A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There
Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.
Bud Shaw: “He’s Three Inches from my Face, and his Eyes are Bulging.”
Take a spin around the Cleveland sports scene with Bud Shaw, who spent nearly 27 years there as a columnist with a keen and irreverent eye. Bud puts us with the 1997 Indians when they had World Series champagne on ice. Oops. He recounts a confrontation with glowering Albert Belle, which prompted sage advice from ready-for-battle baseball scribe Paul Hoynes. And Bud recalls covering the tragic boating accident that killed pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin. We also hear about a young LeBron James, the same old, same old Browns, and tales from Bud’s media years before arriving in northeast Ohio. Those days include a prison visit with Denny McLain and Motoball in Moscow. Yes, Motoball. What?
Shaw was a sports columnist for The Plain Dealer, and later Cleveland.com, from 1991 until he accepted a voluntary buyout in 2018. He then worked for WKYC.com in Cleveland that year before retiring. He won numerous Associated Press Sports Editor awards, including a top 10 in column writing, during his career. His story about the 1993 deaths of Crews and Olin received an honorable mention selection in the “Best American Sportswriting” series.
Bud covered more than a dozen Super Bowls and World Series, six Olympic Games, eight Masters, the PGA and U.S. Open golf championships, the Ryder Cup, five Indianapolis 500s, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the Daytona 500, the Final Four, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Before coming to Cleveland, Bud worked as bureau chief and columnist in Chicago and Detroit for The National Sports Daily from 1989-91. His career also included reporting stints at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1984-89), the San Diego Union-Tribune (1982-84), the Philadelphia Daily News (1980-82), the Trenton (N.J.) Times (1978-80), the Johnstown (Pa.) Tribune Democrat (1977-78), and the Kittanning (Pa.) Leader Times (1976-77). The native of Philadelphia graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a journalism degree in 1976.
Follow Bud on Twitter: @budshaw
Bud Shaw edited transcript
Note: Todd and Bud’s name get mixed up throughout this transcript.
[00:00:02.290] - Todd
[00:00:02.750] - Bud
It's great to talk to you again. I'm just glad you're awake.
[00:00:06.830] - Todd
You mean at my age?
[00:00:08.230] - Bud
Well, no, I mean that your Twitter bio says, quote, Currently, napping.
[00:00:14.870] - Todd
Is a long and exhausting career.
[00:00:17.550] - Bud
Well, hey, it's a well deserved rest and retirement I'm envious. But I'm also very happy for you. So, hey, I'm glad you're taking a nap.
[00:00:26.600] - Todd
I appreciate that.
[00:00:27.490] - Bud
I've been known to nap on the keyboard and not even realize it so good for you. 40 years. How many? 45 years in sports writing?
[00:00:38.030] - Todd
Yeah, I think. Yeah. So that's it would have been my first year. Yeah. Moved to Western Pennsylvania for my first job. And this is how I know I'm old. The star quarter back at one of the six high schools I covered was a guy named Jim Kelly.
[00:00:58.700] - Bud
[00:00:59.160] - Todd
Yeah. Who even with my lack of scouting acumen, I knew he was going to be good. When I saw him playing in high.
[00:01:08.500] - Bud
School, something stood out about him. So basically 45 years in the business, is that's a lot of late nights, deadlines, flights, bad food and a few beers?
[00:01:22.410] - Todd
Yes. I was talking to my brother, right. About the time I was talking to him about taking a buy out and getting away from it. And he reminded me that when I was a kid, like ten years old, twelve years old, that I talked about wanting to be a sportswriter. And we used to have three newspapers in Philadelphia open on the breakfast table, open to the sports pages when I got up. Right. And I started reading and not just reading about the teams and the players, but also looking at these by lines and saying, yeah, right. Hey, this guy, Bill Conlan, got to go to La last cover, the Phillies. That looks like fun, right? So that was about the extent of my planning was that I was bad in math and science and thought, that looks like a fun thing to do, that sports writing stuff.
[00:02:08.950] - Bud
Well, I think we're very similar in that regard. I mean, I just saw it as a chance to go to games for free, sit in good seats and travel around. And they called it work.
[00:02:18.010] - Todd
I think you and I have been through a few Olympics and been in a couple of pictures together, and I look back at that sometimes, and I think I was just this goofball growing up in suburban Philadelphia, and now I'm standing in Sydney, Australia.
[00:02:30.010] - Bud
[00:02:30.420] - Todd
Nagano, Japan. And how did that all happen?
[00:02:33.240] - Bud
I don't know, but it was quite a career.
[00:02:35.060] - Todd
Sure. A lot of fun.
[00:02:36.340] - Bud
And most of your career was spent in Cleveland, almost 30 years the Plaindealer in Cleveland.com and even a little stint at Wk. So we're going to talk a lot of Cleveland.
[00:02:47.950] - Todd
All right. Well, that's great. I'm glad we're actually sitting in downtown Cleveland right now at a studio together, because I feel like this is a city that I've really come to love that. I walked into a certain amount of trepidation back in 1991, not really knowing what it could become and realizing at the time it was not everybody's vacation destination. So real quick story. I got here in 91 and I had gotten married the year before the week before, I got the week before the week before.
[00:03:23.720] - Bud
I just want you to know that you need to know that it has come up in conversation a few times.
[00:03:30.890] - Todd
And I was in downtown Cleveland. Hey, if you want to score points with a woman, you take her to downtown Cleveland in 1991 for a honeymoon. That really goes over well. So we're at the downtown Sheraton, and it's a Thursday afternoon in late September, and the Indians are at home. It's also their worst season still to date, 105 lost season.
[00:03:53.790] - Bud
That's a lot of LS.
