "Pat Harmon was one of those guys I wanted to be while growing up in Cincinnati." I knew exactly what Fred was talking about. Those sports pages were our inside look at the great players and their fabulous feats. We had no ESPN, no internet, no Twitter. And when a columnist said he had talked directly to a major sports figure, it was hard to fathom. What a great job to have!
I also thought about Pat when there were concerns about the nastiness of the Crosstown Shootout basketball game between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier. Of course, several players got into a fight a couple of years ago and the scuffle got national attention.
Pat had written a half century earlier that the game was getting too physical and there were tense feelings between the two school. He recommended that the series be given a rest. It didn't happen but he had recognized the potential of the rivalry getting out of hand.
Pat was old school. He was a guy who pounded out his stories on a manual typewriter yet still met thousands of deadlines. I interviewed him on his last day on the job, and he didn't have a lot of time because he was working on one final story. He was 69 years old and still grinding away.
Pat was a gruff guy, one of those old crusty newspapermen like Earl Lawson of the Post. Decent guys, but very competitive and don't expect them to give you a break. That's how I felt about Pat until I visited him at his home and he couldn't quit talking about his children.
I learned later that Pat had been an orphan. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was 12. He told Ira Berkow that "besides having no brothers or sisters, I had no uncles or aunts or grandparents."
He made up for that the rest of his life. I'm sure Pat will be remembered this week as a good and prolific writer. I think he'd prefer to be remembered as a good man and good father. And prolific would fit as well.
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