This is the first page of the Charles Colombo interview from 1980.
By Michael Lewis
OK, I have to come clean.
If you really, really, really want to get technical, it was a legal pad, not a notebook.
In 1980, when I interviewed six members of the U.S. national team that upset England in the 1950 World Cup, I used a legal pad to take notes, not a notebook as I previously reported.
The bottom line is that there was information on the pad, precious information.
Last week I found that precious legal pad while rummaging through a box of old soccer stuff. I wound up using the comments for a story that ran at FourFourTwo:
Back in those days before reporters used tape recorders, VORs and cellphones to record interviews on a regular basis, we had to take notes — on a pen and paper. The interview process was much slower, but efficient.
When I went on assignment I used one of those typical reporter’s notebooks. When I worked in the newspaper office, more often than not, I used legal pads.
Well, you can put more information on a page and organize things better. If you took notes or quotes in a much smaller reporter’s notebook, you might have to go through as many as 10 pages to find the correct info. With a legal pad, it would be on three, maybe four pages.
That was a big deal on deadline.
One of the more pleasant surprises of my notetaking was that it was still quite readable 37 years after the fact, not some hieroglyphics and scribble that I do today.
Of course, I have a voice recorder and an I-Phone to back me up today.
As for the interview, I felt fortunate just to get six players. Several of their teammates, including the manager and coach, already had passed away, and several were nowhere or difficult to be found.
So, a half a loaf was much better than none.
The notebook went into a box. Years later, when I was going through old notebooks on whether I was going to save or throw them out, that legal pad made the cut for obvious reasons. And then, like a lot of things in life, it was forgotten about.
Until last Tuesday.
Five of the six interviews were on the legal pad. (Walter Bahr’s was on another one). I couldn’t believe what I had found. After reading through my notes, I figured I had enough info from Charles Colombo, Gino Pariani, Joe Maca, Frank Borghi, Harry Keough and Bahr, plus a 1987 reunion trip to Belo Horizonte that included former English international forward Wilf Mannion, Keough and Bahr that celebrated that historical match.
I usually don’t second guess myself, but this time I will. In 1980, I was doing a basic retrospective of the game, what it meant to soccer and how the legend had grown through the years.
I did not realize that I would need even more detailed information about an oral history decades later. If I had, I would have asked even more questions.
Still, I can’t complain. I found what I considered gold. I am trying to remember if I have similar notebooks or legal pads from back in the day that would help shed some light on the history of the beautiful game.
When I get some time I might just have to go through another box or two in at attempt to recapture some more history.