[00:03:54.890] - Todd
And they had a makeup game that they were playing at Thursday afternoon. And I decided to take my new bride over there. And we walked in and you could hear the vendors to begin with as you walked up the tunnel, because there wasn't anybody there. This is old municipal Stadium, old municipal state. There was another game that night, and I had told her that this was a great sports town. And we walk in and there might be 200 people in the seats. And she has this mortified look on her face and says, you told me it was a great sports town. And I said it is. And she said, why can't I hear the picture talking to the catcher? So I was, well, just give it some time. And by 94, of course, Indians, the city starts to revive. And the Indians are in the playoffs for the first time in 41 years. And her and her girlfriends are going to games with Christmas lights on their.
[00:04:48.420] - Bud
Hats because they're all in.
[00:04:50.310] - Todd
Oh, yeah, they're all in. I always knew it was going to happen, right?
[00:05:25.230] - Todd
But at the end of that, to this day, it is still sort of my favorite period of sports writing, because I had been in Atlanta and San Diego in maybe eight years prior to Cleveland. I had been in these two towns that were good enough sports towns, but they were far different than the kind of town I grew up in in Philadelphia. The Rapid sports fan wasn't in San Diego at all. And if it wasn't Atlanta, it was more for a College football season than it was pro sports. I was sort of not unknowingly when I came here. I didn't know that I needed to be back in this kind of town where people hung on every win and loss. I don't want to say on every word because they didn't hang on to my every word. But you did get a lot of feedback from people about what you were writing, what your opinion and things were. And it was really an engaging time. And to see people here celebrate two World Series was still one of the highlights of my career.
[00:06:33.920] - Bud
Yes, we're going to talk more about that because it was such a great time for the city, and the whole city was rebounding at that moment. And I want to get into that. I want to backtrack a little bit because before you got to Cleveland, you're at like seven different newspapers. How many of these did you kill, Bud?
[00:06:50.850] - Todd
Just trying to stay ahead of the creditors. Yes. I went to school in Western Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, known only to some people of a certain age as Jimmy Stewart's hometown. Nothing much happened after Jimmy was born. They also called themselves the Christmas tree capital of the world, really. But I started there and knowingly I was going to go to some small papers because everybody had to back then, it seemed. And so I went to Katanning, PA, where Jim Kelly was quarterbacking for East Brady High School. And then I went on to Johnstown and first evidence that timing in my career would not always be the greatest. I got there in time for the Johnstown flood in.
[00:07:41.530] - Bud
This the one that wrote the song about?
[00:07:43.130] - Todd
I already had two newspapers on my resume by the time I was out of College, about a year and a half. Then I went back home to work in Trenton, New Jersey, and then in the Philadelphia Daily News. So I was working my way up into more pro sports towns, which I really enjoyed doing.
I covered the Eagles there when Vermill took them to the Super Bowl for the first time, which was another huge thrill for somebody that grew up in Philadelphia whose father and uncles and everyone thought that they would never see the day when the Philadelphia Eagles could beat the Dallas Cowboys and in a playoff game, let alone go to a Super Bowl. So I was there for about a year and a half covering those. And I have the utmost respect for beat guys. To this day, it's an exhausting job, whether it's baseball, basketball, football, to try to stay on top of everything that those guys are asked to do.
[00:11:37.350] - Bud
Yes, I have the same respect. I mean, I did it for a few years in Cincinnati, and I realized my brain doesn't work this way. Yeah, I need some variety. And so I just couldn't do that every day.
[00:11:49.210] - Todd
I just felt relentless. I really did feel overmatched and stressed out. I was on a beat covering the Eagles with a guy named Gordon Forbes, covering the Eagles for the Philadelphia Inquire. And he'd been there forever. His phone would ring a training camp and I'd pick it up and it would be Pete Rosell calling him. Now, I had spent the last week trying to get anybody in the Commissioner's office to call me, and nobody would call me. Right. And this guy, all of a sudden the voice on the other end is saying is Gordy there. When I got an opportunity to go to San Diego and not be a beat guy and start writing some columns and some special stuff, I decided to do that. I don't know if it was the best career move to leave a sports town like Philly for San Diego, but that's what I did.
[00:12:39.180] - Bud
Well, definitely better weather, certainly. I mean, you're going from like sitting there on the cold rain at the vet in Philly to going to Mission Beach in San Diego.
[00:12:49.230] - Todd
Well, again, one of those things that makes you question the timing in your life, at least me, is that I get out there. I have two kids born out there, and it takes me about a year to realize that in order to afford a house out there for kids, I'd have to live in Tijuana.
[00:13:03.470] - Bud
[00:13:04.270] - Todd
I couldn't afford it on a newspaper salary.
[00:13:06.580] - Bud
[00:13:07.090] - Todd
And that's when Atlanta offered me a chance to come back. I kind of jumped at that just from a cost of living standpoint alone.
[00:13:14.980] - Bud
Now in Atlanta from 84 to 89, you were kind of doing more takeout stuff, right?
[00:13:20.380] - Todd
Yeah, I was profiled. Yeah, I was doing profiles. Only very occasionally would I write a column. When everyone else was sick, they would ask me to do that.[00:14:41.390] - Bud
When you think about the different takeouts and profiles, is there one that comes to mind when you think about that period of your career?
[00:14:48.390] - Todd
I was in Atlanta when Danny McClain was sentenced to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, and no one had been in to talk to him yet.
[00:15:08.760] - Bud
He was the famous Tigers pitcher games.
[00:15:12.430] - Todd
Somewhere like 31 and six one year for the Tigers and had this kind of just this checkered post career life that involved all sorts of shady things, embezzlement charges, all that. Well, he suddenly gets sentenced and is down at the federal pen in Georgia. So I go over to talk to him, I set it up, and I go in and I do this interview and maybe my dumb luck. He was going to pitch for the first time, really, for the prison team.
[00:15:53.240] - Bud
What was the name of the team?
