Since the job of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Staff Writer carries him from reportorial pillar to editorial post, Patrick F. Putnam felt it only fair when he joined our staff last June to warn us about this—well, this thing he has. "I seem to have been born without a geographical sense of direction," he says. "I have always had trouble finding places."
His geographic problems began in Florida about 13 years ago, Putnam says, when, as a copy boy on The Miami Herald, he drew his first reporting assignment: cover a football game in Miami Beach. "Everyone knows Miami Beach is just across the bridge," Pat says, "but somehow I went the other way and wound up in Coral Gables." After that his associates on the sports desk began making book on whether or not Pat would actually find his way to an assigned event. "What I learned to do was to leave a couple of hours early," says Pat. "That way I could generally make a football game at kickoff time, a horse race at post time and a baseball game on the last few bars of The Star-Spangled Banner."
Putnam grew up in Schenectady, N.Y. and attended Syracuse University, but an intense interest in baseball took him to Florida, spring-training country. He had played high school and semipro ball as a kid and when he was 16 had gone to a Dodger try-out camp. "First couple of days they weeded some of us out with footraces. Then they let those who were left show off their arms. A scout handed me the ball in deep centerfield and told me to throw it to third base. I tried too hard and threw it clear out of the park. The scout was very impressed. He said, 'That's fine. Now, if I let you do it again, do you think this time maybe you could find third base?' Then they asked me to hit and I was dead."
Pat turned to sportswriting. He started with The Miami Herald, and in 1966 was invited to do a sports column for the fast-growing Suffolk Sun on Long Island, there setting some sort of record for capturing interest: a poll showed that 45% of his readers were women.
Since coming to SI Pal has covered NCAA golf, a Sonny Liston fight and has grown well acquainted with harness racing's Nevele Pride. His report on the 43rd renewal of trotting's Hambletonian appears in this issue. The story is fine, as we expected it would be. The only worry Pat had was whether he would get to the race in the first place. "Let's see now," he said, the day before he left on the assignment. "The Hambletonian is in a place called Du Quoin. That's in Illinois, I believe. But the travel department has me on a flight to St. Louis. St. Louis is in Missouri, isn't it? Do you go to Missouri to get to Illinois? Well, never mind. I'm leaving tomorrow. That will give me seven days to find the place."
He found it, and you'll find his story on page 14.