Sportswriter Marty Mule’ Will Be Missed

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Friend of Five Decades Much More Than A Byline

By John Ventola

One of the disappointments of growing older is seeing family and friends leave this world. Yesterday, a close friend of 48 years, Marshall “Marty” J. Mule’, died of a heart attack at Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington.

Mule’, 73, was an award winning sportswriter for the Times-Picayune from 1974 until his ‘

Old Computer Typwriter

Mule’ Worked Hard At His Craft

retirement in 2005. He was named Louisiana Sports Writer of the Year three times by the National Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association, and in 2009 received the Distinguished Service in Journalism Award from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, its highest honor for Louisiana journalists.

Marty and I were classmates at LSU, first meeting in a journalism class. He was the older guy (by five years), a fellow who shared my loves of writing and sports knowledge. He had already served a short stint in a sports department along the Gulf Coast (Pascagoula), before deciding to tack on the educational requirement to go on to bigger and better things.

While journalism was our niche, our bond was forged as we steadfastly worked our way through the three-course, 13-hour, language requirement for the university. Not exactly Latin scholars, we too often used time between classes to walk down the hill from the Journalism Building and stroll over to the Married Student Apartments on Nicholson Drive. Marty and his lovely wife Rosemary lived there, but she worked full-time for the state, giving us a relaxing spot for us to get into sports stories, sports trivia, and the pros and cons of athletes of the day.

Somehow those Latin translations ended up on the back burner. Our Latin grades suffered, but we both were always up-to-date on the latest sports information. The sports trivia games we played at the Mule’s apartment, or off campus eateries, were intense. Forty five years later, local coffee shops were able to see our “I gotcha” antics.

Remember, this was before ESPN, and long before the internet and other technological advances. We were typing away on old Underwoods, priming ourselves to cover major sports for a top daily newspaper. After a brief time with a south Florida daily, my career took a different route. Marty made the leap successfully and made a name for himself immediately, covering Sugar Bowls, the Jazz basketball team, and other major events in flawless fashion.

I often complemented him on his many achievements. Marty, however, took things in stride. His calm demeanor belied the passion he had for his profession. He loved what he did for a living.

Rosemary’s carefully brewed coffee became the common staple of our student meetings. The sessions were interesting, and thought provoking. Marty was more than insightful, he had a unique understanding of sporting events. Not just the competition and strategy involved, but what made the event ebb and flow. I always thought that interesting because he never spoke about playing sports competitively. A keen observer, he had the knack of putting himself in a player’s shoes, or a coach’s suit, and accurately describing what he witnessed.

Respect for each other’s knowledge and appreciation of all sports grew. Could Charlie McClendon come up with a defense at Jackson to stop Archie Manning and preserve the Tigers perfect season (1969)? Would Pete Maravich be able to lead his roundball

newspaper

Marty Was An Acclaimed Writer and Storyteller

buddies over Kentucky in his last game in the Cow Palace (John Parker Ag Center)? Nope and nope. McClendon would beat a one-armed Manning (broken arm) the next season to secure an Orange Bowl berth, and though Pistol Pete scored 64 against the Wildcats, Press Maravich would get his only win over Adolph Rupp without his son the next year in the new building that would soon be named after him.

Our coffee consumption and exchange of sports banter set a pattern for later life that we kept until Saturday. We would catch a cup when we lived in New Orleans (Marty) and Kenner (me), or when Marty, after moving to Covington, would make his late night rides across the Causeway. Morning Call by Lakeside was our usual destination. After I retired and moved to Abita Springs, we met at Mandeville’s Café DuMonde to slice and dice what was happening in the world of sports.

Proud to say that Marty and I did not meet and regurgitate statistics, or discuss recent patterns in sports. We delved into what we believed led to certain things, why this player did that at that juncture of the game, or why a certain coach made that strategic call. It was fun, and our respect for each other’s insights never wavered. More than one of our sessions was worthy of an ESPN segment.

As honored as Marty was during his career—and he was still very active as a Tiger Rag columnist, and book writer—-it did not come easy for him. He paid his dues. After

LSU

LSU Provided Our Meeting Place and Athletic Competition For Years of Discussion

graduation, he went to work for a Pensacola daily before returning to Louisiana and working for the Thibodaux Comet. To subsidize his income for a growing family (Yvette, Stephanie, Michael) he also logged Sports Information Director time with Xavier University. However, at all times, his eye was on the big apple—the Times-Picayune. He honed-in, caught the attention of T-P staffers, and as they say, the rest is history. Thirty-one years of sports writing excellence.

Marty, who loved to research sports, wrote books in addition to his newspaper career. Knowing that my knowledge of baseball was quite extensive, I offered him tidbits, and facts, as he put together his latest book, “Game Changers, The Rousing Legacy of Louisiana Sports”. My friend honored me by listing my name in the acknowledgements section of his free-lance effort, a wonderful collection of Louisiana sports stories. His inscription on the inside of my copy, “To John Allen, One of Lousiana’s Giants. Marty” will be forever treasured. He loved calling me by my first and middle names.

He also wrote “Sugar Bowl, The First Fifty Years”; “Louisiana Athletes: The Top Twenty”; “Eye of the Tiger: A Hundred Years of LSU Football”; “Game of My Life: LSU Football: Memorable Stories of Tigers Football”, which he wrote with former coach Paul Dietzel; “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History”; “Tales From the Tiger Sidelines”; and “Rolling Green: A Century of Tulane Football”.

Marty was a gifted wordsmith, but he worked hard at his craft. He was diligent, and like myself, a stickler on accuracy. More than once I heard him warn of the inaccuracies of Wikipedia. Our friendship was special to me, and I know it was to him also We never had a cross word in those 48 years despite disagreements on coaching decisions, team trades, or player discipline.

It saddens me to think that our last conversation, by cell phone on Thursday, ended with us not being on the proverbial “same page”. He called to see if I had time for a cup of

LSU

Marty Was A Good Friend And A Good Family Man

joe and some sports catchup. Busy with something, I told him I couldn’t, but asked him what he thought about the underachieving LSU men’s basketball team. More to the point, the terrible coaching performance by Johnny Jones. As soon as I stated, as I have in three recent blogs, that he should be fired, Marty said he should be retained for at least one more season. His opinion was that this was Jones’ first poor year. Of course I disagreed, and two sports loving friends hung up our phones, saying we would discuss further over our next cup of coffee.

If only…

Besides Rosemary, Marty is survived by his two daughters, Yvette Pitre and Stephanie Strohmeyer, and his son, Michael, all of Covington, and four grandchildren.

I will personally miss my sports sounding board, but more so the unique friendship we shared. I can already anticipate watching my next sports event and thinking “WWMT”.WHAT WOULD MARTY THINK.

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ByJohn


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