By the Bay

Eddie Lopez, extraordinary journalist

judysalamacha@gmail.comJanuary 27, 2013 

If fire, flood or mayhem threatened the Los Osos home of Eddie and Angie Lopez, the first treasure Eddie would grab is the photo he has of himself with baseball greats Willie Mays and Johnny Callison when Mays was wearing a New York Giants jersey and Callison played for the Chicago White Sox. “I can’t believe there I was.”

During his 44 years as a journalist, Lopez has interviewed Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, Frank Gifford, Les Richter, Leamon King, Joe Lewis, Jack Dempsey and more. But in 1944-45 at Santa Ana High School, sports journalism wasn’t his goal. He played sports.

Then, while writing for the school newspaper, a teacher recognized his talent and suggested a writing career.

“What is journalism? I had to ask, but then the narcotic of seeing my byline hooked me. I had no Hispanic role models in the field. I used to retype L.A. Times sports stories to get the rhythm.”

His dad was a prize fighter, so the family moved continually. Lopez attended 17 schools. He was always playing catch-up until awards confirmed he was, indeed, good. He won a national poetry contest and was the only Californian to win journalism’s high school Quill & Scroll Award.

Lopez’s stint at The Bakersfield Californian (1949-61) was interrupted to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a cartographer. He spent the rest of his career at The Fresno Bee.

He was president of the Fresno Press Club in 1970 and recognized as “the first Hispanic reporter in San Joaquin history” by the California Chicano News Media Association in 1987. Besides sports, he wrote feature articles, book reviews and travel essays.

Upon retirement in 1991, he and Angie moved to Los Osos. “Friends asked us to house-sit for a month and we stayed,” Lopez said.

He continued to write freelance pieces, edited five books for former sports colleagues, and authored three books: a memoir, “Ink in My Veins” (Trafford, 2005) describes his youthful experiences and jobs; “Marching to the Sound of Mariachi” (Trafford, 2007) profiles 15 Hispanic heroes to introduce more role models to Hispanic youths; and “Peasant in a Paper Suit” (2012) is a biography of Steve Stelich, a boxer, wrestler, Hollywood actor and owner of Stelich Stadium. The book also documents Bakersfield’s era of boxing, wrestling and marathon dancing in the 1970s and ’80s.

If it is true that good writers are avid readers, then Lopez is a great writer. He’s amassed and catalogued more than 3,000 hardbound books in his home library of eclectic topics. Angie confirms he reads incessantly each day. And at 83, Lopez enthusiastically writes about the good life he still enjoys.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.

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