Many people know that my running buddy, while covering the Bad Boys Pistons, was Free Press sports writer Drew Sharp.
Dean Howe of Booth Newspapers served as our third wheel. We called him the Captain because he was 20 years older and a more experienced journalist. Sadly, the Captain, 82, died this week, and I am the last man standing who regularly covered the Pistons during their championship days.
I was very sad to hear the news. He hustled on the beat and got many of his stories over lunch or dinner with Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, Chuck Daly and Joe Dumars. When Palace announcer Ken Calvert announced Isiah Thomas as “your captain.” Drew, and I pointed at Dean on press row. He was our captain. Nobody else. He was also a fun guy. One time at the Forum in Inglewood, a security guard tried to stop us from entering the media lot, although our passes were in full view. I knew we were in the right, so I drove right past him.
The guard banged on the car, ordering us to stop (I didn’t) and Dean leaned out the window and shouted at the guard, “Everybody gots to be somebody.”
After games, we’d sometimes hang at the hotel bar. He’d go to the bathroom and when he returned would say, “There are a couple blondes I want you to meet. One said she’d rub your feet.” Of course we’d dash over to the bar to spot a pair of 90-year-olds with gray hair moving slowly on walkers and nursing Cokes.
It was difficult to become angry with Dean because he was such a good-hearted gentleman. I did once, though. We were in Dallas for a Pistons-Mavs game, and I craved some great Texas ribs. Dean insisted we go to a steak house. We argued for a bit, but we all went to the steak house.
Dean ordered ribs.
“You know I want to smack you right now,” I told him.
Dean got credited with being a good writer and reporter. But when things got tense, he’d lighten the mood by claiming to write this stale lead for the next day’s paper.
“Scoring in every quarter the Detroit Pistons defeated the Chicago Bulls 105-101 at the Palace Thursday night.”
All three of us who covered the Pistons became a columnist.
The Captain also covered Magic Johnson at Michigan State, the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series championship season, Tiger Woods winning the Buick Open and the 1972 state championship team won by Flint Northern and Coach Bill Frieder.
“First thing I think of when I think of Dean, he was really one of the best writers I’ve ever seen or read,” former Flint Journal sports writer Bruce Johns told MLive.
“He was very, very talented. He loved the Journal. He loved sports. He loved Flint. He really loved it.”
One of the toughest parts of getting old is getting news one of your boys died. Dean was 82. Drew, who I called Boodini, died at 56 and my other partner in crime, Detroit News columnist Bryan Burwell died at age 59.
Burwell did reports for Home Box Office (HBO) and he had a very large head. So I called him Home Box Head (HBH).
I wanted to speak at Drew’s funeral, but I was in no condition to do so because I suffered two strokes a few weeks prior to his death.
I get emotional this time of year. My birthday is this week, and these days were not promised to me. I could have died also, but I survived and am still bugging you today.
I miss my boys. Boodini, Home Box Head and the Captain.
Follow Foster on Twitter at TerryFosterDet.
Photo Credit- ASSOCIATED PRESS