columnist, The Detroit News
After 58 years of covering the biggest and smallest names in athletics, the only name truly synonymous with Detroit sports was Joe Falls’ own.
He started off as a copy boy at the Associated Press bureau in New York before transferring to Detroit in 1953, only to be hired in at The Detroit Times in 1956. He moved to the Detroit Free Press in 1960, and started as a sports columnist at The Detroit News in 1978. His baseball column in The Sporting News had a devoted following as well.
He mixed among some of Michigan’s finest: Gordie Howe, Al Kaline, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Bobby Layne, expertly shifting among sports season-to-season.
But he never skipped the hometown heroes playing in high school practices and tournaments.
“Falls thrived on the purity of sports at high schools and at colleges,” wrote Mark Silverman, The Detroit News publisher and editor. “This was a columnist who never forgot that he was a reporter, a writer that never forgot his readers.”
After his retirement in 2003, the readers didn’t forget him either. Letters poured into The Detroit News, telling stories of admiration for his comfortable, familiar writing style.
He’s just as easy to talk with, often teaching lessons in ethics, reporting and writing to young journalists.
In 2002, he was inducted into the Scribes and Mikemen wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., after covering more than 5,000 major league games and garnering the respect of the athletes, officials and leaders he wrote about.
“He wasn’t afraid to praise a person when it was deserved and he wasn’t afraid to criticize somebody when it was called for,” former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson wrote. “And after he did, he made sure to show up in the clubhouse the same day in case anyone wanted to see him.”
“The thing that separated Joe from everybody else was his sense of fairness.”