By Dan Cook, WCCO Radio
Sid Hartman has graced this humble Earth for 94 years. He has been scribbling for the Star Tribune for 69 of those years and has held court on the airwaves of WCCO Radio for 59.
This Sunday, the Minnesota Twins – who’ve been in this state a mere 53 years – will honor those astounding numbers, and the singular character who owns them, with “Sid Hartman Day” at Target Field.
There will be a special edition of “The Sports Huddle” with co-host Dave Mona live from Target Plaza near the Majestic Clubhouse, where fans can count on seeing Sid talk with Twins names like Tom Kelly, Dave St. Peter and even a player or two.
In addition, fans will have a chance at a limited edition Sid bobblehead and a coffee mug with famous Sid quotes from his illustrious career (at least the ones fit for print).
So what is it about Sid Hartman that makes him such a legend? Is it merely being around as long as he has? Is it the seemingly endless list of contacts and “close, personal friends?” Or is it something more?
I think it’s the stories. Sid’s made an amazing career out of telling stories, and along the way has created a bevy of them himself.
Everybody has a Sid story. People who’ve worked with him usually have several. And for a select few, there are so many stories that volumes will continue to be written long after most of us have left this mortal coil.
(And Sid will probably still be here when we do.)
My first, and best, Sid story occurred on June 25, 1998.
As a young radio reporter, I was covering the Brewers as they traveled to the Metrodome to face the Twins. In the top of the fifth, Brewers second baseman Mark Loretta lined a shot to Brad Radke’s left. The normally sure-gloved pitcher got said glove on the ball, but wasn’t able to gather it in time to throw Loretta out at first.
Twins official scorer Tom Mee watched several replays and ruled it an error. Sid, however, upon learning that was Brad Radke’s first-ever error in a big-league uniform, decided that he disagreed.
For those who’ve seen Sid “disagree” with a team official before, it wasn’t anything that unusual. But there were enough “colorful metaphors” and “decibel levels rarely matched in press boxes” that I was apparently left with a look of stunned confusion on my face.
I say “apparently” because after one look at me, WCCO’s Mike Max quipped, “There’s only one Sid, right?” To which I mumbled some sort of, “Yeah, sure, okay…”-style agreement.
Had Mike ended his quips there, it wouldn’t be much of a story. But moments later, as Sid – resplendent in a “not-quite-Augusta” green sport coat – walked over to tell Maxie why he thought the error on Radke was such a lousy call, Mike stopped him, looked at me and said, “I don’t know why you’d say that, I think that jacket looks great on Sid!”
Again, I was a punk kid doing radio in Wisconsin. But I had grown up in the Twin Cities, and knew enough to know that Sid’s a legend and suddenly being put in the position of having dared critique his sartorial splendor was not good.
Naturally, my entire future career flashed before my eyes.
Until Sid took two looks at me, decided I was probably just some punk kid doing radio in Wisconsin and moved on as though I’d never said anything in the first place… which, technically, I hadn’t.
And that was fortunate for me, since it turns out I’d spend 13 years (and hopefully still counting) at WCCO Radio.
Over those years, Sid’s asked me who I was more than a handful of times, “when was I going to get one of those hair transplants like Lynch” at least half a dozen times, and “hey, can you look this up for me” more times than I could possibly count. And the truth is, I treasure every one of them… simply for the stories.
Most people only cross paths with honest-to-goodness legends a handful of times in their lives. When you get to work with one, you soak it up and try and enjoy it as best you can.
Sure, Sid’s earned a reputation as curt, irascible and lacking patience with “selective listeners.” But ultimately, those things are all a part of his charm. Or what another legend, Dark Star, used to call, “the wonder of it all.”
Come Sunday, there will be more than a few “Sid stories” shared at Target Field. And, knowing Sid, there will likely be one or two created that day as well.
So head down to the ballpark early, catch The Sports Huddle, and enjoy the spectacle of Sid trying to figure out how a kid from Venezuela got a name like “Felix” as the Twins take on the Mariners and 2010 Cy Young-winner Felix Hernandez at 1:10 p.m.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with a “Sid story” of your own!