The sports world lost a legendary member of its community last week: Sid Hartman, a lifelong Minnesota sports journalist, died at the age of 100 on Oct. 18.
Hartman’s first local sports column was published in 1945. Over the course of his career, he worked his way up the ranks from a newspaper delivery man to one of the most respected sports journalists of all time. Much of his success can be attributed to the strong relationships he formed with players and executives, demonstrated through the outpouring of support in the aftermath of his death.
Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred issued a statement following Hartman’s passing. “Sid Hartman was a singular figure of the Minnesota sports scene throughout the entire history of the [Minnesota] Twins franchise, and a friend to so many throughout our National Pastime,” Manfred wrote. “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.”
Former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway posted a picture with Hartman on his Instagram page, with the caption, “Rest in Peace my personal friend. What a joy to get to know you and the legend you were.” Former Vikings wide receiver Jake Reid posted his thoughts on Twitter: “I could always count on Sid to write exactly what I said. Trusted him 100%.”
Hartman broke down many of the professional barriers that sports personnel use to shield themselves from the media, creating what has been referred to by colleagues as “Sid’s Rules.” Hartman established unique intimate ties with local athletes, gaining access to sensitive information that wasn’t available to less talented reporters. “I’ll never forget when Sid Hartman gave my mom a talking to because I was contemplating going to school out of state. No one loved Minnesota sports more,” said Minnesota native and NHL winger Blake Wheeler on Twitter.
Hartman was responsible for over 21,000 bylined stories throughout his career. He sold newspapers for the Minneapolis Times from the time he was nine years old, and in 1944, sports editor Dick Collum offered Hartman a position at the paper’s sports desk. This marked the beginning of a 75-year career in sportswriting. After the Times folded in 1948, Hartman was hired by the Star Tribune as a columnist and quickly made a name for himself. Star Tribune publisher Michael Klingensmith said that Hartman’s contributions to the success of the Tribune are immeasurable. “He leaves an amazing legacy and we will miss him greatly.” Klingensmith told the Tribune’s Patrick Reusse. “It won’t be the same reading our sports pages without Sid’s column.”
“It’s a sad day,” Star Tribune sports editor Chris 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.”
Hartman’s ventures into radio and business were equally successful. Starting in 1955, Hartman worked for the local Minneapolis radio station, WCCO, hosting a widely popular Sunday morning show featuring daily call-ins and coaches’ interviews.
Hartman was also heavily involved with the Los Angeles Lakers’ storied franchise. In 1947, he purchased the Detroit Gems from Morris Winston with a $15,000 check for the franchise buyer Morris Chalfen. The Gems franchise relocated to Minneapolis and rebranded themselves as the Lakers.
Hartman became the de facto general manager of the Minneapolis Lakers and was central to the success of the franchise in its early years. Most notably, Hartman was key in acquiring tremendous talent, including the great center George Mikan in the 1947-48 season. The Lakers went on to win five NBA titles over the next six years.
Most importantly, Hartman was a role model for young, aspiring journalists across the country. “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 for his 100th birthday. “Even at 100, I can say I still love what I do.”
Hartman’s son, Chad, followed in his father’s footsteps, reporting as a play-by-play announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and serving as a local talk show host.
“My father’s extraordinary and resilient life has come to a peaceful conclusion surrounded by his family,” Chad tweeted after his father’s passing. Chad pointed out that the isolated nature of his final months took a toll on his father. “It took away the chance to see the people he liked. It took away his zest, not being able to go four, five different places every day and to laugh, to get on people and have them get on him,” Chad said.
According to his son, Hartman’s commitment to the profession was a major contributor to his accomplishments. “It was something — that competitiveness — that allowed him to love his life. And the ability to build a life to enjoy, to come from where he started to reach his level of success — it’s a remarkable story.”