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RIP Barry Lorge

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by mpcincal, Jun 7, 2008.

  1. mpcincal

    mpcincal Well-Known Member

    Sports editor at the San Diego Union before it merged with the Tribune, and writer for the Washington Post before that, dies of cancer at age 60.


    I started working at the newly-merged U-T as a college student part-timer shortly after he left, with a lot of people who had worked with him before. I only met him once a couple years later for about five minutes.

    Wondering if some on this board had dealt with him, and if so, their thoughts. I did notice in the obit that Dave Kindred and Len Shapiro had good things to say about him.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    RIP, Barry. I wish I could find something he wrote about Arthur Ashe or Billie Jean King, but from what I can see it's all pay-per-view on archives. Here's a pretty good one that he wrote for ESPN.com, though, which demonstrates not only thoroughness but an ability to change his mind about someone:

  3. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Got to love this. He

    co-authored the section on tennis in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Sad, younger than I would have thought. I remember him from the Post. RIP
  5. Dave Kindred

    Dave Kindred Member

    I don't have many heroes, but Barry is one of them. He did the impossible. He was as fine a journalist as he was a husband, father, and friend.
    At the graveside, the local sports anchor, Bear's friend and neighbor Jim Laslavic, spoke through tears about "the gentle giant" he had known and read an e-mail from Bud Collins, working at the French Open. Barry's daughter, Katie, read a note from Billie Jean King and then read a list she called "Everything I know I learned from my Dad." Number 6 on her list was, "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
    Afterwards, maybe 300 San Diegans came to a reception honoring Bear at San Diego's Hall of Champions. I can quote one of the reception's speech verbatim, or at least I can quote it as I wrote it ....

    As you will hear, I was asked by Barry to talk about Claudia, and I will. But first, the Bear and deadlines....

    Barry was famous for deadlines. He loved the sound they made as they flew by.

    He delivered flawless reports written gracefully. It's just that he delivered them some few minutes that sometime became hours after the editors had asked them to be delivered. It wasn't that he was a slacker or a slow writer. He was meticulous. Now, meticulous is not a word ordinarily attached to reporters on deadline. Most of us perform as if our hair is on fire. Barry conducted symphonies. From Moscow, with a 9-hour time differential, he missed deadlines in Washington, D.C.

    As Biillie Jean King noted in a photograph she signed in appreciation for Bear having done a piece of work for her magazine: "Dear Bear," she wrote, "As usual, the story was late, but it was great."

    That, he did. It was always worth the wait because Barry was a great journalist. He was a brilliant thinker, dogged investigator, passionate writer, and an honest man of principle beyond question.

    On July 15 a year ago, we walked from Barry and Claudia's house on B Avenue to the corner. There, in the bright sunlight, he said, "A year ago, I thought death was imminent in a few months. The doctors told me the survival rate for the cancer I have is 5 percent past 20 months. I'm now in the 18th month, so I'm beating that 5 percent number."

    Instead of dying in six months,or even 20 months, Bear went 29 months. So he blew that deadline, too -- and by a year!

    Barry is the only person I ever knew who remembered where he'd been by what he ate there.

    I started to write a sentence here and stopped to look up a couple words. So I can now say that a "gourmet" is a person who likes food. A "gourmand" is a person who REALLY likes food. At all stages in his wonderful life, Barry was a gourmet on the verge of being a gourmand.

    He'd go to Europe every summer, to the French Open tennis, on to Wimbledon and the British Open. His reporting and writing were, of course, impeccable. He also filed what the editors called a "Post Card from Paris" or "Post Card from Wimbledon." These post cards were little sidebars, meant to be interesting facts that fit nowhere else in the reporting. Barry's post cards, it seemed, were always about food. Souffles here, strawberries and cream there, pastries at midnight by the Eiffel Tower.

    Just reading them, I gained 10 pounds on every one of Barry's trips.

    After one such trip, he suggested to The Washington Post that he become a permanent correspondent based in Europe. Think, he said, of all the money the newspaper would save by not having to send reporters across the Atlantic. Ben Bradlee, then the boss, listened respectfully and said, "Sorry, Barry. I don't believe we need a truffles editor."

    He, too, had read the post cards.

    "The most elegant rejection I ever received," Barry would call that, and when I repeated that to Bradlee this spring, Ben said, "Tell Barry to hang tough."

    That, he did. One week I asked if there were any concern about infection with the implantation of a morphine-drip. "No," Barry said, "my bloodwork's fine." Then he laughed. "Except for incurable cancer, I'm healthy." And he laughed again when he said, "I'm just kind of a zombie -- with a backache."


    Barry is the only person who rose in my estimation every time I was around him. And I was around him for 30 years.

    We were together at Wimbledons, Super Bowls, World Series, Masters, U.S. Opens -- the first time I saw Katie was in Perth, Australia, where Barry and Claudia had taken their 3-month-old daughter to her first America's Cup.

    We played tennis one day atop an eight-story building in Denver. Barry won and always claimed to be undefeated when playing at 5,360 feet above sea level.

