Remembering legendary columnist Garry Brown, who passed away at age 90

  • The cover of Garry Brown’s book is shown. Brown, the longtime sports columnist at the Springfield Republican, passed away Monday at age 90. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 2/1/2022 4:40:22 PM
Modified: 2/1/2022 4:39:35 PM

The news came from Bob Dobias, “Quite a career!” he wrote, together with a link to an article about Garry Brown’s passing on Monday at age 90.

It was quite a career indeed. The longtime Springfield sportswriter, columnist and editor hailed from an era when people relied on the dailies to get their sports news, and in Western Mass. Garry Brown was the king.

Stuck for column material on a slow week in 1973, he put together a mishmash of thoughts and opinions and called it “Hitting to All Fields.” It became a staple for sports fans everywhere and he pumped it out straight till the last week of his life.

What made him special was his ability to be interesting without offending anyone, because writing without critiquing anyone is well-nigh impossible. Just ask Dan Shaughnessy, Bob Ryan, Phil Mushnick and virtually every columnist in the business, including myself. Especially myself.

Brown grew up in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield and his father, Jeremiah Brown, worked at the local post office. As a teenager he’d slip off to watch the Springfield Indians, then come home and write the game story on his dad’s Underwood. The next day he’d grab the Sunday Republican and compare his story with beat writer George Kelleher’s account.

At AIC he courted a pretty young woman named Mary Bukowski. They married, started a family, and he joined sports editor Dutch Robbins’ staff at the Springfield Union (which also published the Springfield Daily News and Sunday Republican).

The first time I saw him in the flesh was in the early 1970s when I walked into sports editor Dick Osgood’s office and asked for a job. “Sorry kid,” said Osgood. “Sportswriters are a dime a dozen.”

On the way out I spied Brown bent over a typewriter and staring at the keyboard, searching for the right word or phrase. He may as well have had a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign around his neck.

Eventually we did meet at Red Sox spring training in Winter Haven. He was soft spoken, always had a smile and a story to tell, and our friendship lasted till the end.

Before the pandemic I’d meet Garry, Mary and their daughter Melissa at a greasy spoon off the turnpike in Chicopee and the three of us talked about sports the way it was before tweets trifled the profession.

When he covered the Red Sox, Mary would wait for him under the press box. “I would cover a Sunday afternoon game at Fenway, have Mary do the driving, and type my story on my old Olivetti as we rode the turnpike,” he said. “I couldn't just drop it off at the paper. No, I had to go in and re-type it on the IBM Selectrics because the scanner couldn't read anything else, and then they had to be scanned into cold type. Sometimes I wonder how we used to get the paper out with 1 a.m. deadlines. But it happened and the papers still got delivered to the Berkshires. Amazing.”

He told me a story about the time Bobby Orr, Kenny Hodge and Wayne Cashman were invited to “Sports Night” at the Polish Vets Hall in Wilbraham. “They agreed to do this in-season appearance as a favor to Soupy Tulik, a Ludlow legend who worked at the State House and got to know all of the Bruins.

“Mary and I were talking with Bobby and Soupy before the thing started. Bobby said something about ‘the damn referees’ and as soon as he said it he turned to Mary and said, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, I should watch my language.’ Mary never got over it. She loves Canadian hockey players because, ‘Their parents brought them up right.’”

Six years ago he published a book titled “Garry Brown’s Greatest Hits; Columns & Stories from 64 Years in Journalism.” It was dedicated to his family, first and foremost to Mary, “who always understood the heart and soul of a newspaperman.”

Garry had a bad heart and was hospitalized two years ago. We stopped meeting for breakfast but continued to exchange columns. His last email arrived on Friday. “Brian Daubach?” he asked, a reference to the former Red Sox utility player whose name I’d confused in the initial draft of my column with first baseman Bobby Dalbec.

That was Garry, a mentor, an editor and a friend to the end.


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