[00:15:54.490] - Todd
I can't remember the name of the team, but I just remember that it allowed me to write a lead that's somewhere along the line of Denny McClain pitching on twelve years rest. So that's a great lead was very engaging. And I realized after the story ran that the reason was that he thought I was going to carry his water on why he was innocent of his charges. And of course, I had other people I was talking to about him and about what had put him in prison to begin with. So it wasn't like I was giving him a forum to try to get early probation. I was writing a story.
[00:16:36.620] - Bud
[00:16:37.220] - Todd
And we wanted to take a picture of him to go with the story. And then he had put on talk about a sedentary life. You're in prison, right? He had put on so much weight.
[00:16:52.210] - Bud
Yeah. He wasn't mixing in any salary.
[00:16:54.950] - Todd
He was huge. And I guess vanity precluded him saying, yeah, get a photographer in here. He said, no, no pictures, really.
[00:17:06.640] - Bud
I mean, wait a minute. So he was more upset about a photo because he was too big.
[00:17:11.290] - Todd
He was huge.
[00:17:11.950] - Bud
But he was okay about being in prison.
[00:17:13.710] - Todd
Yeah, well, he's being told about it. At least he could try to argue that he didn't belong there. He would have had a hard time arguing that he wasn't £330. Yeah.
[00:17:24.340] - Bud
I have no argument about my one pack.
[00:17:29.130] - Todd
The story runs in the Atlanta paper. And back then, obviously, you worked for papers that with Sunday circulations that were pretty hefty in Atlanta at the time. I think we were close to 500,000 or whatever. So it was a big newspaper and it was big circulation on Sundays. And I just remember getting a phone call. Maybe his one phone call that day was from him. And the things he was calling me were some of the worst things I've ever been called. And I covered Albert Belfro. I realized after a while, first of all, he thought that I didn't do what he wanted me to do, which was to make him look innocent of the charges. But then later in the conversation, he said, and you let that artist rendering of me run in the paper. So what we did because we didn't have a picture of them was the staff artist drew this gargantuan guy, blend pinstripes looking through jail cell. Oh, man, what could I say sorry. So that was my one experience with him.
One of the things I wanted to ask you about, you once wrote about Moto ball. This was like the inaugural Goodwill Games in Moscow, I believe. What in the hell is Motoball?
[00:20:44.190] - Todd
Well, in 1986, Ted Turner, who, by the way, was another guy that I would rank as one of the most intriguing, colorful people that I've ever written anything about.
[00:20:55.550] - Bud
Lana Brave's, Manager for a Day Lana.
[00:20:57.290] - Todd
Brave's, Manager for a day, once pushed a baseball around the diamond with his nose before a game came up, obviously bleeding. He was going to race somebody. I don't know who it was that he was going to race, but they were smart enough to stop partway through. But he had this idea that everybody in the world could just get along if they met on a sports field. And as we know, in 1980, the Olympics was compromised by a boycott and then an 84 again, the Soviets paid back the US for skipping 1980. So by 86, Ted thought, hey, here's what we can do. We can get the best athletes from around the world together to compete against the US team. And we'll do it in Moscow and we'll pave the way for Strike up the Harps, peace and harmony, that kind of thing.
[00:21:53.500] - Bud
So he's looking to knock down the Berlin Wall, basically the Goodwill guy.
[00:21:57.640] - Todd
Yeah. Okay. And so being a big newspaper in Atlanta that was spending money freely at the time, they sent probably six of us over there to cover the inaugural Goodwill Games. So here we are standing outside of the Kremlin after having a beer or two and watching the changing of the guard at Lenin? S tomb at four in the morning. And Ted is trapped in all over the Soviet Union. At the time, Ted was real quick aside. Ted was married at the time, and his wife generally would walk about 20 yards behind him because he was with one of the copilots of his plane who looked a lot like Jojo Heatherton, kind of a Swedish bikini model look.
[00:22:53.560] - Bud
[00:22:54.310] - Todd
And that's how Ted traveled around the Soviet Union. And at one point at the opening ceremonies, we all were waiting for Ted outside of the opening ceremonies. And the Soviet press obviously wanted to ask him what he thought of it. And at one point in the opening ceremonies, they did this unbelievable card show where everybody in the stands was given a card and at the same time they flashed the card and it was this portrait, this unbelievably perfect portrait of.
[00:23:27.120] - Bud
[00:23:32.150] - Todd
Not John Lennon. After the opening ceremonies, they come out and we're all standing there and the Soviet press says, Mr. Turner, what did you think of opening ceremony card show? And he says, that Lennon guy, he must be a big deal around here. He is like Jesus Christ and George Washington all rolled into one. I mean, that's just the way Ted was. And the guy I was most jealous of, this guy on our staff, Rod Kaufman, who was a terrific new sidewriter, who got to follow Ted around the Soviet Union for ten days during this period and just write all this kind of stuff. But one of the events there, and Dave Kindred remembers this because we were on the same trip together, was motoball. And motoball was basically an oversized soccer ball, and it was played on motorcycles, really, if you can imagine a demolition Derby, rugby, soccer game. It was a brutal game of guys riding into each other at 30 miles an hour on.
[00:24:41.210] - Bud
Was there penalties?
[00:24:44.770] - Todd
Yeah, I think everybody who played was being penalized. But that was one of the sports, and it was maybe the beginning of when Olympic maybe not a historian will correct me, but when Olympic cities started getting the Olympics and they would always have, like, they would get to pick one or two sports that was specific to their country, their region.
[00:25:06.410] - Bud
[00:25:06.890] - Todd
No one ever picked Motoball before or after that.
[00:25:09.780] - Bud
Who was the best at motovall?
[00:25:13.390] - Todd
I would say the Russian Hells Angels. No, I don't know, but it was played on this. It was a big muddy field, obviously, and it actually drew people like people would go and watch, maybe not voluntarily, but they went and watched.
[00:25:29.810] - Bud
Wow. I can't even imagine. How did you win? You just survived.
