Tuesday, November 22, 2016

RIP Joe Resnick

What a sad irony that on the day my play about baseball journalists closed in Los Angeles, one of the deans of the LA sportswriter scene, Joe Resnick, passed away from cancer. He was 62.

Newspaper reports of his death list his lengthy resume. For over three decades he covered the Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Ducks, UCLA, USC, the Olympics, Hollywood Park, and probably cricket tournaments somewhere. For all the words I’ve typed out over the years, he probably cranked out ten times more.

He wrote for the Associated Press but also freelanced for Fox Sports and many of the major newspapers around the country. If you ever read a sports section anywhere and there was an LA byline, chances are you’ve read Joe Resnick.

And yet, you probably have never heard of him. Such is the nature of working for AP. You don’t go on to become a columnist with a large following. You don’t get invited to be on ESPN daytime talkpaloozas. You don’t get your own show on HBO. You work in relative obscurity.

But for Joe Resnick, the work was its own reward. And that’s what the newspaper obits won’t tell you. It’s fair to say he worked 340 days a year. Maybe more. The only time off he would get would occasionally be in October if the Dodgers and Angels weren’t in the playoffs. Then he would have a two-week window before the NBA and NHL seasons began. On some days he would have a Dodger game in the afternoon then a Lakers or Kings playoff game at night.

And he loved every minute of it. Even though he bitched about every minute of it. Joe was that special combination of curmudgeon/wide eyed fan. He’d grumble about having to cover some event but when you’d say to him, why not just let someone else take the assignment, he’d always admit that he was looking forward to it.

He had a long list of things that annoyed him – editors who tampered with his work, athletes who gave unintelligible quotes, pitching changes, loud PA systems, fireworks shows when he was trying to write, and journalists who he felt didn’t show the job and sport the proper respect.

I worked closely with Joe for years when I was doing Dodger Talk. He was always the first person to arrive at the park and the last to leave. I would sign-off Dodger Talk 90 minutes after the game was over and Joe would still be banging out his story, double-checking obscure statistics that would give his account a unique perspective.

For three years I had dinner every night with Joe and fellow journalist Norm Peters at Dodger Stadium. He was Lou Grant only funnier. And a great storyteller. Joe would regale us for hours with stories of sports legends and events he witnessed firsthand.  Not only did he know ALL the sports greats -- they knew HIM. 

He also loved Mary Tyler Moore, '60s music, classic sitcoms, Canter’s pastrami sandwiches, a good laugh, and Vin Scully. The top photo is one I took of Joe and Vinny.

You know that “Lost CHEERS scene” – the scene David Isaacs and I wrote that was aired one time only before the 1983 Super Bowl and never seen again? Remember how a few years ago I unearthed maybe the only copy of it (and have since posted it on my blog every Super Bowl Sunday)? You can thank Joe Resnick. One day he was telling me that he videotaped every Super Bowl. I asked if he ever captured any of the pre-game coverage? He said only the last few minutes of it. I asked if he would go back and check 1983. Our scene aired just before the start of the game. Sure enough, Joe had it. I digitized it and the rest is blog tradition.
Joe never married. Joe had no kids. Covering sports was his entire life. Two weeks ago he received the Bob Hunter Award by the Los Angeles chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for his meritorious coverage of baseball. A number of local sportswriters went to his apartment and presented him the award. He said it was one of the happiest days of his life.

No LA pressbox will ever be the same. He will be greatly missed. And any future production of my play, GOING GOING GONE will be dedicated to Joe Resnick.


Jeannie said...

Thank you for helping us to get to know Joe. The only sportswriter I "know" by name is Roger Angell, so it's wonderful to hear about another great one. I'm so sorry you lost your friend. May he rest in peace, knowing the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Mike Barer said...

Very Sorry Ken!

FFS said...

Wow. Two hockey photos - thanks for taking my suggestion to heart.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I'm sorry to hear about his passing. As an avid baseball fan, he'll be missed, even if the average fan won't know it.
You don't create a footprint like his, without leaving a trace.

Rory Wohl said...

I would commend to you Bill Plaschke's November 10th column in the Los Angeles Times about Joe Resnick, "He has always been there for fans, and now writer Joe Resnick receives honors he earned," http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-plaschke-sportswriter-resnick-20161110-story.html

John Hammes said...

"Fame" really isn't all that important. A person with friends he loved, work he loved, a (hectic) life he loved... THAT is important. One could not ask for too much more.

Thank goodness he had that VCR!

norm said...

Ken--isn't it never be the same? in the last paragraph.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Wow. What a pro. I had no idea. He makes me want to be better at the things I do. I bet others feel the same way.

MikeK.Pa. said...

I've written it before, you create the most personal and moving tributes. I'm sure Joe's family and friends appreciate it. Much too young to pass away. I worked at a major newspaper right out of college and know that the wire service writers had their bylines at the top of the story, but they were always stripped out by the newspaper desk editors with just AP or UPI acknowledged.

GeeRab said...

Being a sporadic stringer for MLB.com, I wasn’t a regular fixture in the press box or locker room and therefore Joe would always give me that look that suggested we both knew I didn’t belong there, but more than anyone else in those rooms, Joe would also go out of his way, as much as Joe would, to say hello, ask what was going on, and treat me as if I belonged. If I needed some info, he wouldn’t hesitate to provide an answer or additional insight. He would offer me quotes from the other locker room if I wasn't able to get there, and asked if I could get one for him. He treated me as an equal though we both knew I wasn’t even good enough to be his inferior. Didn’t get to see him that often, but getting to spend a few hours in his company during the season was one of the great perks. He will be missed.

Marianne said...

What a beautiful tribute, Ken. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Dodgerdawg said...

Ken, I enjoyed your play a few Fridays ago (thanks for the autograph too!). I sort of suspected that your character Big Jim Tabler was based a little bit on Joe Resnick. A workaholic with a heart he kept well hidden.

Chris said...

Very nice tribute and surprised to see a picture of Serge Savard. Is there a back story to why you chose it?