Tribune sportswriter Fred Mitchell ending ‘terrific run’

Fred Mitchell

Fred Mitchell

Legendary sports reporter and columnist Fred Mitchell is stepping down after more than four decades at the Chicago Tribune.

Mitchell, 67, confirmed Wednesday that he has applied for a buyout under the voluntary staff reduction plan offered by Tribune Publishing. He may be the best-known personality among dozens of Tribune editorial employees who are believed to have opted for buyouts.

“My decision is totally voluntary and I plan to pursue other options,” Mitchell said. “It has been a terrific run at the Tribune — over 41 years — and I believe I am the longest-tenured sportswriter in Chicago, covering practically every sport imaginable during my career.

“I have had the opportunity to work with and cover some real pros, as well as some real characters. The experience has been a true blessing.”

The buyout offer includes up to one year’s pay depending on length of employment along with extended health insurance benefits. Applicants are expected to be notified of their acceptance by November 12. Mitchell said he may work beyond the November 25 effective date of the buyouts since some of the sports beats he’s covering will still be in season.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mitchell grew up in Gary, Indiana, and graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he was an All-American placekicker. In 2009, the National Football Foundation named the annual Fred Mitchell Award for the nation’s top collegiate placekicker in his honor.

He played semi-pro football with the Columbus Bucks while teaching high school English and coaching football and track in Grove City, Ohio, before joining the Tribune in 1974.

As a pioneering African-American sportswriter, Mitchell recalled in a 2012 interview: “I remember sitting around the copy desk my first year on the job and the late sportswriter John Husar walked over and said half-jokingly in his booming voice: ‘The Chicago Tribune has hired a black sportswriter. What is the world coming to?’ ”

Mitchell has written 11 sports books, including biographies of Bears Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and Richard Dent and Cubs Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg.