Goddard ends 44-year career writing about Central

Published: Hinsdale CentralÕs Jason Rafferty is congratulated by teammates after intercepting a pass against Downers Grove North Saturday. (Curtis Lehmkuhl/Staff Photographer) Original: Hinsdale, Saturday October 10, 2009 Hinsdale Central hall of fame inductee Joe Goddard waves to the crowd after being recognized at halftime of the Hinsdale Central vs. Downers Grove North homecoming game on October 10. (Curtis Lehmkuhl/Staff Photographer)
Published: Hinsdale CentralÕs Jason Rafferty is congratulated by teammates after intercepting a pass against Downers Grove North Saturday. (Curtis Lehmkuhl/Staff Photographer) Original: Hinsdale, Saturday October 10, 2009 Hinsdale Central hall of fame inductee Joe Goddard waves to the crowd after being recognized at halftime of the Hinsdale Central vs. Downers Grove North homecoming game on October 10. (Curtis Lehmkuhl/Staff Photographer)

Joe Goddard has been on the sidelines for hundreds of Hinsdale Central football games over his long career.

On Nov. 15, 2008, he got a little too close to the action.

Goddard was watching the Red Devils’ Class 8A quarterfinal game at Brother Rice when a Hinsdale player was pushed out of bounds and smashed directly into Goddard, a sports columnist for the Doings.

“Once in a while I would get in the way of the game,” said Goddard, 76. “I got hit on the sidelines. I went to say something to a guy and as soon as I turned back, this player got shoved out of bounds. I got hit in the face. The guy I was talking to said my head got hit on the ground twice.”

Goddard’s injury was one of the few lowlights in a 44-year run as a sports reporter and columnist for the Doings. There were many highlights in a distinguished career writing about high school sports.

Citing failing health, he’s filed his final “Time Out” column, which appears on this page.

Goddard lived in Hinsdale and worked as a copy desk editor for the Sun-Times in 1969 when former Doings publisher Peter Teschner made Goddard an offer.

“He said, ‘When can you start?’ ” Goddard said. “ [I told him,] ‘Anytime, I guess.’ It took off [from there].”

Goddard became one of the Doings’ first sports editors, although he didn’t have a staff. He pulled back from those duties when the Sun-Times made him a baseball beat reporter in 1973. Goddard covered the Cubs and Sox through 2000.

Though he never attended Hinsdale Central, Goddard was inducted into the Hinsdale Central Foundation Hall of Fame in 2009 and is one of the few honorees without a direct connection to the school.

Under his picture in the school’s Alumni Room, part of the dedication reads: “Though not an alumnus, teacher or school administrator, no one has done more to chronicle the great athletic traditions of Hinsdale Central than Joe Goddard. His love of Hinsdale, the local high school, its sports teams and athletes, and his lifelong journalistic professionalism make Joe Goddard a local treasure.”

Goddard, who graduated from Palatine High School, had a youth baseball field in Inverness dedicated in his name in October 2011. He retired from the Sun-Times in 2006.

Goddard did most of his interviews in his home office using an old princess-style phone he could cradle on his shoulder. Before heading to spring training, he would write nearly a dozen columns in advance for future editions of The Doings.

Current Doings sports editor Rich Martin said that despite all of Goddard’s years in the business, he never acted like he knew it all.

“I remembered when I first talked to him on the phone, I was surprised by how kind and soft-spoken he sounded,” Martin said. “He was always afraid of making my job harder, but he never missed a deadline and his stories were clean and easy to edit.

“Even though he’s been covering sports twice as long as I have, and has interviewed countless Hall-of-Famers, Joe always wrote as though Hinsdale Central sports were the most important stories he ever covered. He probably knows everyone who ever played or coached at Hinsdale Central.”

His favorite Hinsdale Central coaches to interview were Gene Strode, Don Watson and Jay Kramer. He used to receive regular emails from Watson, the school’s legendary boys swimming coach. When pressed for his favorite Devils athletes, Goddard listed the Allen brothers (Jack, Brian and Matt), Sandra Bucha, John Kinsella, Toni Kokenis, Marty Riessen, Brendan Sullivan, John Whitelaw and Rich Zajeski.

It was Zajeski who was on the other end of Goddard’s collision on the Brother Rice sidelines. Goddard never saw the end of the game. He was taken to Hinsdale Hospital by Lori Sullivan and Leslie Allen, the mothers of Devils players Brendan Sullivan and Jack Allen.

With his column after the accident, instead using Goddard’s usual photo, The Doings sports editor Jeff Davis ran one of his reporter’s bruised and battered face. One of Goddard’s most prized possessions is a Red Devils helmet that each member of the football team signed following the season.

Davis estimates that Goddard wrote more than 2,000 Time Out columns. For years, he presented “The Doings Cup” to the winner of the annual Hinsdale Central-Hinsdale South football game.

“I thought it was great to have somebody of his stature and experience willing to write about high school sports,” Davis said. “He always treated the column like it was the biggest thing in the world. He treated the kids like they were big-time athletes. He gave them a big-time treatment. Kids thought it was so cool to be interviewed by him. He was very conversational.”

His toughest column to write was a tribute to Hylt Huseth, who coached the boys basketball team from 1974-78 and was terminally ill with cancer.

“I remember crying on the keys while typing the story,” Goddard said in an interview. “I had to compose myself while wiping off the keys. I didn’t realize Hylt would ever read it, but during one of his conscious times someone read it to him. Apparently, he liked it, and I felt very good about that.”

Goddard is grateful to the people who helped him with his column. His wife, Carol, would email his stories to his editors. Davis would drop off editions of The Doings at Goddard’s home in River Forest. Leslie Allen, former athletic department secretary Joan Mangano and current secretary Wanda Swik have provided him with column ideas over the years.

Not that Goddard needed much inspiration.

Following a trip to New York City, Goddard wrote a column about the day he watched Meatloaf pitch in a Central Park softball league for Broadway performers. Months later, the rock singer was signing his book at Water Tower Place, where Davis showed him Goddard’s column.

Meatloaf took out his reading glasses and became upset while reading the clipping.

“ ‘He said, ‘No, no, no. I did not give up a grand slam to the Phantom of the Opera!’ ” Davis said.

Meatloaf demanded Goddard’s phone number and borrowed a phone to leave a message.

“I told Joe, ‘Do not erase that message. It’s really Meatloaf,’ ” Davis said. “Joe played that voicemail for everybody at spring training. He must have kept that voicemail for 10 years.”

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