Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Willoughby winters can be brutal, but brighter days are ahead

I was thinking about spending the rest of the winter in Florida, playing golf.
I think about a lot of things I’ll never do. I used to think about playing Majong with Jennifer Lopez – until the lady of the house told me to cut it out.
I will say this about those two ladies, though. They are both exceptionally good looking, although the parts Jennifer has had in movies are much larger that the roles the lady has played.
I have never told you about those movies, although I must say the roles she played would have to be considered somewhat minor.
Beyond that, she has asked me not to talk about it. I must say this, though: The nicest person she ever worked with, in her opinion, was John Ritter, who was a big star on a TV sitcom (which I didn’t watch) and he died at far too young an age.
She said he was a prince of a man, and I feel constrained to point out that she is very good at evaluating princes among men.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the weather. Now that we have dispensed with February, let it be said that it was one of the nastiest spells of weather we have ever endured.
There is an old joke about bad spells of weather, but I won’t repeat it here. Just for one example, however, a bad spell would be “whether” when referring to global warming which, come to think of it, isn’t really such a bad spell when you think about it.
Unless, of course, you are a true believer in the nasty global “warming” trend that has enveloped us in early 2015. Fie on it, I say. Fie.
I’m not sure what “fie” means, but I think I read it in a play by Shakespeare. Or maybe it was Tennessee Williams. Or Tennessee Ernie. Some author of note.
But if you think this winter has been miserable, I direct you back to 1977 and 1978.
One of them was noteworthy for deep snow and the other for sub-zero temperatures. I forget which was which, but one of those days it was so bad out that we couldn’t get the papers to the customers.
Now, one thing you absolutely cannot do in the daily newspaper business is miss a day of publication. So there was one day in either ‘77 or ‘78 that we delivered two papers in one day.
Yes, it was that bad out. But all the papers got delivered. Note: In today’s world a lot of people are reading the paper on their computers.
Two thoughts come to mind: If you read in on a computer, why is it called a “paper?” Also, does the snow ever get so deep that a computer can’t deliver the paper?
For real snow, I mean really man-sized, or, if you prefer, woman-sized snow, I give you Thanksgiving weekend of 1950. Now that was a snowfall.
We had just moved from our old News-Herald building on West Spaulding Street in Downtown Willoughby into our new building on Mentor Avenue, also in Willoughby.
That was before our present new building on Mentor Avenue, which is just down the hill from our previous new building.
Except that the newest new building is in Mentor. You could easily hit a wedge shot from one building to the other, except they are in different towns. It has to do with where the city dividing lines are located.
All of which has little or nothing to do with the Thanksgiving snow storm of 1950, during which we had three pressmen stranded in the building for two days.
Snow removal at that time was not as sophisticated as it is today. Nearly total traffic paralysis set it. Cars could not get down Vine Street through the newly created town of Eastlake. (It had been Willoughby Township.)
The Willoughby Armory was home to Companies C and D of the 116th Engineers Battalion, Ohio National Guard.
Both company commanders, Stan Shwartz and Jimmy Robinson, worked at The News-Herald.
They got out their tanks, full track-laying vehicles which had no problem with the snow, and delivered milk and bread along the side streets off Vine because nobody could get to the store.
My recollection is that the snow was 30 inches deep, although some old newspaper clippings say it may have been an inch less than that.
Whatever, it was substantial, even by present-day Boston standards.
The good news is that baseball season is almost upon us, the Indians are in spring training in Arizona, and the rigors of an awful winter are almost a thing of the past.
So think pleasant thoughts of palm trees swaying and cactus bushes doing whatever it is they do.
The smack of a baseball into a glove means only one thing – the ball wasn’t hit to me and thus didn’t roll up my arm while the batter ran to second base.

Friday, February 20, 2015

If only he'd been owner of the Cleveland Browns

I worry about the Cleveland Browns.

