John Fay retirement column from Cincinnati Enquirer

When I log into Facebook, a photo appears. Me and Tom Groeshen, Rory Glynn and Mike Ball. It’s called, “Create a story.”

Our story has already been created. And what a wonderful story it is. This will be one of the last stories I will write for the Enquirer.

I’m retiring – again.

I’ve written thousands of stories about the Reds, the Bengals, UC, XU, Miami, and the high schools. But I’ll remember my career, these three guys.

Mike “Flea” Ball was the first of the three I met. I started working part-time at The Enquirer in the fall of 1975 and earned points on my desk in Indiana-Ohio. Basically, the schools are outside the 275 loop.

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My first byline story was about Portsmouth Notre Dame. I made a lot more money with the mileage than with the piece.

Shortly afterwards I met Flea. Flea, nicknamed North College Hill star Leon Murray, was and is a character to remember. He started at the Enquirer on his 16th birthday.

Fortunately, for the Sports Enquirer and Cincinnati, he lived on the same street in NCH where sports editor Jim Montgomery lived. Jim brought Flea in to score, and he’s still with the Enquirer 40 years later.

Let me tell you about Flea. Nobody is better with a gag than him. My favorite memory of all time is a flea gag. Flea is sociable, friendly, and loud. He never met a stranger.

Enquirer Cincinnati Reds Beat writer John Fay poses at the Enquirer Studio in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

Gresh came shortly after Flea and I settled with The Enquirer. Jim Joseph was teaching part-time at Northern Kentucky University when he discovered Gresh.

Gresh was talented, smart and made the best impressions of anyone I have ever met.

Rory showed up a little later. He was younger than Flea, Gresh, and me – and a little hipster. He started out as an agate writer. Its introduction by the late great Dick Macke was classic in a kind of non-PC classic.

We formed the Young People’s Alliance at The Enquirer. We liked the same music, the same TV shows, the same movies.

Gresh is gone now. We lost him way too soon. Rory has moved on to a better chase.

That left Flea and me.

Often times when you report on sports you are away from family and friends. Not much of a burden for sure, but it can get lonely out there.

But when I called to corroborate my stories, I heard that “Exercise, Mike Ball,” and all was fine with the world.

Flea has probably had more of an impact on sports coverage in Cincinnati than anyone for the past 40 years. He always adhered to this principle:

“What would Mel Ball want to read?”

Mel is Flea’s father. He’s the guy we published the paper for – together with fathers Leo Groeschen and Joe Glynn.

When I retire (again) I won’t miss covering games. But I will miss my friends.

There won’t be any more stories to confirm, but I could call from time to time to hear “Sport, Mike Ball”.

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