On May 30, the Scripps-Howard chain announced it was closing down the Fort Worth Press, a 53-year-old tabloid that had known better days. The paper’s plant and subscription list have been sold to Dean Singleton, publisher of the Azle News, for an estimated $500,000. Singleton said he would revive the paper as an eight-column, totally non-union morning publication “of conservative leanings. Maybe a little more conservative than the Star-Telegram.” So the Press, may live, but in a different incarnation. The Observer commissioned two of its contributing editors, both graduates of the Press sports desk, to do a little reminiscing about how it was during the olden, if not so golden days on the old Fort Worth Press. By Gary Cartwright Austin Crew Slammer never existed, but pretend you don’t know that for a moment. He was a sportswriter that we made up in the late fifties, when I ‘worked for the late, lamented Fort Worth Press, a newspaper that died years after rigor mortis had set in. Crew Slammer got to cover all kinds of top events the World Series, the sailing of the Queen Elizabeth, the madcap adventures of Charles Starkweather, major breakthroughs in drugs, but he never got out of our grips, and his stories got only as far as the Press’ bulletin board, where they were understood by few. We damn near got Crew Slammer elected Sports Writer of the Year in a national contest. He was one of four in the national finals when someone in Dallas, I think it was Bill Rives of the Morning News, blew the whistle on us, a transgression I can never forgive. I mean Crew Slammer was real. He was real as anything else around there. ONLY AN illusory newspaper like the Press could support an illusory sportswriter named Crew Slammer. Hell, the Press, if we’re speaking of the institution, didn’t even know he worked there. He didn’t cost a penny, not that he was particularly worth it. He was only worth it to a few of us, who would have gone crazy without the redeeming spirit of Crew Slammer, the World’s Greatest Sportswriter. The Press was a fantasy from its conception, thank God. There was no way the Press could compete with the Star-Telegram, the flavorless, limpid, sanctimonious sheet published in those days by old Amon Carter Sr. The Star-Telegram had elevators and air conditioning and image and legions of prissy, high-minded reporters with adequate expense accounts. So the Press created its own little world, in tabloid form. It was supposed to be easy to read, and in fact it was, though not 6 The Texas Observer for any reason ever dreamed up by its makers. Crew Slammer made the Press what it was. C. L. Douglas, a hearty Texas historian who wore a beret and dined on canned green peas, which he ate with a toothpick, modeled the tabloid after the old New York Graphic. Douglas, Delbert Willis, Walter Humphrey, and the other editors of my memory went big for crime, natural violence, and tear jerking, the staples of journalistic commerce. There were some classic headlines. DON’T LET THE STATE BURY MY BOY, DISTRAUGHT FATHER WEEPS. The canned goods, used clothes and nickels came pouring in. Weather was a good grabber. KILLER STORM RIPS THROUGH CITY. The city would turn out to be Maplecackle, Vt. Delbert Willis, the crippled city editor whose dream \(finally was addicted to first person accounts of dramatic events, such as the man who got his leg caught in a machine that converted animal bones to fertilizer. Dick Growald, an ingenious reporter who went on to become one of the top hands at UPI, got an exclusive on-the-scene interview with the victim by grabbing a plasma bottle and pretending to be part of the emergency team. I don’t know what else happened in the world that day, but I remember the banner story in the Press. I HELD THE PLASMA BOTTLE THAT FED LIFE TO THE MAN CAUGHT IN THE JAWS OF THE IRON MONSTER. What was so silly was how the Press could lock onto a story like that yet miss the point of simple sensationalism. I think it was Growald who perfected the sensational obit, which Delbert destroyed on the spot. Most obits would have read: Fullerman, 87, of 1857 McGruder St., died today. Services will be held. . . .” Growald started his short-lived story: “Four score and seven years ago. . ..” Vintage Bud Shrake leads would begin: “Uncle Billy Chambers smacked his gums and said, ‘Let me get my fiddle, I’ll play it for you.’ ”
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