I know I’m wasting my time because there are people at The News-Herald, Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and a handful of TV stations who get paid to worry about the Browns. I do it for nothing.

But I can’t help myself because the Browns have been close to my heart since 1946. That is a lot longer than anyone now associated with the Browns. The current management was probably not even born then, and that is part of the problem.

The football team and its environment are now called “toxic” and “dysfunctional” and worse. Those are strong words. It will take a lot of work plus moving in the right direction to overcome those negative terms.

But the management has brought the ill will upon itself, and it will not be easy to make a correction.

Let’s go back to 1946. The Browns were a brand-new team in town, replacing the Rams, who won a world championship in 1945 and then moved to Los Angeles.

The owner of the new Browns was Arthur (Mickey) McBride, who owned a cab company.

He hired Paul Brown to run the team and coach it and then left him alone to do his thing. Brown was spectacular in both roles. His team, with Otto Graham at quarterback, played in 10 title games in 10 years, with only three disappointing losses (to the Rams and Lions) marring an otherwise unblemished string of championships.

McBride didn’t tell Brown how to run the team, and he didn’t send text messages to the bench during games.

That, of course, was a few years before texting. But he didn’t even send handwritten notes. In fact, his main contribution was the term “cab squad” which was used to designate players who were not on the active roster.

The Browns moved smoothly into the National Football League, won their first league game against the Eagles in 1950, and won the world championship that year by beating the Rams 30-28 thanks to the toe of Lou Groza.

The Browns continued to be one of the greatest teams ever in professional football. But then along came the 1960s. A guy named Art Modell took control of the team, Paul Brown had utter disdain for Modell (Brown, a former college quarterback, said he would take Modell seriously if he ever put on a jock strap), and in 1962 a petulant Modell fired Brown.

That was the beginning of the end for the Browns. They won one more championship, but it was with a coach (Blanton Collier) hired by Brown.

The bottom dropped out after the 1995 season, when Modell called it quits in Cleveland and moved the team to Baltimore.

The league soon figured out it was a horrible mistake to leave the city without a team, so it gave Cleveland an “expansion” team, which had no owners.

That was when current mess began. The league made another horrible mistake and awarded the franchise to Al Lerner, a billionaire, a Marine and probably a very nice man. But he knew nothing about football, so he hired others to run the team for him.

That added to the mess, so he turned the team over to his son, Randy, who knew a little about soccer and nothing about football.

The mess continued. Randy threw up his hands in surrender, sold the team to billionaire Jimmy Haslam, and the mess goes on.

A monumental mistake was made when the NFL awarded the franchise to Lerner 1999. That was a goof of world class proportions. The league fouled up big time.

What I have said so far is factual. Now I will insert my own opinion for what it is worth – perhaps nothing.

There were other bidders besides Lerner. In on the bidding action was a syndicate that included my good friend Bill Sanford.

Bill is the guy who, along with four other people, started STERIS in Mentor. He is a business and organizational genius. If you are not aware of the impact of STERIS on the area and on the overall economy, you have not paid attention.

(I did hour-long TV interviews with Bill and two of his partners in the founding of the company, Mike Keresman and the late Ray Kralovic. They are still shown from time to time on the Lakeland Community College cable channel.)

Brilliant businessmen does not begin to describe the talented founders of STERIS.

Bill was aching to become an owner of the Browns. I am certain he would have been a huge success. (He knows a little more about football that the average owner. He went to college on a football scholarship before becoming a great success in business.)

I still watch those interviews at home from time to time. Maybe I should send copies to the NFL.

But that would serve no useful purpose. Of this I am certain, however: If Bill and his group had gotten ownership of the Browns, you wouldn’t see terms like “toxic” being thrown around.

