From call­ing in prep games to Su­per Bowls

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By GLENN KAHL

Ron Agos­tini ended up cov­er­ing four Su­per Bowls after start­ing his ca­reer in sports jour­nal­ism as a teen by call­ing in high school foot­ball sto­ries at 20 cents a pop.

The Man­teca res­i­dent worked as a Modesto Bee sports writer for 40 years. Agos­tini shared high­lights of his ca­reer Wednesday with Ripon Ro­tary Club mem­bers dur­ing their lunch meet­ing at the Spring Creek Coun­try Club.

His first job in jour­nal­ism was as a stringer for the Stock­ton Record and the Modesto Bee. Agos­tini called in sto­ries and scores by tele­phone earn­ing 20 cents per event. The weekly Selma En­ter­prise was his first full time job in jour­nal­ism un­til he was hired by Bee Sports Editor Dar­rel Phillips who had been the pub­lisher of the Man­teca Bul­letin.

“I was happy to be at the Bee,” said Agos­tini who was in­ducted into the Stanis­laus County Hall of Fame in April two weeks be­fore he left the Bee.

“Things changed in my first four years at the Bee where I used a por­ta­ble type­writer at games and they would take a full page and put it on a roller with it tak­ing six min­utes to tran­scribe to the Bee Sports Desk in Modesto,” he said.

From there he was given tape de­vices to record and tran­scribe sto­ries with the de­vices be­com­ing smaller and smaller. When he left the Bee he was post­ing sto­ries on the In­ter­net.

He said a high­light of his news­pa­per ca­reer was cover- ing four Su­per Bowl games. That said, Agos­tini in­di­cated the most fun was the Au­gusta National golf tour­na­ment. He said that mem­bers of the me­dia at Au­gusta were given a chance to play against the pros the day after the event con­cluded and his name was drawn.

“It was the thrill of a life­time,” he said.

De­scrib­ing his mem­ory of the twelfth par 3 hole he said he was told not to fo­cus on the flag stick be­cause it wouldn’t be fruit­ful in his game – but he lit­er­ally hit the stick near the hole and heard cheers in his head as he walked back to­ward the crowd. He got through the game with an 87.

As for what is going on to­day in the Modesto Bee’s op­er­a­tion, he said the pa­per moved this week from its 14th and H Street lo­ca­tion to 11th street in downtown Modesto. The Stanis­laus County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion is mov­ing into the Bee’s long­time two-story lo­ca­tion.

The regional daily once em­ployed some 650 staffers. To­day it em­ploys less than 100 em­ploy­ees, he noted. He added that the presses were hauled out of the build­ing as junk metal as they were un­able to sell them.

Agos­tini said one rea­son for its de­cline was the grow­ing in­abil­ity to sell ads with the shift in the econ­omy. He added the Bee is not dead by any means, just chang­ing its pro­ce­dures and de­pend­ing more on on­line sto­ries and ads.

“All the en­ergy is going into dig­i­tal,” Agos­tini said. “Peo­ple over 40 still want to hold a pa­per in their hands. Those un­der 40 pre­fer on­line dig­i­tal pre­sen­ta­tions. Fewer peo­ple ac­tu­ally read the print copies to­day and that is scary,” he said.

The pa­per uses both Face­book and Twit­ter to reach their pub­lic in Stanis­laus County and be­yond for dig­i­tal news.

The big­gest change in sports over the years, Agos­tini re­called, was the Ti­tle IX leg- is­la­tion that man­dated girls’ sports would be­come more in line with the boys’ com­pe­ti­tions. It was a “mar­velous tran­si­tion”, he said, not­ing within the last 25 years more girls and women have been earn­ing top awards than ever be­fore.

He sin­gled out Olympic Dis­cus thrower Suzy Pow­ell, say­ing she was the only ath­lete he knew who would go out of her way to shake ev­ery­one’s hand on the field when she com­pleted her event. “She is class,” he said. Asked about his fa­vorite sports star based on in­ter­views, Agos­tini said it was Jack Nick­laus, he said.

“I ad­mired him more than the oth­ers be­cause Nick­laus was al­ways fair to the me­dia,” he said.

It was dur­ing the 1982 U.S. Open when Nick­laus was in his early 40s when he was hav­ing to learn to bet­ter chip the ball, Agos­tini said. He never had to do it be­fore be­cause he was known for get­ting his ball on the green – never miss­ing the green, he re­called.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view Nick­laus took Agos­tini off to the side to ex­plain his chip strat­egy fill­ing his re­porter’s note­book with the geo­met­ric an­gles he was us­ing in his game. It was more than he re­ally needed.

An­other golfer that Agos­tini wrote about and still holds in high esteem is Man­teca’s Kevin Wentworth who was an All Amer­i­can from Ok­la­homa state and went on the Nike Tour for three or four years. Wentworth is an East Union High School grad­u­ate.

“I was happy to be at the Bee,” said Agos­tini who was in­ducted into the Stanis­laus County Hall of Fame in April two weeks be­fore he left the Bee.

GLENN KAHL/ The Bul­letin

Ron Agos­tini speaks to the Ripon Ro­tary.

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