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Apr. 15—WHEN FREDERICK NATIVE Donnie Hammond was playing at the 1990 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, he looked over at the gallery. Of course he had family and friends there watching him.
So was someone else.
"Here I am, walking down the fairway at Augusta," Hammond once told me. "I look over and I ask myself: 'Is that Bill Cauley standing over there?'"
He was probably just as surprised to see me that day as I was surprised to be there in the first place. Yet I had asked, and got permission, to cover the local star at one of golf's premier events, "a tradition unlike any other," as they say. Just being on the pristine grass, fully credentialed, at one of the most storied golf courses in the United States, was an honor for me.
That's just one of many memorable professional moments I've enjoyed over nearly five decades working at The Frederick News-Post as a sports reporter. But all of it's coming to an end Friday.
After 47 years of covering local sports here in the Frederick area, it's time for me to make a change. No more late nights in the office, no more writing on tight deadlines. At age 66, I feel the need to slow down.
Forty-seven years, working the same job, at the same place? Seems unheard of nowadays. Yet that was the course I took — and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
GROWING UP IN Brunswick, I was a sports-crazed kid — but there was no way I was going to be a jock of any kind. For instance, my youth baseball career ended when, while playing second base in the Brunswick Little League system, a sharp grounder rolled up my arm and got me right under the chin.
I was spooked after that, backing away from the plate, shying away from the ball. I soon found myself in the dugout keeping the scorebook. I was still part of the game, but now handling the statistics of the sport. I enjoyed it.
The same held true for football and basketball. I helped keep the stats.
As a high school freshman, I branched out and started writing sports for the school newspaper. Writing seemed to come natural to me. After having that "future—undecided" status on my transcripts, I changed it to "sports writer."
From there, it was on to Frederick Community College, where I helped keep the men's basketball scorebook and wrote for the school's newspaper. I also started writing for the now-defunct Brunswick Citizen in 1974.
Then-FNP sports editor Stan Goldberg had been observing my work at the Citizen. I asked him if he would consider hiring me to write sports in the future.
A few months later, it all began for me here.
WHEN I FIRST walked through the doors of the FNP, then located at 200 East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick, on July 17, 1974, boy, did I have an adrenaline rush. There I was, 20 years old, about to embark on what would be some of the most enjoyable years of my life.
Stan brought me on board as what is commonly referred to as a stringer, or correspondent. I would be paid by the story, later by the column inch.
My first assignment was covering the state 13-year-old Babe Ruth baseball tournament in Brunswick. I would phone in scores from either my house or a nearby telephone booth.
Then came the fall sports season, and Stan gave me my first major assignment — a football preview for Brunswick High's varsity team. I banged it out on a manual typewriter.
In July 1977, I became a full-time member of the FNP staff as a general assignment reporter, covering mostly news because there wasn't an opening for another full-time sports reporter.
The understanding was, if an opening occurred in sports, I would move into that position. While I didn't mind writing news, my first love was writing sports. But I had to be patient. Remember, this was the time of phone booths and manual typewriters. Quite different from today's instant-gratification world.
About a year later, I finally achieved a dream — being a full-fledged sports reporter at a daily newspaper.
I'VE ENJOYED COVERING so many things — from professional sports right down to the sports on the youth level. I've traveled as far south as Augusta, for the Masters, to Newark, Ohio, heading west, for a Babe Ruth World Series.
When it comes to youth baseball, the best event I covered was, without a doubt, the 1986 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Brunswick Little League had made it all way to the most-recognized youth sports event in the world. To date, Brunswick is the only county Little League team to reach this milestone.
Brunswick went 1-2 at the 1986 Little League World Series. When the team returned to Brunswick after that tournament, it received a hero's welcome by the city.
That was also the year I witnessed a perfect game, thrown by Brunswick's Joey Lucas, at the Eastern Regionals in Newburgh, New York. He shut out Bennington, Vermont, 15-0 in the tournament opener.
THERE WERE A few funny moments over these many years.
For instance, I traveled with the Brunswick-based MARVA Babe Ruth League's 13-15 all-star team to Baldwin, New York, in August 1975 to cover the Middle Atlantic Regionals. The bus got lost and had to travel through part of downtown New York City, just to get out on Long Island.
I had a window seat, and we traveled through one neighborhood where a fire hydrant had been opened so kids could cool off in the summer heat. One of the kids directed the spray right at the bus — right through my open window.
I got drenched.
Coming back to Frederick was a whole lot easier. This time, the bus driver had the right directions.
Another time, I had some of my clothes stolen from a laundromat at my hotel in Jamestown, New York, while I was covering the 1987 Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series. I had just gone back to my room to check on a few things. When I returned to the laundromat, I found I was missing some clothes from the dryer. I still had enough clothes to get through the rest of my stay.
But, lesson learned — stay with your laundry!
I also played in two Kemper Open Media Day Tournaments. I could've played at the Masters Media Day event in 1990, the year I traveled there to cover Hammond. But after those first two media tournaments, I decided against it.
My decision spared those honchos wearing green jackets at Augusta National the chance to witness what might have ended up being the most appalling display of golf ever on that renowned course.
THERE WAS ALSO one scary moment in my FNP career.
On a Saturday in November 1990, I pulled triple-duty. I was covering Middletown's girls soccer team in the Class 2A-1A state championships, where the Knights captured the school's first state crown in the sport.
Earlier in the day, I was at Old Mill High School, getting a reaction story to the Brunswick boys soccer team winning the Class 1A state title. I finished the day by hurrying back to Frederick to cover the Frederick Falcons' semipro football team in its final home game of the year at McCurdy Field.
All the while, I was coughing like crazy, guzzling cough medicine, completely unaware that I had contracted bacterial pneumonia. I wound up in the hospital for five days, then off work for two weeks.
Once I got back, while covering a basketball game at Middletown, I ran into then-Knights girls soccer coach John Miller. I mentioned what had happened weeks earlier, and I told him: "John, your team makes me sick."
We shared a laugh. But never again did I try to push myself if I felt sick.
WHAT'S AHEAD FOR me now? Well, I won't be walking away from sports journalism altogether. I will be the sports editor at The Spirit of Jefferson, a weekly publication in Charles Town, West Virginia. It's a lot slower pace, fewer late nights.
This new chapter in my life will give me a chance to see my grandchildren more frequently, maybe work on my golf game.
To you, the reader, thank you for your comments and criticisms over the years. It's all part of journalism.
I will miss the kidding around with my co-workers and the usual banter in the newsroom. Even though it's serious business when it comes to writing, little distractions here and there help break any tension.
There is also the post-shift chatting once a section has been completed, when we would shoot the breeze. We'd lose track of time, and next thing you know, it'd be well after midnight.
So now, when I'm up watching the late-night news, listening to oldies music, and 11:30 rolls around, I'll stop and think about what's happened these past 47 years, wondering what kind of chatter is going on at the office.
I'll never be able to shake that feeling, nor do I want to.
Thank you, Frederick. Thank you, FNP. You let me live my dream.