When Linda Verigan joined SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1973 as secretary to our Articles Editor, she dispatched her chores with the speed and efficiency appropriate to a graduate of New York's esteemed Katharine Gibbs secretarial school, and then took to reading some of the unsolicited articles that come to the magazine. These arrive at the rate of 100 to 150 a week and range, she found, "from wonderful to not so hot, from weird to funny."
Verigan displayed such a talent for recognizing the stories that would be right for SI that in 1976 she was made "first reader." As such, she read all the unsolicited manuscripts, most of which she wound up turning down. "People put a great deal of effort and heart into their work," she says. "It's important to treat each one individually and with feeling. I learned to say 'No, thank you' in 300 ways."
One such manuscript was from a young man whose girl had left him. "He wrote a long, heartbreakingly detailed story of their courtship with the idea that it would run in SI and she would see it, realize how much he loved her and return to him," Verigan says. "The piece ended with his marriage proposal. I never did find out what happened."
Last August, Verigan handed over this job to Constance Tubbs and began to edit our "regional" stories, which run in the front and back of the magazine in regional advertising sections.
The region Linda grew up in as Linda Roehm is Northern New Jersey, Midland Park to be exact, where she watched baseball on TV with her father but otherwise paid little heed to sport until, in 1971, she took a job as social and personal secretary to William A. Shea, the Shea Stadium Shea, and began attending numerous sporting events. "When I applied for the job," she says, "it sounded glamorous and exciting, but unfortunately, Shea was an attorney first and a sportsman second." Verigan's job consisted of purely administrative tasks.
One of them, however, was to handle tickets for all Shea's box seats at various stadiums and see that they were distributed to Shea and his clients. "One day a block of four Jets tickets arrived, addressed to a partner who had died. The other woman who worked in the office and I got to split them between us and spent the fall and winter watching the Super Bowl winners with our friends. I was enormously popular until the season ended."
Moving on, in 1972 Verigan answered an ad in The New York Times for an administrative assistant to "a movie critic." At the address given for her interview, the door was opened by NBC's Gene Shalit, sporting, in addition to his magnificent mustache, red suspenders, red socks, a huge cigar and no shoes. Verigan spent one and a half happy years working at Scrooge & Marley, Ltd., as Shalit calls his private office, protecting him from casual visitors as he sweated out his scripts and answering the fan mail he periodically produced from shopping bags because, as Shalit said, "It makes me nervous seeing it all over the office."
It was from Shalit that Verigan came to us—obviously ready to cope with any contingency. We can't imagine how he's getting along without her.