[00:25:35.110] - Todd
[00:34:10.430] - Bud
So you spent a few years at the national much celebrated publication, but just did not work out. And then you come to Cleveland and you've told us about your first day with your wonderful wife, Susan, who's still your wife.
[00:34:24.790] - Todd
[00:34:25.310] - Bud
Despite you taking her to a double header in Municipal Stadium when they lost 100.
[00:34:30.880] - Todd
The funny thing is, when I got the job here, I called her and said, I've got a job offer. And she said, oh, my God, that's great, because of course, I didn't have work. We were getting married. There were some financial concerns. And she said, Where? And I said, Cleveland. And there was just silence. And I said, hello. She said, Cleveland. And I said, Come on now, you're from Indianapolis. It's not like I'm taking you out of Paris. Right. So she got here and it took her a couple of years, but she started really liking it. As I told you, it just turned out to be a great place to be for a lot of different reasons.
[00:35:15.530] - Bud
Right. So you get here to Cleveland and you missed the drive, you missed the fumble, you missed the shot.
[00:35:21.700] - Todd
It was all before your time.
[00:35:22.740] - Bud
So don't blame Bud Shaw for that. You blamed him for enough other things.
[00:35:26.400] - Todd
[00:35:27.030] - Bud
You did see the Cabs obviously win the 2016 NBA title, which we're going to get into. You've also saw a couple of game seven Heartbreakers for the baseball team.
[00:35:44.170] - Bud
And then you saw the Browns leave town because you were here and then return despite the fact that you're still here.
[00:35:51.080] - Todd
[00:35:52.630] - Bud
And through all those ups and downs, you always seem like you had a good sense of humor about it. Is that just the way that you approached it? It really came across. And Shawl spin the column that you did for so many years?
[00:36:03.960] - Todd
Well, even early on, and probably why I wasn't a good beat person, was that to me, it felt sports felt more like entertainment. I always wanted to try to write something that I thought people would remember for whatever reason. They thought it was funny, insightful, whatever had good quotes in it, whatever it was. And the daily part of it, which I think was the heaviest lifting you can do at a newspaper as a beat person, just didn't appeal to me that much. So probably to a fault at times. Todd, I tried to be more entertaining than I needed to be on some topics. I remember when I covered the Eagles, there was a labor dispute going on, and I was writing stuff, and one of the linebackers, John Bunting, came up to me and said, this is serious. This isn't an improv act here. You're making fun of all this stuff. In retrospect, I didn't understand what he was meant then, but in retrospect, I do. But yeah, I've always felt like if there's a way that somebody can finish reading a story that I've done or a column about something and come away, like kind of laughing about something or finding it amusing in some way, that I felt like that was what I was best suited to do.
[00:37:24.510] - Todd
I know other people who've written columns. One was Bill Livingston in our town who was very good at hitting people over the head when they deserved it. And you do need that. You do need that. And I know guys that sort of fashion themselves as calmness in our business. It's the old guys want to know, like when they get older. Have I lost my fastball right I'm not sure I ever had a fastball when I was actually a real baseball pitcher in high school or as a columnist.
[00:37:55.550] - Bud
But you could work the count.
[00:37:56.860] - Todd
Yeah, I could work the counters at times, but that's a skill, too. So that's the way I approached it. And some of the stuff that I did that was just to me, seeing the Indians get really good for the first time and writing about some of the guys that came through here, Manny Ramirez, and some of the crazy stuff that he did as a player. That's the kind of stuff I remember.
[00:38:29.620] - Bud
What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you as a sportswriter?
[00:38:34.590] - Todd
Oh, boy. Well, there was the time that I didn't get killed by Albert Bell. I ended up laughing about that. Well, let's hear this. I had written a story. It was the season that he had 50 homers and 50 doubles. Pretty good year, pretty good year. And during that season, it had dawned on me that he had been totally unapproachable, and that shouldn't be a reason not to write about him. So I went in and spoke to Mike Hargrove, who's the manager at the time, and Dave Nelson, who has passed away since. He was a first base coach and a really great guy. And I just tried to find out, like, what is it about our as a hitter that we don't know about?
[00:39:30.030] - Bud
Yeah. Because he was just killing it and he was intimidating.
[00:39:34.580] - Todd
He was the guy that nobody wanted to go to. Either the refrigerator or the concession stand was coming up. And he was one of the biggest I don't want to say Mal contents because his teammates may not have always looked at him that way, but from a media standpoint, he was abusive to media people, abusive to fans, threw a ball at a fan, hit him in the chest in the stand, threw a ball at a photographer, got into it with Hannah Storm, as some people might remember doing, that.
[00:40:07.070] - Bud
I actually covered a game where you did a bicep pose in the dugout.
[00:40:11.350] - Todd
Exactly. People in this town remember that's kind of an iconic moment. But I had gone in and talked to them about him and Hargrove, who I got along with very well. And Nelson had told me that the one thing Albert did that nobody knew about was that this was back before software programs. Right. So he would come back after an AtBat, and he had index cards in his locker and he would write down who the umpire homepaid umpire was, what the sequence of pitches was, who was on base pitcher, all this stuff. So he could go back and look at how these pictures had pitched to him in similar situations. So I had never heard those stories before. So I go to Albert and I say, I'd like to talk to you about this column. I'm going to write. And I can't say what he said to me at the time, but go ahead.
[00:41:05.620] - Bud
We can always believe it up.
[00:41:06.660] - Todd
He made it very clear that he would never speak to me and that he had no intention of answering any questions for me.
[00:41:11.740] - Bud
And he's got Danny McLean to back him up.
[00:41:15.370] - Todd
So, yeah, maybe he'd heard some bad things. So I go home and I write this column, and I come in the next day, and I had to write something again. The next day, the Orioles were in town. Cal Ripkin was playing. Shortstop Omar Vasquez was a short stop for the Indians. And I had this idea that I would write about these two physically different players. And it's pouring rain. So all the teams, everybody in the team is in the clubhouse. They're not out on the field.
