Back in the 1970s, Roanoke was home to a beer-guzzling pool hustler who moonlighted as a three-times-a-week columnist at The Roanoke Times.
His name was Mike Ives and long after the newspaper fired him he remained “my favorite columnist” to legions.
A copy of Ives’ infamous collection (left) was delivered to me Friday in the newsroom by Beth Handley, a former copy editor who will always rank high on a short list of the best the paper ever had.
Among other acts of journalistic derring do, Ives launched the sportswriting career of my pal Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, whose only qualifications were that Mudcat was jobless and they were drinking buddies.
Ives arranged for Mudcat to get an interview with Bill Brill, then the newspaper’s sports editor. Ives also coached Mudcat how to lie his way through it, convincingly.
What clinched the job was Mudcat’s absurd claim that he could type 132 words a minute. The truth was he couldn’t type at all. So for months afterwards, Mudcat wrote his sports copy longhand on legal pads and Ives typed it on the sly.
(The paper fired Mudcat, too, when an editor caught him “covering” the Patrick Henry – William Fleming basketball game with his chin on the bar of The Coffee Pot, a glass of whiskey inches from his nose and a transistor radio pressed up to his ear.)
Mudcat went on to cover the NFL. But his sportswriting career later crashed and burned when he was banned from the Baltimore Colts locker room by Johnny Unitas for asking this question:
“Johnny, why do you always dry your privates with that towel before you dry your head?” Years later, Mudcat got into politics, and ended up writing for Simon & Schuster.
Anyway, the editors here have ordered me to take off two weeks (with pay, of course) to study this volume and brush up on my skills. Otherwise, they warned, I would lose that vacation.
There are columns through Tuesday and some other stuff scheduled to show up on this blog, and I’ll be popping in here now and then, but probably not nearly so often.
Have a great Christmas, folks. I know I will, especially with this book.
P.S. Rumor has it that Richard Wells, publisher of The Roanoker, still has a basement full of unsold copies of “Give Me a Break. Buy This Book.” Or you can buy it used on Amazon.com for $10.95 – $21.50. It’s cheap either way.
Update — Dave “Mudcat” Saunders responds via email:
“I love this…Sorry it took so long for me to see it.
I am in Haiti with some Hollywood people working with Father Rick Frecette, the doctor and humanitarian. Once I get back, we need to get together.
One thing for sure…I have learned a lesson on gratitude. Until you come here, you have no idea how bad things really are for the Haitians. At least, I had no idea.
Merry Xmas. I’ll be back on Thursday unless I catch the cholera.