More likely it would be “Super Bowl Champions.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jim Collins: Thoughts of those who have departed keep memories alive

It’s getting so I hate to turn to the obituaries because of the surprises that numb my senses.
It seems as if every day there are new listings that sadden me – people I cared a lot about who are no longer with us.
Just within a couple days there was Chuck Koelble, and Janet Hacha and Ken Ziel and Alan O’Janpa (OJ) – dear people who have departed. I could go on with many more names, but what’s the point? It won’t bring them back.
Nobody lives forever, but these people lived good lives, they were loved by many and they are now able to wait for others who will join them in their Heavenly abode.
I wrote the other day about a few people I know in the world of jazz and immediately got calls from pianists John Petrone and Frank Daniels informing me that singer Marilyn Holderfield, whom I mentioned in the column, had passed on just last month.
I didn’t know her as well as the others, but she was a giant in the world of jazz singers, female and male. Now she is singing in a Heavenly choir. Perhaps the others will pick up a couple of ideas from her.
Around this time of year I begin thinking about the golfing trip 16 of us took to Naples, Fla., every February.
As far as I know, there are three of us left. I am sure Walt Sargent is swinging the clubs every chance he gets. I don’t even know if Paul Ferris plays at all any more, and if anyone ever loved the game, he did.
The others are all departed now, playing golf in another life and paying off their nickels and dimes and figuring out their “presses” in a currency that we on this planet are not familiar with.
Some names in the obituaries are known to me only by reputation. Some I wish I had known if only because of the acclaim they won during their lifetimes.
A good example was in the paper Feb. 6. It said that Mary Healy, a versatile actress and singer who starred with Orson Welles on Broadway and opposite her husband Peter Lind Hayes for nearly 60 years, had died at the age of 96.
Wow! That’s a good, long life. I knew a lot about her career. It was spectacular. But whenever anybody mentions Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, I can think of only one event that made headlines in Lake County in which they were involved.
They were on radio and TV for years as a duo, and they starred in sitcoms and game shows for years, but their noteworthy appearance here was not mentioned in her obit.
It was the great robbery of the spectacular night club/gambling joint the Mounds Club in November, 1947.
The place is on Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills (at the time it was Willoughby Township), and no, I wasn’t there.
But I remember the news coverage, especially in the old Cleveland Press. Thanks to the painstaking research by Don Lewis of the Willoughby Historical Society, I have his encyclopedic volume on the subject.
I have given a few talks on the robbery, and I will say this as an aside to Don – I couldn’t have done it without you.
Unless you were around here in that era, you could never imagine the kind of place the Mounds Club was. It was run by a guy named Tommy McGinty, who later took off for Las Vegas.
A guy like me could never have gotten into the place. I was a sophomore in college at the time, so I would have no business in a gambling joint that operated illegally anyway.
But you couldn’t get inside the place without rapping on the door and knowing somebody. Funny thing – when a Cleveland reporter asked Sheriff Jim Maloney about the great robbery, he hadn’t heard about it.
Inside, the club was a showplace, with glitter and glamour that befit the high rollers and Broadway stars who inhabited the place.
And it is still glitzy. I know, because I have lunch there every Monday. It is now called LaVera Party Center, it is all legitimate and above board, and it is the Monday home of the Willoughby Rotary Club. We have met there for a few years.
I don’t know about the other Rotarians, but I can look around the room (actually there are two rooms) and still hear the strains of Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, Dean Martin, a fairly young Dean Martin, Joe E. Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Georgie Jessel, the Sammy Watkins Orchestra and a host of others.
Any of the high rollers there during the robbery who had money, a watch, a ring, a fur coat or anything else of value was ordered by the gunmen dressed in Army fatigues to throw them onto a tablecloth on the floor.
All the loot disappeared into the night. The robbery was never solved.
There were a lot of theories, and I have heard a few dozen of them.
Now even the bullet holes in the ceiling have been patched. It seems one of the robbers wanted to silence the crowd with a quick burst of a burp gun.
You don’t find that kind of excitement around here any more when you go out to dinner.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Despite debilitating snowstorm, the word gets out one way or another

