Sid Hartman Rumors
Sid Hartman was 27 years old when he began making player personnel decisions for the Minneapolis Lakers pro basketball team in 1947. It was, as Hartman often noted, a different newspaper era than the one he encountered in his later years, when editors became increasingly concerned about conflicts of interest. In 1947? “[Lakers co-owner Ben] Berger wanted me to quit the paper and run the Lakers as the general manager,” Hartman said in his autobiography, “Sid!” “I considered that, but it was not an either-or situation.”
Mikan was seeking $12,000, which “was a ton of money” at the time, Hartman said in his book. The Lakers initially dragged their feet, and Mikan decided he was flying back to Chicago, which could have ended the Lakers’ chances. “Max [Winter, who had become a team executive] and I talked it over and figured that if Mikan got on that flight, he was gone for good,” Hartman said. “So I drove Mikan to the airport, and I made sure to get lost on the way. I drove north toward Anoka, rather than south toward the airport. After Mikan missed his flight, we put him up in a downtown hotel, then brought him to the Lakers office in the Loeb Arcade the next morning and agreed to give him the $12,000.”
Hartman was certain that the Lakers without Mikkelsen or any of the Kentucky players available would have finished with the worst record, affording them the No. 1 draft pick. Hartman had already targeted University of San Francisco center Bill Russell as the man he wanted. According to Hartman, Lakers radio play-by-play man Dick Enroth was a huge Mikkelsen fan and didn’t want to spend the 1954-55 season watching a last-place team. Enroth took Berger out to lunch and pleaded with him not to make the deal. Berger opted to hold on to Mikkelsen, and the rest is history. Russell was drafted by Boston and proceeded to lead the Celtics to 13 titles in 15 seasons.
He gained a stature very few journalists have achieved, becoming one of this state’s legendary public figures. For years, he was also a power broker in the local sports scene, playing an integral role in the early success of the Minneapolis Lakers pro basketball team while serving as the team’s de facto general manager and working behind the scenes to help bring major league baseball to Minnesota.
Hartman was the de facto general manager of the Lakers. The concession to journalism was that he did not often write about the Lakers in his newspaper column. In 1947, Hartman took a $15,000 check from Morris Chalfen to Detroit. He met Morris Winston, the owner of the Detroit Gems, at the airport, gave him the check, and the National Basketball League franchise relocated to Minneapolis as the Lakers. Chalfen’s partner was Ben Berger. Hartman, then 28, was offered the job as general manager, with the stipulation that he quit his newspaper job. He wouldn’t do that, so Max Winter — a former boxing promoter — became the official GM, with Hartman involved in personnel decisions. “Involved”’ was not a word Sid would use, by the way. He insisted that he made all of the personnel decisions that turned the Lakers into a dynasty in the early years of pro basketball.