07/18/2002 11:36 pm ET
About Joe Falls ...
The man who became the written word of the Detroit sports scene grew up immersed in New York sports.
Joe Falls was born and raised a New Yorker. He grew up in Long Island and went to school in lower Manhattan where his father was a police officer. He was a self-professed sports junkie whose grades suffered. He needed bookkeeping and typing classes for extra credit to graduate.
He entered the working world in the mailroom of an insurance company but found his calling when his friends starting getting free hockey tickets working for United Press. He answered a help-wanted ad and joined The Associated Press as a mail boy. When he finally had a chance to deliver to the newsroom, he was so taken he asked for a transfer.
After making an impression on the copy desk, the AP created the title of Sports Clerk so he could edit and write regularly without angering the office union.
He never wandered outside New York until 1953, when AP transferred him from the low end of its 17-man sports staff to become its lead man in Detroit, where he could learn his trade faster. "I did a dirty trick to my boss," Falls said. "I loved it so much in Detroit that I never came back."
Falls covered all sports in Detroit and through much of Michigan for AP until he took on the Tigers full-time for the Detroit Times in the 1956. He spent five years on the Tigers beat for the Times and five more for the Free Press before becoming a Free Press columnist and later sports editor. He joined the Detroit News in 1978. He also served as a baseball columnist for The Sporting News.
Technically, he entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 -- as a scorekeeper. He scored a 22-inning, seven-hour game between the Tigers and Yankees that set a short-lived record for longest game in Major League history.
Though Falls wrote some of his best columns at such events as the Olympics, Boston Marathon, Kentucky Derby, Indy 500 and golf tournaments, he wrote more often on baseball and always held a special fondness. He covered World Championship Tiger teams in 1968 and 1984. He has authored three books on the Tigers as well as biographies on Bo Schembechler and Chuck Daly.
Falls, 74, lives on the outskirts of Detroit and frequently makes his way to Comerica Park to cover his Tigers.
-- Jason Beck