    He taught me Wimbldeon. The first time I was there, we went to the practice ground to watch the players warm up. I saw a giant of a player and indicated the man to Bear. Reading a name on the back of the man's shirt, I figured that's who it was. So I asked Bear, "Where's Sergio Tecchini from?" Barry looked at me with that rosy-cheeked smile indicating his amused tolerance of a rookie. "Sergio Tecchni is a clothing designer," he said. "The man inside the clothes is Chip Hooper."

    In the players' tea room, we once watched John McEnroe, 18 years old, eat strawberries and cream. Or, as Barry wrote, "McEnroe partook of the traditional strawberries and cream without partaking of the traditional spoon." He picked up the berries with his hands and tipped the bowl up to drink the cream. "At 18," Barry decided, "McEnroe has an immaturity beyond his years."

    It was at Wimbledon, too, that I learned how little I knew about double-rainbows. We stood in the press room after one stormy afternoon. A double-rainbow appeared and I said, "Look at that! I've never seen one of those before!" Barry said, "You should see them in the south of France!" Well. Being Barry, being the world's sweetest, kindest, gentlest man, he immediately felt bad one one-upping the kid from central Illinois. He apologized on that spot that day. That was 1981. July of last summer, he was still apologizing.


    On that July day last summer, he had decided to fight. And fight he did. He told me, "I hope a memorial service is some distance in the future. But the time will come. And I'd like you to be a speaker and give Claudia her due."

    Let me say here, few speakers ever have been asked to do a more difficult thing. Giving Claudia her due, I say, is impossible. For 35 years, she has been at Barry's side in every sense of the phrase. At his side physically, psychologically, spiritually. She was kind of a living double-rainbow, always there to remind us of beauty.

    You should know, by the way, that Barry often was so possessed by his work that he forgot the small details of daily living., But you should also know that he never took a step for 35 years without having Claudia there to tell him, "No, no, Bear, that's not our car. Our car is white, remember?"

    On that July day, as I sat with Barry on a couch in his living room, he said, "Claudia has been so patient, senstive, attentive, caring." He spoke in that soft whisper of his. "I hope I could have done the same for her," he said. "But I don't know that I could have."

    I know, and I think everyone here knows, that he could have and would have. As I said earlier, Barry is the only person I know who rose in my estimation every time I was with him. The first time he moved up was when I read a feature he had written on a voodoo doctor who fixed Lew Hoad's forearm by reaching inside and pulling out a demon. The next time Bear rose in my eyes, and this was more memorable and meaningful by far, happened in 1978. Barry came into the office with his girl friend, a tall, striking, vivacious woman whose name was Claudia Haines.

    They were soon married and in the years since, without fail, I have never been in Barry and Claudia's presence without feeling fabulous about the world. There is in Claudia's voice, at all times, happy. Just two days ago, I spoke with another old sportswriter's wife, Susan Littwin, whose husband, Mike, and daughter, Angie, also traveled to Wimbledon.. Susan said, "When Angie was 8 years old and did nothing but talk talk talk, Claudia was so patient with her. Claudia is noble."


    I last spoke with Barry three weeks ago in the San Diego hospice. His thoughts were for Claudia, Joseph, and Katie. He had told me that Joseph is such a master of the mandolin that, like Ted Williams selecting the finest ash for his bats, Joseph now can tell you which woods make the sweetest mandolin music. Bear was amazed by that, as he was every time he saw Katie dance or heard her dreams of a future in the world of dance she had come to love.

    Bear wanted to go knowing he had helped create for Claudia, Katie, and Joseph the life they deserved.

    That, he did.

    Somewhere, every day is a double-rainbow day, and the deadline is always a day after you've filed your story.

    There, Bear will be the truffles editor forever.
  6. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    beautiful, dave. just beautiful. thanks so much for sharing. :( 8) :D
  7. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Member

    Outstanding, Dave.
  8. bob

    bob Member

    I hope my memory isn't failing me, but 30, 32 years ago, somewhere around then, Barry was working for the Commercial Union tennis tour (or something like that) when I was a young writer covering tennis at a thriving suburban paper. He asked me if I'd be interested in doing this kind of work, traveling around the country, the world, helping coordinate media coverage. I told him I'd just gotten married and it wasn't for me. Now I work for a piece-o-crap paper--the same paper--that's dying a slow death. Wish I'd taken him up on that offer.
    Although I hadn't seen him in eons, I remember Barry as being a great guy.
  9. Jesus_Muscatel

    Jesus_Muscatel Active Member

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Barry's family and friends.

    His kid brother, Brian, was the manager of my HS football team. And a good guy.
  10. ink-stained wretch

    ink-stained wretch Active Member

    We all should be so blessed.
  11. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I only met him a couple of times when I lived out there, and he was always kind to me. The deadline thing was legendary.
  12. Tim Sullivan

    Tim Sullivan Member

    In reading Dave Kindred's elegant eulogy for Barry Lorge, I was reminded of the closing line of John Milton's sonnet on Shakespeare: "Kings, for such a tomb, would wish to die." May we all be remembered so fondly, and by poets.
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