[00:41:49.770] - Bud
Sir, are you in Indians clubhouse at this time?
[00:41:51.690] - Todd
I'm over in Orioles clubhouse. I find Cal Ripkin okay, and he's happy to talk about anything else other than the streak. So he talks to me about Omar, and he's fantastic talking about Omar as a short stop. So now I go, Well, I got half of a column. So now I start to walk into the Indians clubhouse to talk to Omar. And John Maroon was the Indians PR guy at the time. And I'll never forget the four or five words, what is it that you never wanted to hear? Which is, Albert is looking for you. So I walk in and I see him stand up, and he waves me over, and he's dressing next to the scale. And I get over there and he starts ranting and raving and screaming at the top of his lungs that I somehow went through his locker when he wasn't there and found his index cards. That's how he thought that I had found out about these index cards. I'm sure, as you know, when guys get upset at stories half the time, they never even read the story. One of their teammates tells them something, and they go, So now I'm standing in the middle of the locker room that's totally packed with players, and I'm being accused of going through somebody's locker, which is not a great thing to be accused of.
[00:43:15.260] - Bud
That's one of the work.
[00:43:17.170] - Todd
So I try to walk that fine line between standing up for myself to Albert and not getting killed.
[00:43:24.760] - Bud
[00:43:25.410] - Todd
So when we're going back and forth, at one point, he's maybe three inches away from my face, and his eyes are bulging. And Sandy Almar comes into the locker room and sees what's happening and comes sprinting. And being a smart guy, Sandy knows he's not going to grab Albert, right? Who would? He grabs me and he pulls me out of the locker room, and I said, what are you doing? I got work to do in here. And he says, you don't understand, man. He's crazy. So he pulls me out. I go, into the hallway. And I said, Sandy, I have work to do in there. And he's like, just relax, wait a couple of minutes. So I realized right before Sandy had come rushing over that I had seen, like everybody, the players all started to move away, which I thought was probably not a great sign. And there was one guy who kept moving closer to me during this period. And then Sandy sees this and runs in. And when I found out later is the one guy was this our baseball writer who you know very well, Paul the Great Hornsy. And I said, Paul, I heard that you were like, you were ready to help me.
[00:44:45.430] - Todd
You kept coming over. And he goes, yes, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I said, what were you going to do? He said, I was going to take them down low, which was a lot better than my plan, which was to fall backwards and start crying.
[00:45:00.980] - Bud
[00:45:03.070] - Todd
He was a rugby player.
[00:45:04.300] - Bud
[00:45:05.650] - Todd
I said it was the funniest thing because he and I laughed about that for about the next 15 years. I said whenever I would get into a discussion with the player, I would look around and say, Hoynes, can you help me take this guy down low?
[00:45:18.870] - Bud
That's a teammate.
[00:45:20.830] - Todd
And I remember going to John Hart, who was a GM at the time, or he heard what had happened, and he called me and he said, I heard you had an issue with Albert. And I said, yeah. And I said, Listen, you're going to have a lot more people hanging around this team now that you guys are as good as you are. Exactly. And you got to get a handle on this. And sure enough, the Hannah Storm thing happened not too long after that. John Hart and Hargrave knew what they were dealing with with Albert, which I think why when his contract was up and he had the opportunity to go become a free agent with Chicago, they weren't going to match that as great a player as he was. There was just this. He had the Mr. Freeze reputation and nickname from coming in after a game and smashing the thermostat with his bat. He would come in after games when all the players, all they wanted to do is eat the buffet, and he would take a bath to the buffet. That's when you start to lose teammates.
[00:46:22.710] - Bud
Yeah, right. You lost the room when you got rid of all the free food.
[00:46:25.570] - Todd
Exactly. When the chicken parmesan is laying on the floor because you took a bat to the table, that's when some of your teammates start looking at you a little funny.
[00:46:34.510] - Bud
So after this incident with Albert, did you guys ever communicate with each other? Ever do an interview with him or ever talk about it? How did you get along with Albert after that?
[00:46:44.960] - Todd
He was just an unpredictable guy for so many people to deal with. And a few years later, I was at spring training, and he would walk into the locker room and look at me and say, Hi, Bud. And I was stunned. And I would say, Hi, Albert, you know, didn't talk to him in that spring training. And then the season started, and they had they used to have these lunches at this place called the Power House, it was called, and they would bring in a player from the opposing team. So it was him and Cecile Fielder at this lunch before a game early in the season. So I went to the lunch and listened to them talk. And I walked up to him afterwards and said, hey, the first time I asked them for an interview since the incident, I said, Can I talk to you at the ballpark? And I got the same response I got the last time in the locker room. He said, Why would I ever talk to you? And I said, Because you did for ten days in spring training. And he said, I'll never do that again. So you never knew where you stood with him.
[00:47:49.250] - Todd
He was a remarkable player and an unbelievable, imposing hitter, but a guy that nobody felt comfortable around. Years later, Todd, he would call in to radio talk shows in town. He would have nothing to do with the meeting when he was here. This is as recent as a couple of years ago. He would call in and tell whoever the host was what he would do to fix the Indians, really, and why the ownership was too cheap to do it. And all this stuff, does he call.
[00:48:22.500] - Bud
Them with an alias or is he calling?
[00:48:23.670] - Todd
No, he called in his Albert, really. Back in the day, he had a twin brother named Terry. And back in the day, Terry used to call the newspaper when an unfavorable article about Albert was written and he would pretend to be Albert.
[00:48:39.230] - Bud
Wow, that's deep.
[00:48:40.750] - Todd
There was a lot of dysfunctional family stuff going on with, well, maybe some.
