My First Mentor

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I started reading the Sports Pages when I was able to read, and my heroes were not only the athletes I read about, but also the newspaper reporters who wrote about them. One of my favorites was Corky Lamm of The Indianapolis News. Corky not only wrote about the sports stars, he drew caricatures of them as well. When I wrote a sports column for The Shortridge Daily Echo , Miss Jean Grubb, the faculty sponsor, gave me the chance to be our high school’s correspondent for The News and Star. I was thrilled to know that my first “boss” would be Corky Lamm. My job was to call in scores of games when he couldn’t be there, but even better, I got to be his assistant when he came to a game at our school’s field or gym. During football games at Shortridge, I got to run up and down the sidelines with Corky, carrying a clipboard and paper and writing down the yards made or lost on the plays and who the players were. I felt “official,” like a kind of junior Pro.

Corky took the time to talk with me before and after games, and let me ask questions about his craft, and what it was like to be a sportswriter. As I got to know him, I felt comfortable asking him about more than sports writing. In those days I felt awkward with my father, and didn’t feel I could easily talk with him about “life” – but I felt I could ask Corky anything. I realized later he in fact was kind of an “adopted father” and sometimes he invited me to his house and I met his wife Martha and his two sons.

In those teenage years I felt “scared and scarred” (a bad case of the teenage acne curse) and knowing I was accepted and befriended by a man like Corky was a real blessing. He inspired me to learn more about the business (I thought I might someday be a sportswriter) and I read books about it. Once he told me of his own frustrations with the sports editor, who assigned himself to go to a game that Corky had hoped to cover.

“But I thought the sports editor was supposed to run the office,” I said, “and assign the reporters to go to the games.”

At that moment Corky was driving me home from a game and he slapped his hand on the steering wheel and said “Out of the mouths of babes!”

I was not bothered by being cast as a kid, I was proud that I had said something Corky thought was true, and it pleased him. Those moments stay with you – moments that meant you were accepted by someone you admired and stood out as a kind of marker or signpost in your growing. That’s what mentors can do for you – help you grow and give you confidence. No matter how old I get to be (and I am already older than I ever imagined I would be) I will always be grateful to Corky – and I will always remember that moment.

2 Responses to My First Mentor

  1. Peggy Payne October 3, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    And long may you keep on getting older!

  2. April Smith October 3, 2018 at 2:55 pm #

    Dan knows something about being a mentor. He was and is a genuine and steadfast mentor to me not only about the writing life but as he says, “life.” Since meeting Dan on opening day of The Boston Phoenix in 1968 (I think) to our most recent phone calls he’s been an anchor in the professional storm and my dearest and longest friend second only to Janice, who I met at Camp Chipinaw when I was nine. All of which is to say he’s the Real Deal so listen up, babe, and thank the stars for the chance.

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield