By Steve Svetovich
Looking at the calendar recently, this scribe realized it was an anniversary of sorts.
It was in the late winter of 1982 when a now 40-year run of writing stories began.
Having finished studies at the University of Scranton mid-year, this student had an opportunity to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania on a graduate assistantship to study sports sciences with a concentration in sports management.
That was not to be.
A scholarship was also on the table to obtain a master of science degree in health care administration from Marywood University
That was also not to be.
After much deliberation, I decided to stay local, get a job, and try my hand at freelance writing.
I started by writing five sports columns during the spring semester for The Aquinas at the University of Scranton. My first published article entitled “Old Men Still Play Ball” focused on all of the MLB players who were still active at the time in their 40’s. That group included Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Phil Neikro, Gaylord Perry, Woodie “Old Folks” Fryman, Willie “Pops” Stargell, and Carl Yastrzemski among others.
Shortly after, my connection with the late John McCormick, then sports editor of The Scranton Times, led me to covering football games for several years for that newspaper.
After a grueling 10-month period of unemployment while writing freelance stories, Danny Ziobro hired me full time to work in the Mercy Hospital Central Supply Department in Scranton.
That allowed me to continue pursuing free-lance writing interests. This scribe latched on with The Pennsylvania Athlete newspaper covering all high school sports in northeast and central PA on a freelance basis. That relationship lasted from 1982 until the PA Athlete eventually folded in 1997.
During my time at Mercy Hospital, I met the late Jim Crowley, one of the famed members of The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. My recorded interview with him was published in various local newspapers, including The Times Leader and Pennsylvania Athlete.
I also wrote sports stories those years on a freelance basis for The Times Leader, The Dallas Post, The Wayne Independent and The Carbondale News.
After leaving the Mercy Hospital job and working for a short time in Seaside Heights, N.J., this scribe decided to pursue writing on a full-time basis.
In March of 1986, on a nice spring day with birds chirping all over Nanticoke, I interviewed baseball’s only one-armed position player, Pete Gray of the 1945 St. Louis Browns, on the back porch of his home.
The interview got my name out there. It was heard on WARM Radio, published in the Hazleton Standard Speaker and The Baseball Bulletin, a national publication. It earned me a United Press International (UPI) award for best sports story in a small market in New Jersey or Pennsylvania and is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame where I was given a lifetime pass. The interview can be heard world-wide today on the Internet through the Society for American Baseball Research.
During the time I was trying to get the Pete Gray story published, a New York Times editor gave me a valuable piece of advice after reviewing the story.
He told me he read the story with interest, could not use it at the time, and was sending me a $75 check just for reading it.
His advice was simple and sweet. “Don’t beg.”
As a 25-year-old at the time, a strong lesson was learned.
I will never forget it.
Shortly after, I began writing a monthly column for The Baseball Bulletin.
I took a full time position at The Potter Enterprise in Coudersport, PA in October 1986. The experience in Potter County was fulfilling, but then a 10-month position opened up at The Scrantonian Tribune as a general assignment reporter to replace the late Robert Curran who took a leave to write a book. That assignment was extended an extra two months and it proved to be an enlightening and invaluable experience covering all aspects of news under tight deadlines. I will always be indebted to a certain group of editors who took an interest in me. That group included the late Doug Miele, the late Ray Flanagan, Joe Pesavento, Lew Marcus, Dunmore’s Guy Valvano, and Maureen (Garcia-Pons) Hart, who is now my editor at The Dunmorean.
Eventually, Curran came back and I was out of work.
But not for long.
I became a reporter for a six-month period with The Hawley News Eagle.
After a short stint with Telespond Senior Services, Adams Manor Nursing Home hired me as a social worker. My social sciences degree was put to work.
I then enrolled at Misericordia University in Dallas where I pursued a second degree in occupational therapy, graduating six years later. As a writer, you always need a backup plan.
Hal Lewis, the managing editor of The Scrantonian Tribune, made sure I was not away too long from that newspaper. He hired me as the Dunmore and Clarks Summit correspondent.
I was a social worker by day and news reporter by night.
I held that position until the Scrantonian Tribune ultimately folded in late 1989.
Former employees of the Scrantonian Tribune started their own publication, The Sunday Sun. This scribe became a big part of that as both sports editor and Dunmore correspondent.
The Sunday Sun eventually folded after a year.
Within a week, I made an easy transition joining former Scrantonian Tribune editor John Hart’s publication with The Dunmorean in 1990.
I have not left since. And I have John and Maureen Hart to thank for that.
And over 7,000 stories later from the first one 40 years ago, this scribe is still writing and shooting for another 7,000.