[00:48:45.220] - Bud
Days you were dealing with Albert and some days you were dealing with Terry. I just didn't know which one it was.
[00:48:49.030] - Todd
Listen, if I could have picked which one, I wanted to punch me that night, it would have been Terry.
[00:48:54.470] - Bud
Well, what a great time, though, for the Indians and the city of Cleveland. That was such an electric ballpark. 455 consecutive sellouts from 95 to 2001. That the World Series appearances. It's one thing for athletes to be in the game they're playing, right? We're on the outside as media guys, but even for a media person, when you're around a team in a moment, for a city like that, was that.
[00:49:21.100] - Todd
Special for you, too? Yeah, it was. 95 was special in that. I really thought that team was maybe the best team I had seen, I don't know, maybe in my sports writing career, just because that lineup was Lofton by Erga Bell, Ramirez, Tommy. Not that Paul Sorento belongs in that conversation, but Sandy Almar, who was an All Star MVP at one point, was catching.
[00:50:41.830] - Todd
So when they didn't win it, there was that sense of they may never come back here with a team this talented again. And sure enough, in 97, they got back, but that team was nowhere near as talented. And that team struggled so much during the regular season that John Hart and others will probably deny that this actually happened. But they had prepared a release that they might have to let Hargrove go in 97. Well, so the team kind of rallies, not necessarily for Mike, but their talent starts to show up. They get all the way to the World Series. And to me, that was one of the times that was most crushing to be a sportswriter in this town, because I knew what that would mean if they went down in Miami and they're in game seven and they're up if they had been able to hold on. At one point in that game, Dick Jacobs, the owner, and other executives had walked down in anticipation of the champagne celebration had opened up. We were downstairs to make sure we could get down there in time.
[00:51:54.860] - Todd
So we're watching on a TV. He walks into the Indians clubhouse and you could see all the cellophane up over the lockers and the plastic coverings and all that. And they had started etching the name of the World Series MVP into the trophy. And surprisingly greatest trivia question of all time. It was going to be Chad OJ, believe it or not. Really. Yeah. Because nobody else had really. He won two games in that series. Nobody else had, really. And all of a sudden we look up and what happens starts to happen, and door flies open. Dick Jacob stalks down the corridor never to come back again, and they lose that game in extras. One of the great guys in sports, to me was Charles Maggie and he unfortunately, is the guy on the mound when they lose that. And afterwards with those events, you'd finish up writing, hope that you didn't screw anything up too bad, and you would go to a hospitality area afterwards just to have a beer and talk over with your peers. Like, what did you write? How did you write it? How much time did you have? What did you try to do?
[00:53:11.520] - Todd
And so we went down there, and the party that was happening was all Marlins fans down there in those tents. And I don't want to say half of them because I don't know, but a number of them had no idea who their players even were that year. I mean, they were talking like, what's our second baseman's name? Boy, he had a good play. And it just hit me that time harder than most because I was like these people in Cleveland, if they had just held on and won that game, there wasn't anybody in the city that didn't know every fact about that team that year and for that five year period and would have appreciated so much more than a lot of the people in Miami did.
[00:53:51.460] - Bud
And it just came a couple of years after that tragic boating accident, right.
[00:53:55.460] - Todd
[00:53:57.110] - Bud
You wrote a great story. I was in the Best American Sports Writing Series honorable selection. The accident that killed Tim Cruz and Steve Owen, Bobby Hillita survived. So that was still in play as a subtext to everything that was going on.
[00:54:14.560] - Todd
It was. And in some people's opinion, that event sort of crystallized this team effort that they felt carried them from 94 people don't remember that in 94 they were maybe a game and a half out of first place behind the White Sox when the strike happened. And I had no doubt at that point. I think it was maybe mid August when it happened that they probably would have caught Chicago and this whole playoff run would have started a year early. But that story, I'll just never forget you had Dave Kindred on. And Dave and I became really good friends in Atlanta, and I relied on him a lot of times during the course of my career, especially when I felt overmatched by a story. And that was one where I felt over matched. You know, how do you write that? And he had said to me that his motto for what he's done and why he's a hall of Fame writer is that he always tried to take writers to where he was and make them feel what he felt and see what he saw. And he suggested to me that I go out to the boat dock that those guys hit at the same time that they hit it.
[00:55:45.930] - Todd
So I went out to Little Lake Nelly and stood there not being able to see 2ft in front of my face. There were no lights, nothing out there. And that's how I started to write that story, and it was just terrible. It's just terrible. And I had been down in spring training for about two weeks. I came back because they were taking the day off, and Hargrove had really debated whether he should give them a day off, and he did. And then that happened on the day off. And then for the next ten spring trainings, I don't think they ever had a day off because of that, because of that one event. But I went back down, talked to as many people as I could, wrote that, and then had to go out to Steve Owen's funeral out in Portland directly from there. So it was really a sad time.
[00:56:45.610] - Bud
Do you think about it from time to time?
[00:56:47.260] - Todd
I do for a while. And I don't think I'm a fan of this. We've all done. It like the anniversary of a terrible thing happens. And we're asked as writers to go back and talk to the people who probably don't want to relive it or certainly don't want to relive it as publicly as we would like them to. And so for a while we would do that. We would do that story. One year we did it when Bonnie D. Simone was working here, Bonnie Ford now, he's a terrific writer. And she had gone back and found Patiolan and Tim Cruise's wife and did it from the family standpoint. And it was just a terrific story. But at some point I always thought we should just stop that. We know it's the anniversary, and if we want to write something about it that doesn't involve knocking on the door of the family members who have to talk about it again, I might be more in favor of those kind of stories.
[00:57:53.050] - Bud
Yeah, that's a fine line. You get to the point where it's like, is this being respectful of the subjects, right. Yeah. Are you thinking of them as human beings or as and I remember you need for a story.
