Back in early January, Seattle Weekly's Rick Anderson broke the news of Seattle Times's sports columnist Steve Kelley's imminent retirement. Kelley and his words were beloved by many in Seattle and beyond, and after Kelley officially signed off on Feb. 2, many were left with a void - not just in their daily newspaper, but in their life.
Forty years and thousands of games later, Steve Kelley went to another sporting event last night. He loved it. But, 40 years and millions of words later, he then had to write about it. And there's the rub. "The idea of writing newspaper stuff doesn't thrill me anymore," he says.
No one in Royal Brougham Pavilion - named for one of America's longest-serving sportswriters - knew that Kelley was writing one of his final columns yesterday. Unlike Brougham, who died on the job at age 84, Kelley thinks the thrill is gone at 63. He tells us he'll leave his Seattle Times column behind at the end of this month.
How did his departure come about, we asked him this morning. "Well, I got into a fight with my boss and hit him over the head with one of our Pulitzers," Kelley said.
Joke. He was just trying to pump up the story a bit, the truth being awfully prosaic. He says he simply told Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman, "I just kind of want to disappear. Thirty-one years here, 40 years as a sportswriter, I just want to do something else."
On Tuesday, Jan Hangland of Beacon Hill sent in this letter via email regarding Kelley's departure from the Times:
I am so sorry Steve Kelly has retired from being a sports writer. He was the best we had in the Northwest.
I used to respond to his columns to tell him how much I loved his viewpoint. A couple of times I would ask a question, but never heard back. I stopped writing, thinking he didn't want to answer questions or respond in any way, that he wanted his privacy and to remain distant from readers. I did so love telling him how much I appreciated his honesty and truthfulness - especially his predictions that were always dead on. I could count on them being accurate and he never let us down once.
When I read in the Weekly's "retirement" article that the nasty letters from readers bothered him, I am now sorry I didn't keep writing him, that perhaps my respect for him and words of support may have meant something to him. Too late now - I and other fans like me will never know. I can only speak for baseball fans, as that is my sport of interest - but hopefully he knew the nasty letters were from fans who were desperate for a good baseball team and took their disappointment out on Steve. The truth hurts and he most unfairly bore the burden.
I wish Mr. Kelly well and want him to know how very much he will be missed. I haven't enjoyed a sports writer so much in all my 73 years. He can't be replaced for he was the best we had. God bless you Steve, in whatever you choose to take on.
Beacon Hill, Seattle