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Sports journalists need official credentials to cover events, and in a livelihood in which the writers are paid to cover games people play, those press passes pile up along with the memories they invoke. Here, veteran Globe Sports writers recall a few of the highlights of their careers, which included everything from bat flips and earthquakes to tearing up watching Wayne Gretzky’s last game. And one time, even cheering in the press box

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Every press pass tells a story. The writers who wore these ones share theirs below.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

THE DAY CANDLESTICK PARK SHOOK

GAME 3, 1989 WORLD SERIES, OAKLAND A’S V. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, SAN FRANCISCO
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Allan Maki's 1989 World Series media credentials .Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

They’re not much to look at, just a couple of plasticized cards. On the face of both is the 1989 World Series logo and directions for Working Media – where you could go in for interviews, where you could write.

The two cards have my name and media affiliation on them, and what that reminds me of has little to do with baseball and everything to do with humanity at its best and worst. On the good side, there were people putting themselves in danger to rescue strangers. There were also the opportunists who took money and jewellery from those who couldn’t fight back. Some were trapped in rubble, some crushed in their vehicles. Such was the Loma Prieta earthquake, a 6.9 hell-raiser that originated in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

When it hit 30 minutes before the opening pitch of Game 3 at Candlestick Park, you could tell it was going to be bad. Radios came alive. Reports were out that bridges, or at least parts of them, were down. There were fires exhaling black smoke on the horizon. In the Marina district, a house would be flattened to the ground while its neighbours showed no signs of damage.

Both the A’s players and their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants, waved to their family in the stands, signalling them to come to the pitcher’s mound. Both teams gathered there thinking this was the safest spot in the stadium. All the clocks had stopped at 5:04 p.m. PT. The quake’s magnitude was 6.9; the initial numbers were said to be higher.

As soon as the shaking stopped, the 60,000 fans inside the park applauded their survival. Back in the media work room we tried calling the office. As soon as the call connected, security forces told us to grab our gear and go. Go where? Just go, we were ordered. Cam Cole, then of the Edmonton Journal, and I returned to our rental car and wrote like machines.

In those days, we didn’t have workable cellphones or WiFi or carrier pigeons to move our stories; we had to push the phone’s receiver into rubber couplers and hope there wasn’t so much as a hiccup, otherwise the couplers would refuse to work and we’d have to start the process all over again.

Cole and I tried to get back into the stadium – because that’s where the phones were – and once again, we had to ditch security guards. Eventually we bribed a stadium worker into renting us his flashlight so we could shine it on the screen of our pseudo-laptops and dictate our many words filed that night.

Allan Maki


ROAD TRIP

1998 NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS, CHICAGO AND INDIANAPOLIS
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Robert MacLeod's 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

In 40 years at The Globe and Mail, a favourite assignment involves a white convertible Ford Mustang, Denis Leary and a wacky group of Germans at a Howard Johnson’s.

It was 1998 and Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the story of the NBA, with the 34-year-old Jordan pursuing his second of what would ultimately be three consecutive NBA titles.

There was a significant roadblock to that goal: the Indiana Pacers, led by Reggie Miller, their acid-tongued sharpshooting veteran, and coach Larry Bird in the Eastern Conference final.

It was an epic seven-game tussle – many consider it one of the best playoff series in history – with each team winning on its home court.

The credentials issued by the Bulls featured a photo of a serene-looking Jordan, hands clasped against his face. The series was anything but serene and the Bulls prevailed, taking it 4-3, before flattening the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals.

During one playoff leg, Toronto Star columnist Chris Young and I decided to drive between Indianapolis and Chicago. The cities are only 300 kilometres apart and the trip would take about three hours.

My colleague rented the vehicle and showed up at the hotel behind the wheel of a spiffy Mustang ragtop. On the Star’s dime. Never did two old(er) guys look so out of place than behind the wheel of that slick sports car, but the weather co-operated and the top was pulled back for the journey. To pass the time, we played Denis Leary’s stand-up comedy album, No Cure For Cancer. We killed ourselves laughing, wearing out the disc as we cruised along the I-65.

Back then, the Pacers were playing at the old Market Square Arena, as intimate a setting as there was in the NBA. That was in stark contrast to Chicago’s cavernous United Center, where most of the visiting media were in a makeshift press box near the rafters. The players looked like ants from up there, so most reporters ditched those seats and used a floor-level workroom to watch the game on TV.

That was not the case at Market Square, a historic little bandbox where Wayne Gretzky took his first strides as a pro hockey player and Elvis Presley played his last concert. The press seats for the playoff game were practically VIP, about 10 rows behind one of the baskets.

