Years ago, when I worked in Illinois, I went to a farewell party for a departing sports editor by the name of Bill Greene.
I’ll never forget when Greene got up to say a few words. Noting that a popular part-timer named Mike was also leaving, he said: “I know this party is for me, but the paper will do fine replacing me.
“It will be a lot tougher replacing Mike. Good part-timers are a lot harder to come by.”
This comes to mind now because Chuck Frye, probably the best part-time sports writer to cover the Merrimack Valley over the last 35 years, is about to leave us. He’s moving to Florida in a matter of days.
Chuck started writing for the Newburyport Daily News back in 1976 and he’s been going strong ever since, switching to the Haverhill Gazette in 1979 and ending up with the Eagle-Tribune about 15 years ago.
There are few part-timers who last that long but, as far as I know, Chuck never considered quitting. A graduate of Pentucket High School and a life-long resident of West Newbury, he’s always loved covering games, with high school football his favorite.
On occasion, Chuck would cover two football games in a day and, overall, he’s probably covered close to 400 games in the Valley. I’d be surprised if anyone has done more.
But Chuck likes sports in general. He’s a big fan of hockey and baseball, with basketball close behind, and I brainwashed him into loving wrestling as well. Soccer, lacrosse and other sports aren’t bad, either.
Give Chuck an assignment, no matter what it was, and you could trust that it would get done and done well.
The greatest example of that was when he began doing the popular “Memory Lane” column in Sunday’s sports section, after a few full-timers struggled with the assignment. Chuck knew it was a popular feature and he put his heart and soul into it. It became a huge hit with readers and he now considers it with great satisfaction.
There has been far more to Chuck’s value than versatility and longevity, however. He brought a high level of professionalism to the job, with accuracy a high priority, and he has always been enthusiastic.
Anyone who called in results to the Tribune and talked to Chuck, or spoke with him after a game, had a positive experience. Polite and personable, as well as knowledgeable, he made even the most sour callers glad that they dialed our number.
Coaches and athletes who dealt with Chuck always had a favorable impression of him, and they didn’t even have the pleasure of knowing Chuck’s other sides, which include a wry sense of humor and knowledge on any number of topics.
You won’t find many more well-rounded or interesting people than Chuck, who colleague David Willis has called our “Renaissance Man.”
An accountant by trade, for years he had a steady job as a DJ at various clubs. He also — among other things — sings, plays the drums, has a record collection in the thousands, loves all music, is a fine photographer with photos that frequently ran in the Eagle-Tribune, loves animals and is a darned good umpire. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on the diamond on several occasions.
Chuck umpires like he does everything — striving to do his best. He knows and respects the game, is pleasant with players and coaches alike and hustles at all times. In short, like in sports writing, he’s a credit to the profession.
As an umpire assigner for various leagues, I occasionally get positive and negative feedback from coaches. This year, I’ve gotten four positive e-mails about umpires and three of those were to praise Chuck.
Still, while it’s going to be tough replacing Chuck behind the plate, it’ll be even tougher replacing him behind the sports desk.
In the sports journalism business, it’s tough to get a unanimous opinion on anything. But, without a doubt, all of us at the Tribune will miss him as a colleague and a great guy.
He loves the game
There is an iconic exchange towards the end of the classic movie “Almost Famous.”
William Miller: So Russell... what do you love about music?
Russell Hammond: To begin with .... everything.
I couldn’t help but thinking of the departing Chuck Frye, my friend and long-time sports writer colleague, while watching that scene over the weekend.
After 37 years as a sportswriter, what does Chuck love about local sports? Everything.
Months ago, before the thought of moving entered his mind, Frye and I were engaging in one of our countless late-night discussions — usually consisting of the greatness of Queen or Jimmy Fallon’s comedy — when the topic of being a sports writer came up.
He joyfully talked about his time as a sportswriter, calling it (I paraphrase) “The most fun job in the world.”
It struck me that, after nearly four decades covering high school sports, Chuck remained that enthusiastic about the job. Sports writing, many will tell you, is a job that can develop pessimism. But never in Chuck.
Whether it was major league baseball or little league baseball, the NHL or high school field hockey and especially his all-time favorite, high school football, Chuck approached every assignment with the same enthusiasm and trademark smile.
That is something I will always admire about Chuck.
— Watching Haverhill beat Lowell on Thanksgiving Day in 2001 when Adam Scott had a tremendous game, setting up the Hillies to win a three-way coin toss to take the MVC title and a playoff berth.
— Various state championships, including Andover girls tennis’ first-ever state title in 2007, the 2010 Pinkerton boys soccer team, the Pentucket girls hoopsters winning in Worcester, and many area individual Massachusetts state wrestling champions
— Joe Pizzuto’s 396-yard, 5-TD game in 2009 for Gr. Lawrence against North Shore and John Sughrue’s 200th career wrestling victory.
— Getting to interview Hall-of-Famers Larry Bird and Charles Barkley for the Gazette when Boston and Houston met at the old Garden, and talking to Bobby Orr at a 2010 reunion of the 1970 Stanley Cup champion Bruins.
— Covering the Bruins’ Game 7 Eastern Conference “Perfect Game” victory over Tampa Bay in 2011. No penalties, exciting end-to-end play, and a deafeningly explosive roar after the B’s late game-winner. Decades of frustration dispelled in one of the greatest games in local hockey history.