[00:58:04.000] - Todd
I remember back then when it happened that Paul Hoynes and again, we get back to the heavy lifting that people have to do. Paul Hoynes was the one that was asked by our Editors to go knock on Patty Owens door and go knock on door of Tim Cruises house and talk with Bob O'haters family. And Mike Hargrove was livid when he heard that Paul was asked to do that. Now, two days later, Hargar was the kind of guy that we'd always say Hargar has got the red ass today. He could get angry, but two days later, he generally would be back to normal and treat you respectfully. And that's what happened in that case. But it was a real trying time for the organization. And I thought the organization handled it as well as they could have.
[00:58:54.750] - Bud
It's such a tragic thing for the families, obviously, but the entire region of Northeast Ohio, it was something that everybody felt and that's about as low a period as I can remember for Cleveland sports away from the actual competition itself.
[00:59:10.920] - Todd
Yeah, absolutely. Thankfully, I don't think anything else has even rivaled it.
[00:59:16.170] - Bud
Yeah. And then when you think about the joy of competition, nothing comes close to what's happened in the last 50 years as LeBron James leading the Cabs to the NBA title in 2016 and ending that LeBron so much has been written and said about LeBron. I'm just curious about your perspective. You dealt with him. You saw him come up here as a high school phenome and live up to the hype. I mean, that's so amazing to me as a writer who is somebody who dealt with LeBron a lot. What sticks in your mind about him?
[00:59:52.540] - Todd
Well, the stuff that sticks in my mind happen really early in that I had heard about this kid as a phenom when he was in high school. And I really didn't see other than watching highlights when local news crews would go down to do his games or stories, I didn't really see them all that often. And so when he turned pro, I went down to the high school. And when he was making his announcement. So here he is, 17 years old. He has been on the cover of Si as the chosen one. And he have a podium sitting up there at the school. There's two chairs off to his left and there's a chair off to his right. And he gets up and he calls out all of his teammates to come out and join him in high school. And these kids that had 10th of the talent that he had, he thanks them all for what they did for him, which I was very impressed by that. And it didn't seem like an act. He just seemed like one of the more mature high school kids I'd ever come across. And it seemed like he had his priorities pretty well straight.
[01:01:07.390] - Todd
And part of that press conference, this working class couple. And I say that because the guys wearing boots and jeans and a T shirt, they come out and they sit in the two seats to his right. And then his mom comes out and sits in the seat over on his left. And after thanking his teammates, he calls these people, ask them to stand up this couple, and he proceeds to talk about them and say that in the fourth grade, he missed 90 days of school. And in the fifth and 6th grade when he lived with and I can't remember their names, forgive me. Mr. And Mrs. Williams say he missed zero days at school in the fourth grade and zero days at school in the fifth grade. And these were the people that when his mom was having issues, they took him in and he lived with them as a foster. And the fact that he thought that much to make them part of this day, you know, right here he was. How many grades later? Seven grades after fifth grade, and he still remembers that. So I'm not trying out to make him out to be some fantastic person because I don't know him very well.
[01:02:18.370] - Todd
But I was impressed early on by the kind of maturity when he came here his first year. We all remember some of the dumbest questions we've ever asked in sports writing. Maybe you never asked one.
[01:02:31.370] - Bud
I might have eight of the top.
[01:02:32.450] - Todd
Ten, but I've asked quite a few. And when I was in San Diego as a sports writer out there, Paul Silas was the head coach at one point.
[01:02:44.660] - Bud
[01:02:45.170] - Todd
So now Paul Silas is the head coach in Cleveland. And I had not a great friendship with him or anything, but he remembered me from San Diego, and I just remembered when Kobe came into the Lake. Right. Kobe was like a skinny kid. He didn't, like, immediately dominate every possession that he was on the floor. And I thought, this kid is only 17 and he's obviously going to have some growing pain. So we're talking. And I asked Silas, I said, are you going to have the authority or the leeway to sit him if you need to sit up? And he looked at me like it was the dumbest thing. You think I'm going to sit LeBron James, first of all, the team's rebuilding. Why would I do that with a kid that we want on the court? And I just remember thinking, can I get that one back?
[01:03:40.530] - Bud
Yeah, right. Even when it was halfway out of your mouth, he wanted to put the fishing line back.
[01:03:46.180] - Todd
Like, what did I think was going to happen? He was going to have six scoreless games in a row and they would have to take him off the court.
[01:03:52.310] - Bud
[01:03:52.710] - Todd
So I think in his first or second game, he went like 25 and 13 or something like that and did it for the next how many years.
[01:04:01.320] - Bud
Has he been in the Lake? Yeah. I mean, I wasn't around LeBron a lot, but I would come up occasionally. And I think what you mentioned about him as a young person, it played out in the way he handled himself with the media and the situations. Yeah. Obviously there's a lot of soap opera things about LeBron.
[01:04:19.900] - Todd
[01:04:20.490] - Bud
And he's a bit of a drama Queen with a lot of that. But I do feel like there was somebody who understood what the team needed as a group, and it always impressed me that he handled that and understood that. And obviously his skills were so great, but it went beyond being greatly skilled because there's a lot of skilled players.
[01:04:37.590] - Todd
But he was certainly a drama King.
[01:04:43.090] - Bud
Which is great for Copyright.
[01:04:45.550] - Todd
If something wasn't stirred up, he would sometimes stir it up himself. Just whether he wanted to see what how his teammates reacted or why his motivation. I don't know what his motivation was some of the time, but he always backed up pretty much what he had said or started to do. The things he's done off the court in Akron have been maybe just as impressive as what he's done on they're going to open up a medical facility down there now that he's affiliated with and the Promise Schools for a guy who had challenges growing up. And as an idiot, I'm sitting here talking about how I got a job at the Philly Daily News at age 24. And it was a heady time, you think was a heady time for LeBron to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the chosen one. Exactly. Come on.
