…Irv Moss, Denver Post sports reporter for 60 years, dies at 85 …


Moss died of complications from esophageal cancer, according to his close friend, Gary Sever.

“The last of a vanishing breed in the newsroom,” said Mike Judson, a copy editor who worked alongside Moss at The Post for more than two decades.

“Irv covered it all and knew it all, from preps to colleges to pros to the Olympics, and he was the ultimate pro as a sports journalist,” Judson said.

“He could tell you about University of Denver football, which played its last season in 1960, and knew that the annual CU-DU football game on Thanksgiving

once was the biggest sports event in the state.”

Jim Saccomano, who served in the Denver Broncos front office for the better part of 40 years until his retirement in 2013,

called Moss “a straight shooter and a man of principle.”

“There’s something to be said for packing your lunchbox and doing your job,” said Saccomano, who first met Moss in 1978 upon joining the Broncos organization.

“Irv goes back to a time when the city was a different thing.”

Saccomano said when he arrived at Broncos headquarters Moss was there crunching statistics for the football team while also holding down his job with The Post.

But Moss’ involvement in sports reporting in the city predated the Broncos’ arrival in the Mile High City.

“When this city was smaller, once upon a time the biggest events might have been the Denver Bears (minor-league baseball team) and the dog track,”

said Saccomano, who often ran into Moss at the venerable but now-closed Pagliacci’s restaurant in Denver.

“I think of Irv as the journalistic foundation of this city.”

Moss was born Dec. 14, 1934, in Denver and graduated from West High School 18 years later.

He attended Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University) in Fort Collins for a while but left school when his father became ill.

In 1953, Moss debuted at The Post as a copy boy at a time when the paper was headquartered at 15th and California streets.

After leaving the paper to do electrician work, he returned on Feb. 8, 1956, for what would be a 60-year run at the newspaper.

Then-Denver Post sports editor Chuck Garrity made Moss part of the paper’s coverage of the greyhound races at Mile High Kennel Club,

along with the men’s fast-pitch softball league at City Park.

Irv Moss, Larry Varnell, Ray Ball

Larry Varnell, right, of Central Bank and Trust and one of the directors of The Denver Post AID Fund committee signs check made out to the Colorado High School Activities Association for an improved catastrophe insurance plan for Colorado high school students. Irv Moss, left, of The Post and Ray Ball, commissioner of CHSAA, look on

“It was an interesting time to watch, and in a way, be part of the changing of Denver as a sports city,” Moss told Post sports reporter Terry Frei

in 2016 for a story about his retirement.

When I first started down here, City Park softball was the big story.

And next thing you know, we’re one of the top sports markets in the country.”

After a stint with the Army’s 160th Signal Group in Germany in the late 1950s, Moss put his skills toward covering high school athletics and later college football at

Wyoming and Air Force.

He got a front-row seat to the Denver Nuggets franchise’s debut in Colorado, having covered the Denver Rockets in the upstart American Basketball Association.

Denver Post file

In this Feb. 16, 1969 photo, Denver Post sports writer Irv Moss, right, presents a plaque to Joe Kerst, left, of Wray, who won the 120-pound championship,

and Ken Monger of Steamboat Springs, 175-pound winner in the Class AA State High School Wrestling Tournament.

But Dave Plati, longtime sports information director with the University of Colorado at Boulder who got to know Moss starting in 1982 when Plati did public relations

for the Denver Bears, said Moss’ true love was baseball.

“He loved baseball and anything to do with baseball the most,” Plati said.

Starting in the mid-1980s, Moss got heavily involved covering the sinuous path to landing a Major League Baseball team in Denver. 

He covered the twists and turns of the selection process until 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent announced Denver was getting the nod as an expansion city.

The team began play in Colorado in 1993, and Moss was a Rockies beat writer for 12 years.

“I’d see him in the press box at the Rockies and he always talked baseball,” Plati said.

“He was assigned for years to do the minor-league reports on the Rockies farm system and truly enjoyed watching what prospects matured to the majors.”

After he retired, Moss rarely missed watching a Rockies game on TV.

He attended his last Rockies game on Sept. 17 last fall, Sever said, and in one of his last conversations, Moss asked Sever if the Rockies had made any moves this winter.

Moss was decidedly of the nondigital, pre-Facebook generation. Longtime Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla met Moss in 1983.

