MINNEAPOLIS — Sid Hartman covered the arrival of the Minnesota Vikings.
Now, the legendary reporter will lend his name to a special part of their state-of-the-art home as a new era unfolds.
The Vikings officially dedicated the Sid Hartman Media Entrance at U.S. Bank Stadium on Tuesday with a well-attended luncheon in the press box just days before Hartman is scheduled to cover the first football game at the sparkling new venue.
Vikings Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley served as emcee and said the day was "a way to say thanks and congratulate Sid for his endurance and positivity," adding that Hartman is "someone we truly love."
"We thought what better way than to name the media entrance after Sid Hartman," Bagley explained to the crowd of family, friends and leaders of the Twin Cities sports scene. "Every media member, locally, nationally, internationally at the Super Bowl and every other event we have here, when they come to this building, they'll come through the Sid Hartman Media Entrance and tip their cap to Sid as we do on a daily basis."
Hartman had an initial scoop on the NFL. He was born in Minneapolis on March 15, 1920, six months and two days before a group of men met in Canton, Ohio, to lay the foundation for what would develop into the professional football league.
The first published story by Hartman appeared in the Sept. 11, 1945, edition of the Minneapolis Daily Times.
Vikings Hall of Fame Coach Bud Grant dubbed himself "the original 'Sid Hartman's close personal friend' " before he recalled first meeting Hartman at a basketball game in the Twin Cities when Grant was stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago.
The Vikings honored the legendary Sid Hartman on Tuesday via the 'Sid Hartman Media Entrance' at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Fate brought them back together when Grant enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where he played basketball, football and baseball.
"First day, who do I walk in with? Sid Hartman," Grant said. "He had just gotten the job as the Gophers beat reporter. That was 1946. We walked in together, neither one of us knowing where to go, and became, at that moment, you say, 'What do you and Sid Hartman have in common?'
"Nothing," Grant deadpanned as if roasting his longtime friend before pivoting to heartfelt words.
"Of all the people I've known in this world, he has more integrity than anybody I've ever known," Grant said. "That's why he has so many friends, that's why so many people are here and that's why we're here today."
The men dined together on 99-cent bowls of spaghetti in Dinkytown and at other meals that Hartman provided when Grant was limiting himself to $1 per dinner per day. Grant recalled driving Hartman to the airport so he could fly to Detroit and work on a deal with the NBL's Gems in 1947. The team became the Minneapolis Lakers, a franchise that Grant eventually joined before the team moved to Los Angeles.
When Grant became head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he turned to Hartman, whom Grant credited for opening a conduit to players from Minnesota, Iowa and other Big Ten schools to build the Blue Bombers roster. Advice that Hartman bestowed on Grant when the Vikings were founded impacted the Minnesota sports landscape for years to come.
" 'Well, there hasn't been much success with expansion teams,' " Grant recalled Hartman telling him. " 'You come in, you build it, and they fire you and bring somebody else in.' Good advice. They brought [Norm] Van Brocklin in. On Sid's advice, I turned the job down with the Vikings and stayed with Winnipeg."
Grant was hired by the Vikings in 1967 and totaled 11 division titles and four Super Bowl appearances in his 18 seasons in Minnesota.
"As one man can love another, I love you, Sid Hartman," Grant closed with emotion before Hartman reached out his arms and gave Grant a hug.
Vikings Executive Director of Public Relations Bob Hagan recalled meeting Hartman for the first time a quarter century ago.
The legendary Sid Hartman received a private tour of U.S. Bank Stadium earlier this week.
"When I started at the Vikings in 1991, Sid was a young, 71-year-old reporter," Hagan said. "He's 96 years old now, but he still has the same great work ethic that he had as a youngster, something that all of us in this room can learn from.
"This recognition is not only for what Sid has done for the Minnesota Vikings for the last 56 years, but for what he has done for all Minnesota sports," Hagan added.
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said Hartman's career has been amazing and inspiring.
"He's been an incredible, iconic figure here in the Twin Cities for many, many years and has really loved and supported the Vikings," Warren said. "He's critical when he needs to be, but we know at the end of the day that his heart is in the right place. He's an absolutely wonderful man. He's worked hard to be 96 years young.
"We all can only hope and pray that we're in as good of a position that he is at his age," Warren added.
Dave Mona, who has worked with Hartman at WCCO since 1981, said Hartman is the "consummate homer" who "bleeds every time a Minnesota team loses."
"He's the ultimate friend of everybody in power, so if somebody's job is in jeopardy, he will defend them until the end," Mona said, "and the next day, they lose their job and the new guy is there, he's right next to the new guy, saying, 'I'm your guy,' and he does it without any hesitation."
Mona estimated that Hartman, who is Jewish, would send 2,000 Christmas cards each year and connect with players and administrators he covered.
"Reporters don't send Christmas cards," Mona said. "Everybody that was in his Rolodex — it probably still is a Rolodex — Sid would send a card to them."
Tuesday's attendees included former Vikings Head Coach Jerry Burns, Vikings historian and original athletic trainer Fred Zamberletti, Vikings Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Steve Poppen, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, Vikings Assistant General Manager George Paton, Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski, Vikings Ring of Honor Member Scott Studwell, Vikings consultant Paul Wiggin and former defensive end Bob Lurtsema, as well as University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Twins President Dave St. Peter, Timberwolves President Chris Wright and Minnesota hockey icon Lou Nanne.
Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and Owner/President Mark Wilf phoned Hartman on Tuesday to express their congratulatory words.
The secret to Hartman's success?
"I love what I do, and that's why I have fun," he said.