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Norwalk woman recalls covering Cleveland Indians in 1948

Cary Ashby • Dec 12, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Covering the Cleveland Indians that day in 1948 simply was an assignment for Mary Stewart, who was then Mary Lou Laning.

“When I came to work that day, the managing editor said, ‘You’re going to the Indians tonight,’” Stewart said.

“We were heading for the World Series; there was baseball fever.”

Sixty-nine years later, that 1948 assignment for the Cleveland News is a historic day in journalism. Stewart was the first female reporter to cover the Indians. That season Cleveland won the World Series by beating the Boston Braves, four games to two.

“There were three photos of me on the front page. But to my chagrin, my first sentence was rewritten as if a lady were to write it,” Stewart said. “But the rest of it was mine.”

For the three photos, she said she posed for the camera since there was no such thing as speed photography.

But there was no faking her knowledge of baseball. Stewart said she knew “who went up to bat” and where the ball went. She also attended many Indians games with friends and co-workers.

Stewart remembers how Indians player/manager Lou Boudreau was an expert at knowing where to hit the baseball. Boudreau played in Major League Baseball for 15 seasons, primarily as an Indians shortstop.

“They called him the boy manager,” Stewart said. “He would look out at the outfield and see where there were (no players) and he would hit it right there.”

When it came to journalism, Stewart was a jack-of-all trades. But maybe in her case, it should be jill-of-all-trades.

“My first newspaper reporting ran in the Reflector. When I was in high school I wrote a weekly, or maybe monthly, article of high school news, with names of prominent students,” she said.

“I was the utility infielder,” the Norwalk woman said. “A utility infielder is a fellow who can play all the positions.”

Depending on the day of the week, Stewart might be doing any number of things.

“I used to sit on the copy desk and write headlines,” said the 1934 Norwalk High School graduate, who also did layout for the food and society pages.

Stewart, who turns 100 on Dec. 21, was asked what her favorite thing to do was for newspapers. She said it “was sitting on the copy desk for the first edition and marking all the typos.”

“I liked it all,” said Stewart, who was born in Cleveland in 1917.

Stewart was the managing editor of the Ohio Wesleyan Transcript, the college newspaper.

“They would have appointed me editor, but they didn’t want anybody to know they didn’t have a man student. It would be a black eye for the college,” she said.

That day in 1948, the Indians organization had her sit beside team owner Bill Veeck.

“But we never spoke,” Stewart said, recalling the photo opportunity.

“They wouldn’t let me sit in the press box; that was full of men. I sat in the front row,” she added.

Stewart was asked if she has been able to distance herself from her Cleveland Indians assignment — the only time she did it — and realize it now has historical significance.

“I don’t think it had any historical importance. They did it to sell papers,” she said.

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