The trip to Indianapolis also coincided with the famous Indy 500 race. All the hotel rooms in the city were booked, and the best we could find was a Howard Johnson’s in the suburbs. Thank God for the Mustang. We made full use of the lobby bar during our sporadic down time and we came to know a group of lads from Germany who were in town for the car race.

One of the guys who stood out was Juergen, a gloomy sort who was a total gearhead when it came to auto racing. All he wanted to talk about, in his halting English, were Hemi engines. The Germans could not have cared less about the Bulls-Pacers basketball series.

Robert MacLeod


GROWN MEN WEPT

WAYNE GRETZKY’S LAST GAME, 1999, RANGERS V. PENGUINS, NEW YORK
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Shawna Richer's April 18, 1999, media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

In the spring of 1999, my thrifty and creative sports editor, Neil A. Campbell, asked if I wanted to rent an apartment in New York for six weeks or so and cover sports’ spring season. Hockey playoffs were starting, baseball was getting under way. It would save on hotels. An Amtrak Northeast Corridor could take a sportswriter far for a few bucks.

I found the apartment in the New York Times classifieds and charged it to my Amex. I think it was around US$10,000 for eight weeks. The four-storey walk-up in the West Village was so small you could reach and turn on the stove from the couch. To close the bathroom door you had to step into the shower.

I’d been there one day when the sports editor called with a credible rumour that Wayne Gretzky could be retiring. The Rangers were playing that night, so I headed to Madison Square Garden. No one, particularly Gretzky, was saying much of anything. But there was a palpable feeling in the dressing rooms and hallways at the Garden that night, and after doing my best to gather interviews, I started to just observe. I noticed that after every shift, Gretzky handed his stick to a Rangers equipment guy and got a fresh one. There was something to this. The next morning The Globe was the only Canadian paper to have a story portending the Great One’s retirement. A few days later it was confirmed.

And on a Sunday afternoon, April 18, Gretzky played his last game. I had to look up that the Rangers lost 2-1 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that No. 99 played 22 minutes 30 seconds and had an assist.

But I’ve never remembered a feeling at a sporting event like this before or since. Gretzky was the only thing anyone watched. Every time he touched the puck, the crowd jumped to its feet. After the game ended, Gretzky skated slow laps around the ice, waving to the crowd, crying softly. I had a lump in my throat, not because I was especially sad about Gretzky, but because the entire Garden was sad about Gretzky. Sitting to the right of centre ice in one of many auxiliary press rows created to accommodate the crush of reporters that day, I looked up and down the row at my peers. A number of them, all men, were crying. I’ve never been surrounded by such crushing, collective emotion. In the dressing room long after the game had ended, no one, not teammates, team staff, reporters, wanted to leave. Gretzky stood around talking, not taking his jersey or hockey pants off. He didn’t want to leave either.

The game notes made no mention of Gretzky’s final game, just that it was game No. 82 of the 1998-99 NHL season. I kept them anyway.

Shawna Richer


‘SKATE!’

WOMEN’S GOLD-MEDAL HOCKEY GAME, 2002 WINTER OLYMPICS, CANADA V. UNITED STATES, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
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David Shoalts's 2002 Winter Olympics women's hockey gold medal game media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The hundreds of media passes in several boxes spread around the house most represent a common theme – making deadline.

Close games are the bane of sportswriters facing down a deadline. The dilemma is often the same. With the need to write most of the story during the game before the outcome is known, when things get too close near the end, what is a person to do? Rewrite? Or sit tight and hope for the best?

The women’s gold-medal game on Feb. 21, 2002, at the Salt Lake City Olympics was one such game, with the country watching.

Canada held on through a series of bad penalty calls to defeat the United States 3-2 to win the gold. But it was the only time in my career I was afraid I would not be able to file a coherent story by deadline, which was the instant the game was over.

One of the cardinal rules of sports writing – never write about the outcome until it happens lest you bring down bad karma on all concerned.

First, the Canadian women. My deadline nerves set in because I broke another cardinal rule of journalism. Never root for the team you are covering. This was never a problem with the men. I dealt with them all for years as an NHL reporter and columnist, they made lots of money and the Olympics was just one more big event for them even if it was almost as important as the Stanley Cup.

But the Olympics represented the biggest moment of the women’s careers. None of them could make a living from the sport they sacrificed so much to play. Indeed, too often the end of their time on their sport’s biggest stage meant the end of their hockey careers. So it was all too easy to get wrapped up in the Canadian team.

I noticed my overinvolvement in the first period when the Canadians were killing off yet another penalty. Vicky Sunohara finally got possession of the puck next to her own net with a clear lane to the blueline. “Skate!” someone shouted. That someone was me. In the press box. Another rule broken – no cheering in the press box.

