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Sam Goldman, prince of the Bay Area press box

The sports world this week lost a life that brought light into press boxes throughout the Bay Area.

Sam Goldman

Sam Goldman, a trailblazer and beloved character in his long tenure as a sports information director, died Tuesday at the age of 87.

Sports information directors hardly receive recognition for their job behind the glamorous facade of professional and college-level sports. But Goldman, backed by his love of sports, a warm smile and infinite stock of peppermint and butterscotch candies, became one of the most respected SIDs around.

Through the late 50s, 60s and 70s, Goldman worked at Skyline College, moved on to San Francisco State University and, eventually, became the first to sit as the West Coast Conference’s SID during its early years.

Former San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner sports editor Glenn Schwarz met Goldman in 1968 when Schwarz was writing for  SF State’s newspaper, The Phoenix, and was blown away by Goldman’s fervor:

“He was unlike anyone I ever met. He loved what he was doing, loved the athletes and was filled with so much lore about SF State. He built himself as the wildest PR man in the west.”

Goldman stayed with the Gators from 1957 to 1970, only to return 15 years later for another five years. But his love for Bay Area sports spread beyond The City’s confines, Goldman made sure no team escaped his attention.

SF State’s longtime wrestling coach Lars Jensen recalls his presence in the Bay Area:

“He loved sports, all kinds of sports, didn’t favor one sport to the other. Wrestling isn’t a major sport, but he always gave us our due time … He knew everybody. It didn’t matter where you were going, if we went to Fresno or Humboldt or Chico, he knew everybody and everybody knew him.”

His popularity within Bay Area sports community is a product of his sweet and modest nature. Gary Cavalli, the executive director of the Fight Hunger Bowl, worked with Goldman on the annual philanthropic game.

Cavalli recalls Goldman always calling sports writers and other colleagues “coach” and “great hero”:

“I always got a big kick out of it. He thought it was his good fortune and good luck to work at all the major sports in the Bay Area. He called us heroes, but he was the real hero.”

His job was to feed information to writers, but Goldman wasn’t afraid to break down the virtual wall between PR and journalists to make a friend.

He carried a box of peppermint and butterscotch candies around to distribute along with game statistics to writers. He’d pepper the nearest friend with his own pearls of wisdom, a practice he’d perfected while teaching journalism courses to adoring students at Skyline College since 1969.

Even after retiring in 1989, Goldman would pop up in the press box at collegiate matches, the World Series and major bowl games just to see what he could do to help. He would sometimes bring his wife, Adele. As years passed, and as Goldman grew more frail, Adele would come along more often.

Goldman’s last public event was the December 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl, but even after several decades of work, said Cavalli, his loyalty to his job still shone through:

“It’s great to have somebody that you can totally count on. He was completely reliable. If there was a press conference at two, you know he would be there at one and he would be putting all the material out on the table, the microphones would be on and plugged in, the chairs were perfectly spaced. And he still had his little box of candy to hand out when everyone walked in.”

Goldman was inducted into the Skyline College Hall of Fame in 1987, the San Francisco State Gator Hall of Fame in 1993 and the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame in 1994, where he was also awarded a lifetime achievement award in 1991.

Goldman is survived by his wife, Adele, four daughters, Sandy, Julie, Andrea and Ruth, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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