As the resident "ink-stained wretch" of the card blog world, it's my duty to note history as it pertains to newspapers from time to time.
Today, I find myself walking through the newspaper morgue, which is not where they stash the dead bodies of old newspaper men, it is the name for any reference room at a newspaper, where clip files are stored, digital reference computers, reference books, etc.
One thing you might find there, if a newspaper has proper respect for the sports section of its paper (so few do), is a copy of the final edition of The National.
The National died on this exact day 30 years ago. I have the final copy, sent to me by a generous reader a few years ago.
This paper was momentous at the time of its release, for sports fans but especially for sports journalists like myself. I was just starting out in the business at the time of its debut in January 1990 and to see something like this -- a daily publication dedicated to nothing but sports -- was exciting and gave me enthusiasm for the job.
My co-worker, Kerby, and I would walk across the street from our office, as often as we could, to the gas station/convenience store where The National was sold. The tabloid-style newspaper was so complete, covering just about every sport with the most acclaimed sports journalists, that we couldn't possibly read everything in it, especially with our busy jobs in the sports bureau. Often, I would take it home with the hope of reading it there. Then another 50-page one would come out the next day and, man, so much good stuff!
The big story in the final publication (besides that the newspaper was going under) was the Chicago Bulls winning their first NBA title. That's how long ago this was, the Bulls hadn't won a championship yet.
The last edition also featured a 20-page pull-out of the 1991 U.S. Open that was about to kick off at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota. The National covered the hell out of every sports event, super in-depth, written extremely well, reported extremely well, just something we'll never see again.
I admit, I was mostly interested in the baseball portion of the publication. Stuff like this was in every edition and just fascinating to read. It reminded me of The Sporting News -- except it came out EVERY DAY.
Some of the big news from June 13, 1991 with the famous photo of Dave Dravecky immediately after he broke his arm making a pitch. There is a story above these two in which MLB officially approves Denver and Miami as expansion cities although everyone is bickering about money, of course.
The main story of this publication though is the demise of The National. It was too good to be true, we always knew, even as we read it every day in 1990 and 1991, and this confirmed it.
The final edition is filled with self-congratulatory columns about the venture, which I admit are a bit tough for me to read. As a journalist myself, I wince a bit over people in the media congratulating themselves for what they do for the public. I know I shouldn't be so mortified, and my attitude is the reason why so many people don't understand the importance of a free press -- we failed for so long to promote our profession. But sometimes some journalists can lay on the self-righteousness a little thick (I will note that it's not nearly as thick or pervasive as the back-patting that I see from teachers almost every day on Facebook).
There were several pictures of the "behind the scenes" editors that made up The National at the time. I was surprised to see the name "Al Vieira" mentioned in a caption. I worked with him 25 years after he worked for The National. One of those well-traveled and typically crusty newsmen, Al was much older when I met him and he soon left us, basically got sick of the gig and retired (although I'll always be proud of a newsroom act of mine that made him come up to me and say that he hadn't heard anything like that since the old newsroom days).
Here is a look at all of The National's debut covers as it rolled out its first publications to various metropolitan areas of the country (I'm still surprised we could find a copy of it in our tiny po-dunk town).
The National was a dream realized for many sports fans. Ever since USA Today's debut in 1982, probably even before, sports followers wondered what it would be like -- and wouldn't it be nice? -- to have a daily publication of nothing but sports.
Unfortunately, the cost of business was too much. The early '90s was not a strong economic period and the lack of advertising killed the paper (as it has so many others before and since). The National raised the price from 50 cents to 75 cents and that finished them off (to this day I can't figure out why people complain about the cost of a newspaper when it is cheaper than just about anything else that people buy).
I really miss it, which is why I'll always hang on to the "first and last" copies that I have.
But for those of you only interested in cards, I have another newspaper-themed anniversary for you.
I finally put up my want list for the Dodgers portion of the 1961 Nu-Cards Baseball Scoops set!
Out of the many newspaper-themed sets over the years, this is probably the one that stands out the most and I've pretty much ignored it for whatever reason.
I mean it has everything that I love, the newspaper look, the banner headlines, the moment-in-time celebrations, the history. And it all came out 60 years ago.
Look, the cards even yellow like old newspapers!
Wonderful stuff. And I have only three more of the Dodgers cards to get. I should throw them on my Nebulous 9 list.
So that's me walking through the newspaper morgue, digging up some memories from the old clippings of the past.
Like every newspaper, my newspaper struggles when compared with the past. When I think of how things used to be, I'm blown away about how good we had it. But I will always be proud of the role the media has had in sports and how the reason we know so much about those players and teams is thanks to newspapers and magazines and all those internet sites that we read now.
Yay for information. May it never go away.