Reader: I was deeply saddened to learn about Larry Press, The Californian's longtime sports editor and sports columnist, who died this week ("Longtime sports editor Larry Press dies at 93," Feb. 7). Two events in my memory stand out, among the many, that define Larry Press:
• On Oct. 17, 1989, Larry was in the press box (no pun intended) at Candlestick Park in San Francisco covering the third game of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's when at 5:04 p.m. the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck. Recognizing the magnitude of what had just happened, Larry left the stadium and somehow managed to get to the center of San Francisco, reporting on the broken glass from the high rises covering the streets in the Financial District and the raging fires in the Marina District. This was years before cellphones and laptops, but Larry managed to find working telephones and call in updates to The Californian newsroom – "City desk? Gimme rewrite!" – so that on the morning of Oct. 18, Californian readers got firsthand accounts of the damage from one of the largest earthquakes in California history. Larry may have covered sports, but he was a journalist first and foremost.
• When I was executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation (2007-14), Larry and his wife, Bona, made an appointment with me to set up an endowed scholarship account. They had moved to Ventura several years before, but clearly Bakersfield was important to them. Not only did Larry have a long career at The Californian, but also Bona had a long tenure as a journalism professor at Bakersfield College. We sat down together and established the criteria for a generous scholarship endowment. What that means is that Larry and Bona will provide opportunity in perpetuity for generations of Bakersfield students, thus improving the quality of life for all who call Bakersfield home.
When I first joined The Californian in 1983, Larry was one of the first to greet me and make me feel welcome. I never forgot that and always appreciated his humanity and professionalism.
— Mike Stepanovich
Reader: Beautiful job by Ron Stapp and my former colleagues he interviewed in capturing the essence of Larry Press, a Bakersfield treasure I’m proud to call a close friend. Day after day for the better part of 42 years, L.P. cranked out insightful, compelling columns touching on all things of interest both locally and nationally to readers of The Californian.
More memorable than that and his uncanny knack for hitting tight deadline filings right at his length target (19.19 inches) was his dedication to mentoring young writers and adopting them as equal peers. Larry loved nothing better than trading wit with his friends on any number of topics — and, let me tell you, as one lucky enough to succeed him as The Californian's sports columnist and to be among those he liked to write letters to, matching wits or meaningful takes with him presented no small task.
Rest In Peace, Pressboxx, your life’s work, gentleness, companionship, wit and yes, your funky golf swing, will never be forgotten.
— Andy Kehe
Price: Larry liked to call the newspaper's sports department "the toy department" because he recognized that sports fandom was but a diversion in the grand scheme. Maybe that's why he so eagerly and professionally switched to news reporter mode when situations arose like the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Larry also recognized that a good sports story is a good story, period, and that all good stories have one essential commonality: they're about people. Heartbreak, triumph, longing, passion, compassion ... Yes, I want to know whether the batter hit a fastball or a slider, but it's the human drama enveloping that moment and its aftermath that carries the story forward and makes me care. Larry was all about that.
Great story, by the way, on Larry's passing by Ron Stapp. It was good to hear from old colleagues of Larry's whom Ron quoted in the story — Jim Braun, Tony Lacava and Mike Griffith. A million others, including longtime sportswriting colleague Jeff Evans, who called me with the news, could have added memorable "Pressisms." I had forgotten about Larry's desk nameplate, "Nosmo King," which of course is pronounced "no smoking," and the helpful spelling hint he offered people regarding his name: “It’s Press with a P, like pneumonia.”
What a guy.
Reader: Thank you for your column about the unsheltered homeless (“It was below freezing last night. What did the unsheltered homeless do?,” Feb. 5). When I went out to my driveway that morning to pick up my newspaper, I shivered and literally said “Brrr” out loud, and I was glad to get back into my nice, warm house in less than 30 seconds. Sitting at my table and drinking a hot cup of coffee, it was humbling for me to read your column about those who struggle to stay warm during cold days. I simply don’t think about that most of the time.
I was glad to read that steps have been taken to carve out warmer areas and that emergency warming centers are a possibility in the future. While I am not in a position to contribute much towards the solutions for the homeless, I appreciate your bringing awareness (or a stark reminder) that most of us take getting/staying warm for granted.
— Laurie Green
Reader: Your piece about the homeless and cold nights in Wednesday’s Californian reminded me of an article I just read about this. It’s about coats that turn into sleeping bags through the Empowerment Plan (empowermentplan.org) and the founder designs the coat and then hires the homeless to help make them, which leads them out of homelessness.