“I walked into the sports department on California Street, and there Irv was at his desk, with a big phone (landline of course) stuck to his ear,” Kiszla recounted.

“Nobody loved being a newspaperman more than Irv. Newspaperman.

Old school.

So old school I still think of him as a member of the cast from a black-and-white movie about newspapers.”

That included showing up to games with the Post softball team dressed in his office attire — a short-sleeve dress shirt and khaki slacks, Kiszla said.

While he argued balls and strikes at the game, Moss didn’t share details about himself with others.

“Irv was an international man of mystery,” Kiszla said.

“He did not like to reveal any details about himself.

His age.

His address.

The name of family members.”

\

In this Feb. 14, 1970 file photo, trio of Denver Post sports writers try out hockey sticks in variety of positions; Ralph Moore, left, sees if pool is the answer,

while Irv Moss, center, tries fishing, and sports editor Bick Lucas tries it out on baseball.

But he had no problems trying to extract information from sources — or even from friends and colleagues.

“Irv would appear out of nowhere, from a baseball dugout to the Press Club bar, when you least expected it, with a Cheshire cat grin on his face, and then he would ask:

‘What are you doing here?’” Kiszla recalled.

“Bulldog does not begin to describe Irv as a reporter.

He liked to begin questions with ‘Coach, would you say …’

“And he would ask the same question five different ways, often to the point of irritation of his interview subject, until he got that coach to say something worthwhile.”

Kiszla said Moss loved the Olympics.

In 1972, with clearance from the Post, Moss accepted an invitation from the United States Olympic Committee to work as a public information officer at the 1972 Summer

Olympics in Munich.

It was the first of 10 Olympics working in that capacity.

“He would work as a press attache for the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Kiszla said.

“And he would march in opening ceremonies.”

Former Post sports editor Kevin Dale, who worked with Moss for six years starting in 2000, was amazed by Moss’ passion for not only the games and teams

but the athletes who played in those games.

Irv Moss
John Leyba, Denver Post file

Denver Post reporter Irv Moss poses for a portrait July 1, 2016 at Coors Field.

“He had been witness to every major sports event in Colorado for the last half of the 20th century and well into the 21st,” Dale said.

“Irv always amazed me with his knowledge of Colorado legends.”

But Dale said Moss didn’t get his head stuck in the clouds covering the big stuff.

He also considered the lesser known players and aspiring athletes to be just as important and deserving of attention.

“Yes, he would want to be at the biggest Broncos or Rockies game, but he also told the stories of countless high school and college athletes,” Dale said.

“Irv truly did touch all levels of Colorado sports journalism.”

####

 

………………………w

From an earlier story

In the spring of 1956, Denver Post sports editor Chuck Garrity was impressed with the newsroom copyboy’s hustle as he delivered the stock market ticker tape

and wire-service copy to various departments.

Eventually, Garrity asked the young man: “Do you want to try this?”

“This” was sports writing.

Sure, Irv Moss said.

Garrity assigned Moss to cover the men’s fast-pitch softball league at City Park, which routinely drew standing-room-only crowds of more than 5,000.

If the untried Moss fouled up the high-profile assignment, Garrity would hear about it.

Moss got his story in and in June 1956 became a full-fledged writer in the Post’s sports department. 

After a stay of more than 60 years at the Post, Moss’ final day as a full-time reporter was June 24, making him one of the longest serving newspaper employees in the

country.

He will continue to write the Rockies’ minor-league report on a freelance basis through August.

“It was an interesting time to watch, and in a way, be part of the changing of Denver as a sports city,” Moss, 81, said.

“When I first started down here, City Park softball was the big story. And next thing you know, we’re one of the top sports markets in the country.”

Early days at the Post

Born in Denver, Moss was a 1952 graduate of West High School.

His father, Homer, worked in the garment industry.

Irv started out at Colorado A&M in Fort Collins, but left school when his father became ill.

Moss landed the copy boy’s job in early 1953 at the Post, then an afternoon daily headquartered at 15th and California Streets.

He twice left the paper and did some electrician work, but returned to the Post on Feb. 8, 1956.

After Garrity brought him into the sports department, Moss also was part of the Post’s coverage of the greyhound races at Mile High Kennel Club,

the other huge attraction in town at the time, and wrote about high school sports.