A little later, as the penalty calls against Canada by the American referee continued (years later I came to realize it was inexperience, not jingoism, that dogged the official), I turned to my fellow scribes. I stood up, waved my arms and said, “Can you believe this?” There was a stony silence. Suddenly I realized I was facing a group of American reporters. I sat down and shut up.

Eventually, helped in no small part by a 5 p.m. local time start to the game, I was able to settle my nerves and ship my first-edition story to the office on time.

David Shoalts


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A career in sports writing can offer a perk most jobs don't come with: A vast collection of press passes from covering professional sporting events.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail


THE ALBATROSS

FINAL ROUND, 2012 MASTERS, AUGUSTA, GA.
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Roy MacGregor's 2012 Masters media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

It was my first Masters, a rare April spent in the sun surrounded by azaleas rather than in an NHL rink surrounded by zealots. It was Sunday, the final day of a week of getting used to the idiosyncrasies of Augusta National: type “patrons,” not “fans”; pimento-cheese sandwiches for US$1.50; cellphones forbidden but a bank of outdoor landlines provided to let patrons call, toll free, anywhere in the world.

I was heading out to check action around the water hole, No. 16, and then work my way over to Amen Corner, parts of holes No. 11, 12 and 13, where the Masters has so often been decided.

But at hole No. 2, a 575-yard par-five monster known as Pink Dogwood, I was held up by two marshals just raising a barrier rope as two players, as unlike each other as possible, came along the rise to reach their second shots.

American Bubba Watson, tall, lanky, super-intense and left-handed, had used his pink driver to land the ball far, far ahead of little gap-toothed Louis Oosthuizen – a friendly South African known as Shrek to his fellow golfers.

Oosthuizen was to hit first, of course, and I had been stopped exactly parallel to his ball, with a perfect view of the distant green. He surveyed the undulating fairway that turned slightly to the right and somewhat downhill, took a 4-iron and slashed the ball with all the force his little body held.

Off flew the white ball, seemingly hanging in the air while it selected a good spot to land, most assuredly short of the green. But the ball stayed in the air. It landed short of the green but took a mighty bounce and then was on the green, the patrons surrounded the green letting out an appreciative roar of approval.

But the ball was still not done. It rolled across the middle of the green and then slowly drifted to the right, ever closer to the pin.

The sound that came back 250 yards was spine-tingling, the roar rising slowly like a sound tsunami as the ball edged closer and closer. Augusta National absolutely exploded as the ball seemed to pause, then plunked into the cup. A two on an impossible par five. A double eagle, also known as an albatross, one of golf’s rarest shots.

Seventy-seven years earlier Gene Sarazen had scored a two on the par-five 15th, forced a Masters playoff and won.

Oosthuizen’s albatross had lifted him into first place but the best he could do was hold on against a late Watson charge to force a playoff, which Watson won on the second hole with an astonishing wedge shot out of the trees.

But the shot of the tournament, and one of the greatest shots in Masters history, was little Louie Oosthuizen’s remarkable 4-iron from 253 yards away.

Roy MacGregor


CASTRO

2012 WORLD CUP OF WOMEN’S BASEBALL, EDMONTON
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Marty Klinkenberg's 2012 World Cup of Women's Baseball media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

In decades as a journalist I have covered a Super Bowl, a Grey Cup, a World Series and the Stanley Cup playoffs. I have written from the U.S. Open tennis tournament and from NASCAR and IndyCar events. I have been to the Calgary Stampede and Canadian Finals Rodeo. I have chased runners around while filing stories from the Boston and New York City marathons. I spent six weeks in San Diego following the America’s Cup once, and got seasick another time while reporting from a fishing tournament in the Bahamas.

About seven years ago, I began saving press credentials from sporting events. Dozens hang from a wooden frame in my bedroom. Why I did not think about keeping them as souvenirs before that I cannot tell you. I can look at each and recall details. That 2015 game in Dallas where Connor McDavid scored his first NHL goal. That heartbreaking night in Edmonton in 2016 when the Oilers blew a three-goal lead and lost in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. That day Andre De Grasse ran a sub-10-second 100-metre dash at the 2018 Canadian athletics championships.

Of all of the passes I have retained, there is one that stands out, not for the significance of the event but for the series of curious incidents that unfolded.

The 2012 World Cup of Women’s Baseball began benignly. I wrote a feature around Betty Carveth Dunn, an 87-year-old Edmonton woman who pitched in 1943 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. In the film A League of Their Own, Geena Davis played a character based on her. Carveth Dunn, who died in January of 2019, was invited to throw out the first pitch.

