George Solomon: Memories From My Little Red Book

By Sports Week George Solomon
Sunday, December 28, 2008

William Gildea, who for 40 years wrote beautiful stories for The Washington Post before retiring three years ago, would keep his important phone numbers on little scraps of paper stuffed in his pockets. Somehow he could always get his hands on the phone numbers he needed.

My system for keeping important phone numbers was more advanced than Gildea's. It was a tattered red address book. I had three of them in my 36 1/2 years at The Post, the last one held together the past 12 years with a rubber band.

No Palm Pilots, BlackBerries or iPhones for us.

On Thursday, I join Gildea and too many other newspaper people more talented than I in the ranks of Washington Post alumni after a 5 1/2 -year stint as your Sunday sports columnist that followed a 28-year marathon as the sports editor of this great newspaper.

Writing a "man about town" sports column that appeared on the same day as Shirley Povich's weekly notes column ("To Whom It May Concern") once ran in this newspaper was an honor and privilege. But it's time to move on, as changes in this newspaper and the business in general demand. If that includes something else in this space next Sunday, so be it.

There will be no tears from me today. I had too much fun for too many years for that. And worked with too many terrific people. Instead, I'm pleased to share with you some of the people (and memories) listed in that red address book.

Red Auerbach: The late coach and president of the Boston Celtics who won nine NBA titles as a coach and another seven as the team's president and general manager. In my view, the greatest basketball coach and executive in the history of the NBA, running the most storied team in the league for 29 years. A graduate of George Washington University and D.C. resident even when running the Celtics, he hosted a weekly lunch in town for years with friends that continues in his memory. He died two years ago at age 89. In the Jewish tradition, relatives and friends shoveled dirt onto his casket as it was lowered into the ground at the cemetery. Except former Celtic Paul Silas, who said: "I won't be throwing dirt on Red Auerbach."

Dr. Charles Abrams: Prominent Washington internist charged with keeping me alive. A medical genius.

Ben Bradlee: Former executive editor of The Washington Post who was my boss from 1972 to 1991. Wonderful leader, unless you got beat by the other paper in town or got the story wrong. Had a habit of marking the other paper's scoop with a red question mark and the words: "What's this?" If Clinton Portis had called Bradlee a "genius" -- as he called Redskins Coach Jim Zorn several weeks ago -- he'd have been right.

John Ed Bradley: Best former college football player (LSU) ever to write sports for The Post. One of my more ridiculous overkills as sports editor was assigning Bradley do a first-person account of trying out for the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983 while the team was being covered daily for The Post by David Remnick. Remnick went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in the Soviet Union and is now the editor of the New Yorker. Bradley has written numerous novels, worked for most of the major magazines and his memoir, "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium," was rated by Sports Illustrated as among the two best sports books of 2007. I, on the other hand, have spent three Fridays this month monitoring WTEM's "Inside the Red Zone," hosted by Vinny Cerrato.

James Carville: Political pundit, college football expert, LSU fanatic.

Charley Casserly: CBS analyst and former Redskins GM who began his career working as an unpaid intern for George Allen while sleeping in his car.

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