[01:05:44.990] - Bud
And he delivered. He delivered the Championship. He delivered on all the hype for him as an individual player.
[01:06:13.950] - Todd
I was a little bit taken aback at the reaction of some of people that I talked to after the Cabs won. Yeah, it was great, but it wasn't the Browns. It wasn't the Indians. And I was like, really?
[01:06:29.410] - Bud
[01:06:29.730] - Todd
I just told that to somebody, one of the maybe the top three or five, however you want to count them. Greatest players in NBA history has fallen in your lap not once, but twice. And who knows? Maybe a third time. Who knows? And all you can say is it wasn't the Browns.
[01:06:50.780] - Bud
Well, I just told somebody that very thing that I heard that recently from somebody about if the Browns would ever do it. And that's what I want to close with, because you want to talk about drama and soap operas and not delivering. Let's talk about the Cleveland Browns because you get here again. You got here after the fumble and the drive, and you're here when they leave town and you're here when they return. And it's been just crazy since then. What's it been like for a writer all those years?
[01:07:25.290] - Todd
Well, when I got here in 91 of the guys that everybody in this town knows because he's been covering the rounds forever, Tony Grossly, he and I got to be good friends. And he would say to me, you wait, just wait until you see what this city is like when the Browns are good. Because he had obviously been here when they were. And I was like, okay, yeah, I get what you're saying. All right. From afar, I knew that Cleveland was a great football town and Kosar had had success, and they went right on the doorstep of these Super Bowls and all that. I knew all the history of it probably didn't appreciate the passion that had gone into it from a fan standpoint. So I was more than eager to hope Tony was right. And then I'm looking up and I'm waiting, and I'm waiting, and I'm waiting. And it's now two decades have gone by without me seeing anything close to what he was talking about.
I had a real brief meeting with Jimmy Haslam after he had fired yet another coach. I think it was after Rob Chodzinsky. And at that point, he had fired Chidzinsky. He had fired let Joe Banner go. Let Michael Bardi go.
[01:09:41.830] - Bud
It was like Spinal Tap drummers.
[01:09:43.430] - Todd
Yeah, it was yet more change. And I remember saying to him, like, you were part of the Steelers ownership group. And he just looked at me kind of like Paul Silas looked at me that one time, and he said, he goes, you know, people bring that up. But being a 10% owner, the Steelers meant that I had a nice load and I would go in on Sunday mornings and watch the game and leave Sunday afternoon. I wasn't part of the hiring process there when they were looking for GMs.
[01:10:18.220] - Bud
He's kind of indicting himself.
[01:10:19.580] - Todd
Yeah, people just made too big of a deal out he goes, this is a hard job. And I'm like I wanted to say, well, you're making it look.
[01:10:28.470] - Bud
Yeah, apparently, exactly.
[01:10:30.070] - Todd
That hard. I don't know what it will be like if they ever get to a Super Bowl. I hope I'm still living and living in Cleveland when it happens to Bud. Come on.
[01:10:42.320] - Bud
It's not getting morbid here.
[01:10:43.420] - Todd
I know, but it could be a while.
[01:10:44.500] - Bud
It could be.
[01:13:45.270] - Bud
Well, you think about it, you're able to write with humor all these years, and the Browns provided you plenty of material.
[01:13:50.640] - Todd
It certainly did.
[01:13:51.710] - Bud
Do you have a personal favorite comedic moment during your tenure as a columnist in Cleveland involving the Browns?
[01:14:12.050] - Todd
Well, the man's Alle things era to me was not only some of the best material we had a quarterback, Todd, who left the team, went to Vegas, wore a disguise and called himself Billy. I mean, come on, that stuff. Even if you did a North Dallas 40 remake or an NFL version of slap shot or major League, you couldn't come up with something like that.
[01:14:47.070] - Bud
I remember covering his first start. I was here for that game, and the Bengal guys were sacking him and then standing up and doing the show me the money sign and mocking, and I'm like, this has to be some.
[01:14:58.140] - Todd
Kind of low moment for the franchise. It had to be. And correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't that when Marvin Lewis referred to him as a midget or something like that?
[01:15:09.630] - Bud
Yeah, Marvin had to walk that one back.
[01:15:11.850] - Todd
Yeah, he had to walk it back and understandably so, but when have you ever heard a rival coach say that before a game about a player that he was going to have to face, they had no fear of this guy. They were knocking him down in the end zone, and it was like the old cartoon where you just saw the circle of birds chirping over his head, where he stared up at the sky. I mean, it was just bizarre stuff. And the people here were just so thrilled when he got drafted, many of them, because they thought that he would be able to do the same thing. All you had to do is see what he did in College. He ran around in the backfield, turned his back to the line of scrimmage, threw these passes up in the middle of the field. All you had to do was look at that. His father was in sports illustrated talking about the fact that he thought his son might have a drinking problem, and they drafted him.
[01:16:11.470] - Bud
Well, he did deep research.
[01:16:13.340] - Todd
Bud, you brought all this back. Now I've been happily retired.
[01:16:17.330] - Bud
Stirred you out of your nap, and now I got you all work.
[01:16:20.240] - Todd
I feel my blood pressure rising as we speak. They had four first round picks in a three year period in 2012 and 2014, and within four years, those guys were out of the Lake. It was Trent Richardson and Weeden one year and Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manzel two years later.
[01:16:41.480] - Bud
When I was here today, Weeden got caught underneath the flag, Too.
[01:16:47.050] - Todd
Get me rewrite. That was the funniest thing.
[01:16:50.890] - Bud
Well, this has been a funny time talking with you, but I really appreciate I'm sorry I woke up from your Nap. I'm glad to let you get back to the couch, but I really appreciate it's been so good to talk with you again and share stories from Yours. That's a longer word than long, so we'll go with it. But thank you so much.
[01:17:11.430] - Todd
It's been a lot of fun. It's great to be with you. Thank you. It's.
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