Things were uneventful for the first few days. The calibre of play was surprisingly good and the fans were fun. Aussies wandered about carrying inflatable kangaroos and yelled “Oi Oi Oi.” Spectators from Japan clapped homemade thundersticks. Venezuelans created a happy racket.

Then one Cuban player defected, and then another, and another and another. They disappeared overnight from the residence hall at the University of Alberta where players from all eight teams stayed. One crossed the border into the United States, the other three went into hiding in Edmonton.

Fidel Castro was so annoyed that he called the tournament director, Ron Hayter, at the ball field and screamed in the phone at him.

“He was hostile,” Hayter told me at the time. He has also since passed away. “He called me the scum of the Earth.”

The Cuban president accused Hayter of aiding in the defections.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, I have no idea how they escaped, and we did nothing to encourage it.’ I told him we did not keep any teams under lock and key.”

A week later, I was at Immigration and Citizenship Canada in Edmonton on a personal matter. While there, I noticed two young women waiting for an appointment. I asked where they were from.

“Cuba,” came the response. Then one raised her left arm and made a pitching motion.

Marty Klinkenberg


THE GREATEST SCAM GOING

2014 WORLD CUP, BRAZIL
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Cathal Kelly's 2014 World Cup media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Shortly before being sent off on my first sports assignment, an editor told me, “Make sure you keep on top of your expenses.”

Expenses?

“Yes, expenses. Receipts.”

Receipts for what?

“Everything. Food. Cabs. Newspapers. Whatever you buy, keep your receipts. They won’t pay you without them.”

Wait. They pay me to watch sports and they pay for everything I do while I’m watching them?

“I know,” said the editor and he honest-to-God winked at me. “This is the greatest scam going.”

That felt pretty good.

About a year later, the paper stopped paying our bar tabs and I railed against the injustice of it all. Cynicism had got hold of me fast.

After another little while, other things I thought would forever move me about this job also begin to fade – talking to famous people or travelling to foreign places.

You can only stay at so many Marriotts – and I love the Marriott corporation more than is seemly – before they all seem the same.

One thing never did lose its shine.

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Cathal Kelly was fortunate to be in the stadium for the World Cup opening match in 2014, yes, but a more authentic viewing experience later in the tournament made a greater impression.The Associated Press

It was those occasional evenings when you find yourself in an arena somewhere just before the whistle goes and realize, “Everyone on the planet is watching this on television, but I am here.”

That feeling was particularly strong in the moments before the start of the inaugural game of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil versus Croatia. I was sitting in seats no amount of money could buy you. I took a picture to remind myself of my good fortune.

Days later, a few of us went to watch another Brazil game at a bar in one of Rio’s suburban favelas. The bar had only three walls. It was so small the only thing they could fit inside it was a table and a TV.

About a dozen of us sat on plastic chairs in the adjacent alleyway, yelling at the TV. Every once in a while, a car would roll by. Everyone would pick up their seats and move into a puddle so it could squeeze by.

A bunch of Rio children – maybe 7 or 8 years old and fearless – took a proprietary interest in us. They’d sidle up every now and then, hands clasped behind their backs like pensioners, to explain in Portuguese what was going on. We had no idea what they were saying.

Someone bought us a round. We weren’t sure who. A goal was scored and the whole neighbourhood erupted.

And far more strongly than on the first night, I thought to myself, “This is the greatest scam going.”

Cathal Kelly


THE BAT FLIP

GAME 5, 2015 ALDS, TORONTO BLUE JAYS V. TEXAS RANGERS, TORONTO
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Jamie Ross's 2015 ALDS media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

As the lowest-ranking member of the MLB.com editorial team, I got the boot from my usual seat in the main press box at Rogers Centre when my company’s hotshot veterans flew in to cover the Blue Jays-Rangers American League Division Series.

I was reassigned to the auxiliary press box, located below the 500 level down the left-field line, with the rest of the scrubs – mostly local TV and radio reporters who were parachuted in to cover baseball for the first time that season. I’d sat in seat 42 in the main box at every Jays home game for two seasons, and suddenly I was getting tossed out? No chance.

I perused the seating chart and looked for possible vacancies or absentees or double assignments or just-enough-room-to-squeeze-next-to-somebody with a cafeteria chair. Anything to keep me with the rest of the real baseball writers. Nothing.

I complained to counterparts on the Jays beat over dinner. One reporter from the Toronto Star spoke up and said the seat next to his (one of the six reserved for the Star that series) was vacant and I was welcome to it.

