After spending 44 years as a sports writer and columnist, what do you do in retirement?
How about some golf, a few mornings a week driving the train at the Children’s Zoo and spending a Monday afternoon telling some old on-the-job stories of days gone by to a group of guys from the Lincoln Executive Club at their weekly luncheon (April 8)?
It’s been just over two years since Ken Hambleton retired from the Lincoln Journal Star, but he still likes to share stories and entertain a crowd that enjoys his company like a favorite uncle.
Right off the bat, Hambleton opened by sharing a lesson of how to shape three double-trucked pieces of newspaper into a paper flower bouquet to the audience's delight.
“Just something sportswriters learn in their spare time,” Hambleton mused upon sharing his newspaper creativity.
And very quickly, Hambleton took off into reminiscing about a time and a place where he watched, learned and marveled at what his peers were able to do in the public eye.
He pondered back to a past prep writer who had a preponderance for problems properly pronouncing names of people in public settings. That sportswriter was Chuck Sinclair, formerly with the Journal Star covering high school sports and whom Hambleton dearly remembers enjoying working alongside.
Hambleton mentioned the Lincoln high school coaches of the past that included Don Kelley of Pius X, Paul Forch of East High, Ed Johnson of Northeast, Wally McNaught of Southeast and Aldie Johnson of Lincoln High. In particular, Hambleton remembered an Executive Club luncheon in which the City All-Star teams were honored. Aldie Johnson, a long-time member of the club, and his team had not fared so well that year, and Sinclair shared Lincoln High’s record and commented that it was a "nice season.” That did not go over well.
“Aldie (Johnson) got up … and walked out,” said Hambleton, who was also noted at the newspaper for his Sports-Know-It-All columns, which were laced with historic gems of past knowledge.
Hambleton danced into the deep past of baseball history while providing comparative analysis with the present of baseball’s sabermetrics studies.
“Harry Chadwick came up with baseball’s first box score in 1879. So, you can say sabermetrics goes back to that time,” said Hambleton, comparing the first compiling of statistics to today’s abundant measure of the numbers and calculations with college and professional baseball teams.
Besides driving trains and golfing, Hambleton’s passion is baseball and in particular, Chicago Cubs baseball. And, on this particular Monday, it was the opening home game day for the Cubs. You could feel the excitement from this Cubs fan, who celebrated the 2016 World Series title after 108 years between titles.
Upon being asked, Hambleton recalled former basketball coach Moe Iba’s final game coaching the Huskers in the 1986 NCAA tournament in the Charlotte Coliseum against Western Kentucky in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hambleton said Iba had been caught in a scandal of having illegal practices at Mabel Lee Hall before the season had started. He said Iba had his resignation papers all made up, in case he lost.
“(NU Athletic Director) Bob Devaney had told Iba that he could keep coaching despite the scandal as long as he kept winning,” said Hambleton, who estimates that between his wife Ryly Jane Hambleton and himself, they wrote over 40,000 stories over their careers.