* Jay Greenberg, former Toronto Sun columnist, wins the Elmer Ferguson Memorial award for excellence in journalism. ....
By Bob Elliott
Covering the Montreal Expos in the 1980s as a green ball scribe impressions were formed quickly about National League cities:
Cincinnati was mixed up with a hotel lobby on the seventh floor. Pittsburgh was easy going since 100 Wood St. allowed you in after hours if you showed your BBWAA card. Philadelphia was a media mecca with four daily papers with great reads like Mark Whicker, Bill Lyon, Gene Collier, John Schulian, Stan Hochman and Jay Greenberg.
Greenberg covered and wrote hockey like a Canadian.
Years later I asked his secret. His secret wasn’t really a secret at all: he worked hard.
For home games, he didn’t leave the Spectrum until the last Flyer had flown. He’d head home, watch a taped replay and then and only then would he sit down to write.
That was the beauty of writing for an afternoon paper with a 6 AM deadline. As Flyer defenceman Glen Cochrane once told him “you’re always hanging around, looking for facts”
Greenberg could crank it out on deadline too: at the Kansas City Star, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News. Then came general sports column gigs with the Toronto Sun and New York Post.
His wonderful prose, vocabulary, story-telling ability and humour were reasons he was honoured by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at a Monday luncheon in Toronto. Greenberg received the Elmer Ferguson Memorial award for excellence in journalism. Broadcaster Harry Neale won the Foster Hewitt Memorial award.
“I never had a problem with an off-day story or a feature, but game stories were always tough,” said Hall of Fame scribe Frank Orr (we read Orr, he was being self-deprecating), “Two guys I loved to read with a knack for writing a gamer were Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe on the Celtics and Jay on hockey.
“Jay had a great touch.”
Wayne Parrish, Mike Simpson and Scotty Morrison brought Greenberg to the Sun in 1992.
“His two passions were writing and eating, some nights you’d see him do both over his laptop as deadline approached,” said Hall of Famer Morrison, now of Sportsnet. “You didn’t know if he was rushing to make deadline or eat again. When we hired him, no one said ‘why hire that guy?’”
Some writers hit subjects over the head with a sledge hammer. Greenberg inflicted tiny paper cuts.
Covering the Broad St. Bullies for 14 years he had good relationships with Tim Kerr, Paul Holmgren and Mark Howe. Mel Bridgman was on the other side of the ledger.
His latest book “Gordie Howe’s Son: A Hall of Fame Life in the Shadow of Mr. Hockey” (co-authored by Mark Howe) is on sale.
The late Fred Shero was inducted into the Hall of Fame Monday night. Plenty of ex-Flyers were on hand. Almost as many came to listen to Greenberg:
Billy Barber, Bobby Clarke, Gary Dornhoefer, Bob Kelly, Orest Kindrachuk, Reggie Leach, Ross Lonsberry, Bernie Parent, Don Saleski, Jimmy Watson, Larry Goodenough and others.
Greenberg’s wife Mona, their two daughters, both Princeton grads, Stephanie, who teaches in Millburn, N.J. and Elizabeth, a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant, were in the crowd.
Greenberg documented Central Red Army picking up its puck and attempting to go home in 1976, the Flyers losing to Bryan Trottier’s New York Islanders in the 1980 Stanley Cup final and again five years later to Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers.
He had 488 bylines in the Sun. The most memorable pieces for me were his trip to San Antonio when the city was given a CFL franchise as he discovered tongue-in-cheek that Texans yelled “Remember the Alomar!” gaining independence from Mexico; his Churchill Bowl column between Queen’s and Guelph (Moo U) and Paul Molitor and his daughter Blaire explaining Joe Carter’s walk off homer half an hour after Game 6.
It was so good Molitor phoned Greenberg at home to tell him so.
Jay was here for the 1992-93 Blue Jays seasons.
Zero championships before.
As planning for 2014 season continues at 1 Blue Jays Way, president Paul Beeston, a former member of Sun board member, should see a pattern.
Red rover, red rover.
Let Jay come over.