Before I get started, let me give you a heads up that may help you understand some of the challenges we face in the newspaper game, or the online game, or whatever it is that passes for what I am engaged in at the moment.
If you are reading this column in the paper, all well and good. You just pick up the paper on Sunday morning, turn to this page, and there I am – as I have been every Sunday since Sept. 23, 1973.
Actually, I wrote a column for several years before that, but it wasn’t called “The Editor’s Notebook.”
It was called a number of things, such as “The Grapevine” or “Our Peripatetic Reporter” and things like that.
We started calling it “The Editor’s Notebook” because Jim Lonergan told me to, and I always did what he said.
This was his reasoning: Irv Lebowitz, the editor of The Lorain Journal, wrote a column by that name. It was well received. Jim was the boss over both The News-Herald and the Journal (now known as the Morning Journal), so when he told us what to call our columns, we did so without fussing about it because Jim usually knew what he was talking about. But I digress.
That was a long time ago. Things are different now. Times have changed. Columns like this are now written on computers. When they are printed out, they come inside the paper on Sunday.
But some people cannot wait until Sunday. Oh no! Perish the thought. They have to read it right away. So when I turn it in, it has a headline written on it and it gets “posted.” It gets posted on a “blog.” And, believe it or not, some people, perhaps dozens, are waiting anxiously to call up the blog so they can read it on their computers.
Me? I’m in no hurry. I can wait until Sunday, mostly because I already know what it says. But the people who don’t get to read it in advance (the lady of the house is an exception; she copy reads it for me so I can call in corrections later in the week) they don’t want to wait until Sunday. They want to read it right now, on the blog.
However, the column didn’t get written as early as usual this week because of global warming.
Global warming dumped so much snow in my driveway last Sunday while the Super Bowl was being played that my car was stuck there overnight.
We moved into the house almost nine years ago. It was the first time the car has sat in the driveway all night ever. I fervently hope it never happens again.
My brother watched the game at our house. A lot happened during those three-plus hours. All hell broke loose with the weather. It got horrendous outside. That’s much better than inside. Global warming brought in tons of snow, which was probably welcomed in Stowe, Vt. But not on our street.
And by the way, the big shots with the tiny minds in Washington have now figured out there was no such thing as global warming, so they are not calling it that any more. They are now calling it “climate change.”
Isn’t that cute? You can call it what you want, but there were a couple feet of climate change in the driveway when I got back from taking my brother home, who lives at least a mile away.
Johnnycake Ridge was perilous because city crews, which do a fabulous job, just couldn’t keep up with it.
We live on a short cul-de-sac with only four or five homes on it. It was jammed with snow.
I made it to my driveway and turned in. That was when the real excitement began. I was hopelessly stuck. I was enticingly close to the garage – maybe a hundred feet or so. So near and yet so far.
So instead of getting the car inside, where all the snow would have melted off, it was stuck in the driveway all night.
It got buried under even more snow – a lot more snow. There was no school the next morning because the whole world was buried under snow.
So the next morning I took a longer shower than usual as I contemplated my plight. I left a message with Tom Roseum, my snowplowing guy, and told him what was happening. He couldn’t plow the drive, I told him,  because the car was stuck in the middle of it.
So here’s what I did: I waited until the city plowed my street. As soon as it was cleared, I called Tom. “How long before you can get here?” I asked. Twenty minutes, he replied.
In five minutes I went out to dig out the car. I got it out into the street about a minute before Tom got there. There was zero traffic. I sat in the car while Tom did his thing. I even left the garage door open so he could get the blade inside and drag the snow away from the front.
Within just a few minutes he had all the snow moved to the side and I drove into the garage as easily and an uneventfully as if it were the Fourth of July.
But of course, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even Groundhog Day yet.  But it was a Super Bowl Monday I will always remember because of the global warming incident.
Excuse me. I mean, because of the climate change.