From that spot in the second row of the 100-seat press box I witnessed one of the strangest and most emotionally exhausting innings of baseball yet played: the now-famous seventh inning.

Everyone remembers Jose Bautista’s three-run homer and accompanying bat flip in the bottom of the seventh, sealing the Jays’ 6-3 win. But what stands out in my mind is the chaos that preceded it.

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Half an inning before the bat flip, when it looked like an umpire's ruling might cost the home team the game, a few unruly Blue Jays fans participated in the can toss.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Top of the seventh, with a Texas runner on third, game tied 2-2, Toronto catcher Russell Martin did what he’d done probably hundreds of times a day throughout his career: he received a pitch and tossed it back to the pitcher on the mound. This time, though, as it left Martin’s hand, the ball deflected off the hitter’s bat and squirted up the baseline. The runner on third scored, putting the Rangers up one, but no one thought it would count. The ump called the play dead.

After what seemed like an eternity (it was only a few minutes) on the phone with head office for a rules check, the umps returned a new verdict. The ball was very much alive and the run counted. That made it 3-2 Rangers.

On a dime, a buoyant playoff atmosphere turned into brooding silence. As reality sunk in, that silence turned to a very loud anger. Fans starting shouting and seconds later beer cans, some full, began raining down on the field. The police trotted out onto the artificial turf and lined the warning track. The whole thing felt like a G20 protest. There was a real sense that if the Jays lost on such a bizarre call, the fans would riot in the streets.

Luckily, because of Bautista, and several untimely errors from the Rangers shortstop, that didn’t happen. Everyone went home in one piece, and I got to witness the gamut of emotions felt by a playoff-starved fan base, whose 20-plus years of disappointment almost erupted in a furious rage.

Jamie Ross


CHAMPIONS

GAME 6, 2019 NBA FINALS, TORONTO RAPTORS V. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, OAKLAND, CALIF.
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Rachel Brady's 2019 NBA Finals media credentials.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Raptors’ historic championship run spanned 62 all-consuming days. It floods back to me now like a movie montage – a blur of dramatic baskets and euphoric fans, crowded news conferences, stadiums and practice gyms, airports, hotels and sports bars across Toronto, Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Oakland.

Around Day 60 of the exhilarating marathon, I pondered aloud to a fellow sportswriter: How have Golden State reporters found the stamina to cover this odyssey five years in a row?

At the NBA Finals, I was one of a thousand accredited members of the media. Toronto had become the epicentre of the NBA, and Kawhi Leonard its most fascinating person.

Watching celebrities brush past us in the back hallways of the two arenas became commonplace during the Finals, from Stephen Curry to Barack Obama, Wayne Gretzky to Shawn Mendes, Rory McIlroy and Shaquille O’Neal. Arriving to those games ridiculously early, we found Metallica rehearsing The Star-Spangled Banner and Sarah McLachlan sound checking for O Canada.

I recognized the privilege of my vantage point. I captured video of Raptors fans in Oakland, singing and waving Canadian flags after the Game 3 win. I watched the blood spill from Fred VanVleet’s face in Game 4, and two days later I stood close enough to count the stitches on his face and ask him about his broken teeth.

In the closing seconds of Game 5 in Toronto, I sat in my 100-level media seat juggling two different narratives: ‘Raptors win historic championship at home,’ or ‘Warriors force series back to Oakland.’ I was prepared to cover a champagne celebration that night. I packed a raincoat.

Kyle Lowry attempted a trophy-winning shot, but Draymond Green got a fingertip on it, steered it off course and extended the series. We rapidly booked hotels and flights, then flew back to California the next day. I forgot to pack that raincoat. Perhaps I could not imagine the reigning NBA champs losing their final game at Oracle Arena.

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As Curry missed his season-saving three-point attempt with eight seconds left in Game 6, a fan in the section above the media row tossed nachos in the air, and the cup of gooey cheese catapulted onto our table. Several writers wiped the sticky orange goo from our faces, hair and laptop screens as we hurried to file our stories.

Backstage at Oracle, an enormous crowd of anxious media packed the hallway waiting to enter to Raptors locker room. An NBA staffer hollered out for Toronto beat reporters, then ushered our small group through the pack for first access to the new champions.

You could hardly move inside the congested locker room. The floor filled with empty champagne bottles, as the jubilant Raptors, families and staff hugged and shouted amidst the sprays of bubbly. The Raptors had just slayed giants.

Very late that night, a Globe and Mail editor back in Toronto texted me a photo of the poster front page of the newspaper. It had a triumphant Kawhi Leonard below the headline CHAMPIONS.

It was worth keeping.

Rachel Brady

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