CITIZEN STAFFERS REMEMBERby Tucson Citizen on May. 16, 2009, under Local
Citizen Staff Report
THE FINAL EDITION
Being able to go to the State of the State address with Mark Kimble has always been one of my favorite memories of working at the Citizen. I sat with legislators, mayors and the governor just a few feet away from me. I will always remember seeing the mayor of Phoenix stick his cell phone in his sock. I felt like a kid in a candy store. This was the culmination of my government classes in public education.
Later, on that same trip, I found out how knowledgeable Mark was not just about news but our state and its history in general. Upon buying lunch at McDonald’s (Mark is also a health nut), we discussed Fife Symington’s new career path in the food industry. Mark then revealed to me that during his childhood, Mr. Symington saved some kid from drowning. Later, when Fife got indicted and convicted, this kid came back into his life and rescued him by granting him a presidential pardon. The kid’s name was William Jefferson Clinton. So if it wasn’t for Symington, Clinton would be dead by now.
That day was one of the days that I learned the most in any job and one more thing that will be with me for the rest of my life, thanks to the Citizen and thanks to Mark.
In this world of celebrity overload, we in the journalism business in Tucson don’t get that many opportunities to interview celebs, let alone have them admit to something publicly that had previously remained buried in their past.
But when I interviewed ABC sportscaster Al Michaels in 1977, that’s exactly what happened.
Some background: Michaels was sports editor of The State Press, the student paper at Arizona State University, in 1965. While there, he perpetrated a hoax on The Arizona Republic’s sports staff by inventing a fictitious athlete from Fredonia High School in northern Arizona. Michaels and his school buddy, George Allen, concocted baseball star Clint Romas, then kept embellishing a legendary career for him through calls to the Republic sports desk. As long as the Republic kept printing the stats and linescores, they would keep calling in with ever-more outrageous feats.
The hoax fell apart when the Republic finally decided to call Fredonia to do a story on Romas and found out he didn’t exist. Just who had conned the Republic remained a mystery, though – at least until Michaels admitted it to me and I published his account.
How did I know about the hoax and to ask Michaels about it? Let’s just say a reporter never reveals his sources.