— Dan Borradori
Reader: Thank you for your article about the cold and the homeless. Honestly, sometimes I just want to bang my head against a wall. I see many homeless without so much as a serviceable backpack. Why don't we fund backpacks containing a Marmot sleeping bag, a ground tarp, a jacket, and some Patagonia base layers? Provide them to the police who, when they see someone genuinely desperate, can give them a backpack that contains information about services, such as where to go for a public restroom. Would this cost tens of thousands of dollars? No.
Also, this idea that homeless people who congregate downtown use gifts of cash to buy drugs is just not (well, not completely) true. When you see a person rummaging through a dumpster for something to eat, you might just imagine they are genuinely desperate and hungry because they are! Is it so hard to say, "Hey friend can I buy you a sandwich?" I have done it. It doesn't hurt. And you will be genuinely blessed as you will have increased your treasure in heaven.
— Name withheld
Reader: It was so cold Monday night, I wondered how the homeless were faring. Wondering if I’d live an hour in such conditions in a holocaust situation. How blessed I am.
— Ann Silver
Price: The county's new low barrier homeless shelter, tentatively set to open in late February near M and 29th streets, will shield from the elements up to 150 people, plus perhaps another 50 to 100 car-camping individuals. For many, whether they know about the shelter or not at the moment, it can't get here soon enough.
Reader: Just a question Bob, with your concern, how many of the homeless did you invite into your home last night?
Price: I can only imagine what it must be like to be you, Boris.
Reader: What does Hillary Bjorneboe's hair style and hair color have to do with the story ("Former recruit testifies in first day of civil trial against BPD," Feb. 4)? More sexism.
Good reporting, though. I can say from firsthand experience and observation, if true, these shameful, amoral, illegal, and unethical and "abuse of power" BPD behaviors toward Bjorneboe by superiors, existed in the county of Kern. And it went right to the top.
— Jean Hughes Gutierrez
Price: Our Stacey Shepard reported that "Bjorneboe appeared in court with her long blond hair pulled back in a French braid, wearing dark clothes and took the stand in the afternoon." We frequently describe the appearance and demeanor of defendants and plaintiffs in court proceedings. It's helpful because we want to set the scene for readers — and judges sometimes ban cameras in the courtroom. And even when they don't it's often difficult to get good photos from the audience area. And, yes, Stacey delivered some good, thorough reporting.
Reader: Troll Leonard Pitts has lost his status as a columnist ("Hillary Clinton was right," Feb. 3). He used terms like lying, racist, misogynistic, vagina-grabbing, and deadbeat to characterize President Trump. "Troll," according to Webster: to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content."
— Robert (Bob) Hughes
Price: Well, Pitts "deliberately" posted those accusatory terms, no doubt about that. And they're certainly "inflammatory." "Offensive"? Sure, to many. "Disruptive"? Maybe, I suppose. But are they true? That's how we ought to be judging his characterizations of President Trump.
Pitts called Trump a "lying" politician, and fact-checkers — now there's a growth industry for you — overwhelmingly agree. The Washington Post's must-be-exhausted fabrication tabulation staff claims that, as of Dec. 16, Trump had made "15,413 false or misleading claims over 1,055 days" in office. Even if half of those claims are a stretch, that's a remarkable total.
Is Trump racist? That one is harder to nail down — for some people, anyway, not for others. Critics will cite numerous examples, starting with his "shithole countries" dismissal of African and Caribbean nations in January 2018.
Is Trump misogynistic? In October 2018 The Week published a list of "61 things Donald Trump has said about women," and some of them would seem to support Pitts' contention. For example, referring to Kim Kardashian in February 2013, our not-yet president said: "Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely."
"Vagina-grabbing" is a gimme — Trump offered that tried-and-allegedly-true pickup strategy, using a different term for the lady part, in that famously leaked Access Hollywood video.
As for "deadbeat," as USA Today reported in June 2016, Trump "has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans ... who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them. At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings ... document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work."
The only remaining question is whether use of those terms is "irrelevant." To Trump's staunchest supporters, apparently so. But to voters who value honesty, decorum and class in their president, I imagine they're relevant indeed.
Reader: No one in local media, including at the newspaper, ever reported the final homeless count, as far as I saw ("Volunteers 'see the real face' of homelessness through point-in-time count," Jan. 25). What was it?
— Jack Barker
Price: I asked Executive Editor Christine Peterson about this. Her response: "They haven't released it yet. Likely late March. But good reminder to keep asking."