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Gordon Monson: Sports editor Joe Baird ends an era at The Tribune

“One thing is absolute — whatever team you root for, he’s been fair to it.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Joe Baird.

Thursday marks the end of an era for The Tribune’s Sports section and, beyond that, for The Trib as a whole.

Joe Baird, who has worked here for … what, four decades? … swings the pick in the salt mine as sports editor for this last day, as he, like Douglas MacArthur’s old soldier, fades away into the next part of his life, which is bound to be good, bound to be fulfilling, doing whatever he chooses. Maybe he’ll head off to T-Mobile Park to watch the Mariners play, maybe he’ll make his way to Fenway or Wrigley. Perhaps he’ll float on a raft in a pool somewhere.

Wherever he goes, based still out of his home here, he’ll deserve something fine.

Joe’s spearheaded sports coverage in Utah for about a decade, and before that he was a reporter assigned to numerous beats. If there’s a team in Utah, he’s either covered it or supervised its coverage, so his influence has been felt here, there, everywhere.

One thing is absolute — whatever team you root for, he’s been fair to it. In my 40-plus years in this business, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across an individual who, when it comes to good judgment regarding issues, stories, coaches, players, owners, executives, fairness, has exceeded Joe Baird. He may secretly cheer for a team, but that wasn’t evident from the way he balanced his own outlook as it pertains to balanced coverage.

A few memories stand out for me personally among the thousands.

The first is a conversation Joe and I had some 30 years ago, while riding in my car to cover a BYU football game in Provo. I was new to The Tribune at the time, having recently arrived here from Los Angeles, so I asked Joe, as he was a veteran beat writer of these parts back then, what he thought of my first few columns, and instead of giving me some bloated, routine answer, he said something along the lines of, “Get right to the point. Say what you’re going to say strong and straight out.”

I followed that advice, saying what I was going to say directly, albeit sprinkled with a little of this and that, whatever blowback might come.

The second is when Real Salt Lake created a storm by taking my credential away for … well, saying what I was going to say directly. Too directly for an unpolished and unseasoned team executive there. Baird stood by me on that one, and on many other occasions, just as he has for years, even on subjects when he may not have agreed with my opinion.

The third is a collection of many discussions we had about everything going on in the world, not just the sports world, but the big, wide world. That back and forth has been a good thing for me and it often helped me more fully form a clearer, fairer viewpoint on the matters at hand.

Thanks, Joe. From all of us.

You’ve served the sports fans of Utah well. Your retirement is a door shutting on an era at The Tribune. (Which means, in so many words, you’re old.)

A wonderful era it’s been.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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