In sportswriting circles a fine writer is said to be able to really "type." But when Richard Hoffer, our newest senior writer, landed his first job with a newspaper—the Massillon, Ohio, Evening Independent in 1972—his mastery of the typewriter keys was a bit suspect. So was his knowledge of sports. Hoffer was fresh out of Miami of Ohio, where he had earned a bachelor's degree in English, and he applied to The Evening Independent's sports department only because he knew it had an opening. On his first day on the job, he filled out all the right papers, sat down at his desk and was handed the bowling scores by his skeptical new boss, who then asked, "You can type, can't you?"
Oh, yes, Hoffer could type. Even more, it turned out that he could most definitely "type." And now, 17 years after accepting that first job, he has learned more than a few things about sports, too. By 1979 he had worked his way up to the Los Angeles Times, and when Newsweek did a story on the Times' coverage of the L. A. Olympics, Hoffer was the reporter cited for high-quality writing under exacting deadlines. His piece on Mary Lou Retton's gold medal performance at the Games won him The Sporting News's Best Reporting Story of 1984. He wrote it in about 40 minutes.
As Hoffer, 40, tells it, his rise through the ranks of his profession has not been exactly meteoric. In 1973 he decided to leave the bowling scores in Massillon and go back to school—at Stanford—where he spent a year getting a master's in journalism. After that he signed on with an even smaller Ohio paper, The Alliance Review. "It's a good thing I didn't get my doctorate," he says.
Four years later, in 1978, he accepted a job with the Riverside, Calif., Enterprise before joining the Times, where he very quickly distinguished himself on a beat that was already loaded with talented writers: boxing.
Hoffer's fellow journalists weren't the only ones who noticed his work in Los Angeles. Once, somebody from the Times approached Muhammad Ali and asked him for an interview. "The L.A. Times?" said Ali. "That's Rick Hoffer's paper, isn't it?"
Nope. Hoffer belongs to us now, and you'll find his latest bit of "typing," about Los Angeles Raider boss Al Davis, on page 104.