“We used to staff the dog races Wednesday and Saturday nights,” Moss said.

“They called it the hot box because that’s when the top dogs would run.”

In 1957, though, he was drafted and entered the Army, joining the 160th Signal Group.

He was sent to Boeblingen, Germany. 

“I was supposed to be in the signal corps,” Moss said, “but when I got to Germany the place I was stationed had a pretty good Army baseball team.

I ended up the public information person for the team.

Stars and Stripes had an office down in Stuttgart that wasn’t very far away and I’d take stories down to them.

So my function was publicizing sports activities.”

Returning to The Post in 1960, Moss dived back into high school coverage. 

He handed Freddie Steinmark the Post’s Gold Helmet award  in 1966 for his excellence on the football field and in the classroom, and was affected when the Wheat Ridge

star — who played for Texas’ national champions in 1969 — died of cancer in 1971.

“The way that turned out was something you just didn’t forget about,” Moss said.

Moving on from preps

The Broncos had come on the scene in the 1960s, but Moss initially didn’t write much on them.

He had moved on from preps and was covering Wyoming football in 1969 when coach Lloyd Eaton dismissed 14 black players from the team for planning to wear black

armbands in a game against Brigham Young.

“They had some great players and it ended their careers and probably disrupted that program for a long time,” Moss said.

Moss covered college football in the fall — Wyoming then Air Force — and then the Denver Rockets when beat writer Ralph Moore covered golf.

The franchise in the new and upstart American Basketball Association was part of Denver’s baby steps toward big-league status.

“We didn’t have anything to compare the ABA to,” Moss said.

“I’d just say it was a lot of fun, with a lot of fun cities.”

The Rockets took chartered flights long before it was routine in pro sports, but the players weren’t completely confident that the planes

— from a smaller regional airline — were first-rate.

In the ABA’s second season, in February 1969, Moss traveled with the team on a trip that finished on Long Island, where the New York Nets played in Commack, N.Y.

“On the way to Long Island, they said that a light had come on that indicated that some generator was not working properly,” Moss recalled.  

“They told us they’d have to get that part before we could leave from New York to come back.

The word got around that if they couldn’t get the plane fixed, we’d have to fly back commercial out of New York.

“It was so cold in that arena that players on the bench were sitting in their topcoats.

About halftime we got word that they had the part so we were going to have to fly back in that thing.

(Rockets) Larry Jones and Lonnie Wright on their own decided that they weren’t going to come back on that plane and they were going to pay their way

and come back commercially out of New York.

“The rest of us got on this plane and we were going along and you could look out the window and I think the cars on the freeway were going faster than we were.

They had to land in Kansas City to refuel and ended up pulling into Stapleton, it might have been 6 in the morning.

And Lonnie Wright and Larry Jones were stranded in New York by a snowstorm.”

That was the early ABA.

On the Air Force football beat, Moss was struck by the poise and maturity of the players and had an especially good relationship with coach Ben Martin.

“The Post was an afternoon newspaper, so that meant we came in about 6:30 in the morning,” Moss said.

“Ben set it up this way. I’d call him at home at about 6:45 in the morning and he’s ready to go.”

Working at the Olympics

In 1972, with clearance from the Post, Moss accepted an invitation from the United States Olympic Committee to work as a public information officer

at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

It was the first of his 10 Olympics working in that capacity.

On Sept. 5, Moss noticed a furor as he walked to the dining room in the Olympic Village complex and soon got word of a hostage crisis in the Israeli team area.

He stayed most of the day with ABC commentators Bill Toomey and Willy Schoeffler, both of whom had Colorado ties.

“The complex was built in such a way that on occasion there were openings that you could look down into the (underground) garage,” Moss said.

“We were kind of standing and sitting next to one of these openings and they were getting some information on their walkie talkies.

They said the report was they were going to be leaving in a bus.

We saw the bus pull out and it was headed for Furstenfeldbruck, a small airfield.

Gosh, it wasn’t very far away.

Then they made the announcement within a short time that there had been a shootout at the airport.”

Eleven Israeli team members died in the Munich massacre — two at the Olympic complex and nine at the airfield — and a German police officer and five of the Black

September terrorists also died.

A few days later, the ending of the gold-medal basketball game was replayed twice, and the Soviet Union’s last-second basket gave it a 51-50 victory over the Americans.

