Saturday, February 24, 2007
Journal Editor/Writer Dies at 61
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
Mike Hall, a veteran New Mexico journalist who was best known as a sports editor, writer and columnist, died early Friday.
Most recently, Hall held the title of associate sports editor at the Albuquerque Journal and covered Lobo women's basketball.
UNM women's basketball coach Don Flanagan said Hall established an "excellent relationship" between himself and the players and staff.
"Once he got the position of our beat reporter I knew that it was going to help our program immensely just because of his background, how well he was thought of," Flanagan said. "I thought throughout his time his intention was always very positive with our program, and I appreciated the recognition that he brought to the program."
Flanagan said Hall did his homework. The coach was often "amazed" Hall knew who the staff was recruiting without being told.
Flanagan might not have always liked the stories that were printed, he said, but Hall was still highly regarded.
"I respected him as a reporter and as somebody that would give us honest and fair coverage," he said.
Hall joined the Albuquerque Journal staff in 1988.
"Mike Hall was a real pro," said Journal Editor Kent Walz. "He loved what he did, and it showed.
"In nearly 20 years here, Mike was a good colleague and a good friend. We'll miss him."
Hall died of pneumonia, his family said. The 61-year-old Albuquerque resident had battled lung cancer in recent years and had recovered.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 28 at French Mortuary, 10500 Lomas NE.
Hall launched his newspaper career in the San Francisco Bay Area as a sports reporter for the Berkeley Gazette, covering such teams as the Oakland A's and the Oakland Raiders. He then served as sports news editor at the Wichita Eagle-Beacon before leaving in 1979 to become weekend editor and assistant news editor at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., according to past news stories.
Hall was named sports editor at The Albuquerque Tribune in 1983 and also served as the evening newspaper's city editor and as a columnist, before moving to the Albuquerque Journal to become sports editor.
He became a Journal associate sports editor in 1996 and focused his reporting on UNM women's basketball and boxing.
Local boxer Danny Romero said Hall had been writing about him since he was a very young, unknown fighter.
Romero's skills in the ring helped, he said, but Hall's "the one who made me famous."
While stories can sometimes generate contentious relationships between reporters and their subjects, Romero said respect was never lost for Hall.
"You didn't always have to have your guard up. As an athlete, you always have to watch out with you guys," the fighter said, referring to newspaper reporters. "With him, you didn't. It was always open arms. He would let you speak your mind and make you sound good."
Born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1945, Hall was raised in Wichita, Kan., and studied journalism at Wichita State University, said Sondra Hall, his wife.
Hall played a lot of sports in his younger days, including boxing as an amateur, added Kathryn Hall, his daughter.
"He was never very good at it, he always told me, but he liked it," she said.
Hall loved the crunch of sports reporting: the road trips, the demanding game-time coverage, the interviews and simply getting the story.
But ultimately, "he liked to write," Kathryn Hall said.
"I always thought he just liked to write (newspaper) articles but it turned out he wrote a lot of stuff," she said, referring to journals the family found. "We were reading a lot of it last night.
"He just wrote all the time."
Hall's work, with his easygoing style, was recognized multiple times by his peers.
Among his awards, in 1990 Hall received, along with now Tribune Editor Phill Casaus, the best sports story award from the Albuquerque Press Club for stories on the NCAA's investigation surrounding a UNM track sprinter. The following year, he picked up the top sports writing award from the New Mexico Press Association for stories on athletic spending at UNM. And in 1993, the press association again honored Hall with a first-place award for two sports columns.
"He was humorous and fun-loving," Kathryn Hall said, "and very strong and courageous."
Hall was preceded in death by his parents, Harold Rea Hall and Jewell Gray. His survivors include his wife of 30 years, Sondra; children, Dionné Mantaoni, Jason Hall, Michael Bolton and Kathryn Hall; and six grandchildren.
Contributions can be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105.
"For years a lot of us have made at least some feeble attempt at a Mike Hall impersonation. It was sort of a running gag. But the thing about it was, it was always done in fun and with great respect and Mike appreciated that. That's what I'll remember, just how fun-loving and genial he always was. He was a true gentleman and he loved this profession, and I like to think that those qualities rubbed off on the rest of us."
--James Yodice, Journal Staff Writer
"I literally owe my career to Mike Hall. The man hired me on the spot as a part-time agate clerk for the 1996 Summer Olympics even though I hadn't studied journalism in college. Over the years he always took time to nudge me in the right direction, be it in journalism or in family matters. While I'll always remember him for his engaging personality and natural love for sports, the thing I'll miss the most is our annual rite of spring debating who's better, my Angels or his A's."
--Will Webber, Journal Staff Writer
"He was a great man who was very helpful when I first started doing high school games for the Journal and his knowledge of boxing was always helpful. He was always a gentlemen, always willing to talk and share knowledge."
--Felix Chavez, Las Cruces Sun-News
"Man, I sure hated those wild-card games he'd play at the poker table. Never could figure them out. Figuring out Mike, however, was a different story. I never heard him shout. Never really saw him angry, in fact. Once upon a time, he was my boss. Once he was my mentor. He'll always be my friend. And I'll miss him dearly."
--Mark Smith, Journal Staff Writer
"Mike had such a genial nature. He had broad interests and could be passionate about events of the world. But he would always return to his fun-loving, bad-joke cracking self. His amiable presence and genuine goodness will always remain with those of us who were privileged to hang out with him."
--Ed Johnson, Journal Assistant Sports Editor
"Mike cut through the stress of the job and kept the newsroom loose and in good spirits, invoking the office PGA Tour marshal "Quiet" sign from Ken Sickenger on an almost-daily basis. Mike didn't take himself too seriously, but valued the important things in life and was a true pro on the job. He made a tough job look easy."
--Sam Aselstine, Journal Sports Editor