A few years ago I sat on top of a convertible in the Grosse Pointe South High School home coming parade.
I never attended South High School. I never taught there. However, as a young sports writer I wrote about the accomplishment’s of South girls tennis team which won a then record 11 consecutive state titles from 1976 to 1986.
The school honored the women for their accomplishments. They dug up some of my articles and invited me to the parade and a pre game reception. They insisted that I ride along with them in the parade because I remained a part of their history. I accepted although I felt funny about it.
I did not coach them to victory. I did not hit one cross court winner for them. But I helped preserve memories and it meant a lot to them.
I began my Detroit sports writing career as a prep writer for The Detroit Free Press. The Freep produced weekly sections in Western Wayne County, Oakland County and in the Eastern suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Harper Woods and Macomb County.
I served as sports editor of the east side edition and they were some of the most enjoyable days of my career. Covering preps is the only time athletes are happy to see you. The other day I connected with Anne E Macintyre, who was a stand out in basketball, volleyball and tennis at Warren Cousino.
“When you came to our games it was a really big deal,” she wrote. “You were 7-foot tall. You are still 7 foot tall in my eyes.”
Those days were special. It allowed me to get my feet wet as a sports writer. It provided me the base to become the Detroit Pistons beat writer during the Bad Boys era and later a columnist with The Detroit News. Former Free Press publisher Neal Shine wrote a column on me and the athletes I covered about how we were breaking down racial barriers in mostly white Macomb County.
I did not view myself as a trailblazer or a hero. I was just having fun and doing my job.
I wrote about Aaron Krickstein who became a world ranked professional tennis player, Derrick Stevenson who now owns the D Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas and Kim Grodus who quarterbacked the Detroit Demolition to a national women’s football championship.
We had a satellite office in Mt. Clemens across from the high school. It was a small nine person staff that fed the Thursday weekly and the main paper if the story was big enough. My Friday nights were booked covering football games at Sterling Heights Stevenson, Warren De LaSalle, Grosse Pointe North and Utica Ford among other places.
I wrote the most important column of my life because my words may have saved a life. After my column on teenage suicide was published I was approached by a girl during a career day at Macomb Community College. She said she had problems in her life, but after reading the column decided to give life another chance.
Goose bumps ran up and down my body. And I always wondered what happened to her.
My first stories were on 6-foot-8 forward Bonner Upshaw who played at Mt. Clemens and 6-4 guard Jeff McCool (Sterling Heights Stevenson). I was pleasantly surprised to see Upshaw in a Trion Solutions television commercial. He is the founder and CEO of the company.
As a 7-foot tall sports writer this was a fun and rewarding time of my life. I met new people, saw exciting games and was even humbled and a little embarrassed to hear my name chanted at De LaSalle football games and South basketball games.
I enjoyed conversations with legendary football coaches Rick Bye (Sterling Heights Stevenson), Bob Lantzy (Utica Eisenhower) and John Maronto ( De LaSalle) who left the school to become head football coach at Massillion (Ohio) High School.
Maronto played a part in one of my most embarrassing moments. De LaSalle beat rival Birmingham Brother Rice in a big Friday night game. I covered the game for the Saturday Free Press. John’s daughters were dancing in the middle of the field and ran over to give me a big hug.
I told them I had to act impartial because I am a journalist. I cannot show favorites.
“Yeah,” Monica Maronto said. “But you know deep down you are happy for us.”
I was. But this 7-foot sports writer could not show it.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: