Mike Lupica's ego is to sportswriting what Milton Berle's cock is to comedy. It is an occupational totem, around which colleagues spin fantastical-seeming yarns that just so happen to be true. Here are a few such tales.
I used to work as a bag boy/golf cart attendant at a southern VT golf course during my summers between high school and college. One day Lupica was a guest there along with his father and sister. His sister had just gotten engaged apparently. Shortly after the round was over and they had dropped off their golf carts they came back in hysterics. Lupica's sister had lost her engagement ring.
They asked if they could borrow a couple of carts and search the course again and asked my friend/coworker and me if we could search ALL the carts to look for the ring. Luckily for them most of the carts were in the barn, as usually they are recycled obviously for new guests still out on the course. My friend and I searched all the carts and eventually he found the ring. The gas tanks were underneath the seats of the carts, so you had to lift the seat on one side to get to the tank. My friend had lifted the seat of one of the carts and found the ring sitting on the crevace underneath where the seat rests on the body of the cart. Of course, the ring was this huge rock obviously worth several thousand dollars. When Lupica and his family came back they were so happy my friend found the ring that to properly express their gratitude Lupica slipped him $20. I'll never forget that as long as I live. I remember being jealous he found it at first because he would get something for finding it and then after he got $20 I remember being relieved it wasn't me. I was almost embarrassed for him.
The Mets were in L.A. to play the Dodgers. Day game after a night game, and Lupica is in the press box writing a column and then apparently planning to take off on vacation. The NYDN beat writer has taken ill and called in after trying to get up and supposedly yakking all over his hotel room.
The day editor calls the NYDN number in the press box and gets no answer, as Lupica is sitting in the seat next to it and doesn't pick it up. So they call the main press box number and ask for him. More than one L.A. writer is up in the press box now since it's close to first pitch. The editor gets Lupica and (presumably) asks him to write a gamer. All Lupica says is "I don't do windows," then he hangs up the phone, finishes his column and leaves.
My own first encounter with Lupica was in the early 1980s. At the start of a sports banquet, I went back to my table and noticed that someone had moved my name plate and draped his blazer on the back of my chair. To my endless amusement, not only did the jacket have a summer camp-like name tag sewn into the lining ("Mike Lupica"), but the label read "Sears Junior Men's Department."
Illustration by Jim Cooke
Have you been berated, undermined or otherwise manhandled by sportswriting's cranky hobbit? Have you witnessed a Lupica tantrum firsthand? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.