Working for the USOC, Moss was in the stands, astounded by the finish. Years later, he talked with Olympian Bobby Jones, who became a Denver Nuggets forward.

“Bobby Jones wasn’t in the game,” Moss said.

“I don’t know if the rules prevented (coach Hank Iba) from substituting or what, but I asked Bobby,

‘You think you could have stopped that play if you had been in the game?’

He looked at me and said, ‘I know I would have stopped it.’”

Moss continued to enjoy covering Air Force and Martin blew up at him once — after Colorado’s 28-27 victory  over the Falcons at the Academy in 1974.

It was the final scheduled meeting in a rivalry that will resume in 2019.

Tensions had been high during the Vietnam War years when Air Force traveled to the Boulder campus, and that was the backdrop to the end of the series.

In that final game, Martin played very conservatively at the end, running the ball and settling for a 50-yard field goal attempt that went just wide with five seconds left.

“We walk into the coach’s office and Ben had worn these two big galoshes because the field was muddy,” Moss said.

“They’re sitting there on the floor.

Nobody’s saying anything and pretty soon I say, ‘Ben, can you just give us a little review of the last minute or so of that game as to what you did?’

“He looked at me and picked up one of those galoshes and threw it across the room and he said, ‘You know, you people have just watched one of the greatest games

ever in college football and you ask me a question like that!’”

He later made up with Moss, explaining his late-game strategy.

Moss stuck with the Falcons through the coaching tenures of Bill Parcells (for one year), plus Ken Hatfield, Fisher DeBerry and the early years of Troy Calhoun.

He also was involved in coverage of the Nuggets through their buildup years under general manager Carl Scheer, whose audacious moves and signings

— especially of David Thompson and Marvin Webster — helped force the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, and into the early 1980s.

Chasing The Show

By the mid-’80s, Moss became a dogged tracker of Denver’s quest to land a major-league baseball franchise, often attending major league meetings.

Denver billionaire Marvin Davis’ prospective purchase of the A’s and their move to Denver had fallen through in 1977.

Moss can rattle off the list of teams and ownerships that in later years flirted with Denver, whether seriously or as a means of gaining leverage

in seeking stadiums or better deals.

San Francisco. Seattle. Oakland (again). Pittsburgh.

And he chronicled much of the maneuvering, which became farcical at times.

In 1985, Davis made another run at the A’s.

“The Rocky Mountain News ran the story that the Oakland A’s were coming to Denver,” Moss said.

That story was based on what former A’s owner Charlie Finley told the News, and Finley claimed to have a “very reliable source” telling him the deal was signed.

Moss recalled A’s president Roy Eisenhardt telling him, “If you run that story it’s going to be the worst example of journalism since Dewey and Truman.”

The A’s didn’t come that time, either.

In mid-1991, the issue of National League expansion was coming to a head, with Denver one of several candidates.

“The News was on the ownership group here in Denver,” Moss said.

“I figure that the ownership group here is going to be the first to know and they’re not going to tell the News you can’t come into this meeting.

So I figure, ‘Geez, I’ve got to get a source,’ and boy I did, it was like sitting in the room.

“The word was that Denver was in and they were still debating over Tampa and Miami.

I got the story saying essentially that, that a source close to the negotiations indicates Denver’s going to be a Major League Baseball city and the

(MLB) expansion committee is still deciding between Tampa and Miami.”

In mid-June, Commissioner Fay Vincent announced that the expansion committee had recommended Denver and Miami, and official conformation came a month later.

The Rockies began play in 1993.

Moss was one of The Post’s writers on the Rockies beat for 12 years.

“The first game at Mile High Stadium was just unbelievable, with 80,000 people and the way Eric Young got it started (with a leadoff home run),

it was just amazing,” Moss said.

“A lot of the media that used to go to those owners meetings had gone through expansion teams and they all said you’re going to have the most fun covering any team

for about the first two or three years of an expansion team.

And they were right.

As different players came in, it changed.”

In recent years, Moss has been a general assignment reporter, helping out on virtually all beats, and has written the popular Colorado Classics feature about figures

from the state’s sports past.

He received the Football Writers Association of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, and he also was chosen for the

Colorado High Schools Activities Association Hall of Fame.

His two children, Karen Mitsch and Andrew Moss, both live in the Denver area.

He’s a Colorado Classic himself.

 

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: