The masthead of Fred Schilplinâs newpaper proudly proclaimed that it was the St. Cloud Daily Times. I worked there from May 1966 to September 1968. That was my introduction to the Stearns County League, then a collection of eight small towns surrounded by farmland.
Mike Augustin was the boss, and he hired an earnest fellow named John Drewicke to provide coverage of the amateur teams â mostly in the Monday afternoon newspaper.
John would get to a couple of games and then rely on the scorekeepers with the home teams to provide information on the dozens of other games in the circulation area.
Augie and I didnât give Johnâs copy close inspection, figuring the townballers would appreciate the coverage no matter what. I still get a smile when recalling Johnâs description of a well-known baseball man and scorekeeper at St. Martin:
âJake Spanier, one of the few gentlemen in the state â¦ââ
What did that say about the rest of us?
We had a one-person photo staff at the Times in Myron Hall, and he was definitely one of the great characters in St. Cloud.
Newspaper people were poorly paid in the mid-â60s, and Mr. Schilplin took this to an extreme. Myron already was a veteran photographer with a large family, yet he was scraping by like the rest of us.
In addition to the modest salary, Myron also was required to buy his own film. Thatâs how he earned the nickname âOne Shotââ in local sports circles. If Augie told him we intended to run a couple of photos of an event in the next dayâs newspaper, Myron might be generous and provide three options.
That film wasnât free, you know.
Thereâs this image that newspapers of today are in the state of decline â and clearly the traditional business model has undergone tremendous change. Still, I was thinking the last few days about my old pal Myron and the photo options we would have had from a Stearns County ballgame, if this was the Daily Times in the mid-â60s.
Glen Crevier, the sports boss at the Star Tribune, sends out a request in the early spring for story ideas to punch up the summer sports sections. The entire department responds and it becomes a sizable list from which to choose.
One of my suggestions was a piece on the Stearns County League, now a 10-team collection but with the same nucleus of villages since 1950. This one gained approval, and the result will appear in print in Sundayâs edition.
Put it this way: We donât have to worry about the limitations of a low-paid shooter paying for film when a Star Tribune photographer works a story in this century.
There are reports from around the country of newspapers de-emphasizing photo staffs â¦. worried only about video, because that gets more hits on-line.
The people here shoot video, but in my opinion, the quality of our still photography remains a great asset for the Star Tribune compared to most other newspapers.
In 2014, we were planning coverage leading up to the All-Star Game. For me, the historic perspective for this was the first All-Star game played here in 1965, when the National League brought the greatest baseball team ever assembled to the Bloomington prairie.
You can argue that âgreatestââ theory, but you arenât going to change my mind.
The star of stars was Willie Mays, the center fielder of the San Francisco Giants, who went from a month with the Minneapolis Millers in 1951 to New York.
Willie had a reputation of not being the easiest subject for arranging an interview. He has a person who handles those requests and, after many exchanges, I was given a couple of dates when it could work.
I told the boss: âIâm going to San Francisco to see Willie, and I need Jerry Holt as the photographer. Holt will shoot great photos, and heâll use his Southern charm to get Willie on our side.ââ
Yup. A couple of friends in the Bay Area told me that 15 minutes might be a good session with Willie. Holt did his magic and we wound up with 90, in the Say Hey Suite at the Giants ballpark.
Last fall, I read the book âThe Boys in the Boat,ââ the wonderful chronicle of the University of Washington eights winning the gold medal in rowing at the 1936 Munich Olympics.
I wanted to write something about rowing â and the University of Minnesota varsity womenâs program was the obvious hook. The beauty of this was that the Gophersâ home arena for rowing is the Mississippi River.
The way I saw it, we needed a photographer to get down there around 8 in the morning and take a couple of shots from the dock. Thatâs not the way David Joles saw it.
He was on the river in coach Wendy Davisâ motorized craft before dawn, and took some photos so stunning that you had to read the story â at least, start it â whether you wanted to or not.
The Stearns County League story gained enthusiasm with Crevier and others. I went to Farming and Spring Hill on a Saturday early in June, more as a scouting mission than for reporting.
Then, I gave the boss a schedule with three potential dates, any one of which could serve the purposes of the photographer assigned to the story.
Aaron Lavinsky drew the assignment. He made all three of those dates, shooting photos in a handful of Stearns County League towns. Twice, he took a drone with him for photos from above.
The results will be online this weekend, and in print on Sunday.
Weâre not changing the world with this, just showing a part of it, but itâs another example of how terrific newspapers can be in 2017 â and especially with a gifted photo staff that works it.