'There's no bitterness': Oakland Press lays off longtime sports columnist Pat Caputo

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Oakland Press has closed the book on Pat Caputo's long career at the newspaper.

Caputo, who earned the nickname "The Book" for his total-recall ability when it came to even the smallest of sports stats and scenarios, was laid off by the paper he had worked for the past 37 years.

Caputo confirmed the news on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and then spoke with The News.

Pat Caputo was laid off by the Oakland Press on Tuesday after 37 years at the paper.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the history of the world," Caputo said in a phone interview with The News. "Not to sound like Lou Gehrig or something, but I started there answering phones in May of 1983. That's how everything built up, for whatever I've been able to experience.

"There's no bitterness at all, no anger. Obviously, like everybody else that's in that situation, there's the disappointment. But the disappointment isn't because I have anger at the Oakland Press.

"I love the Oakland Press. The experiences I've had have been amazing."

Caputo, 61, is a lifelong Michigan resident, having attended Birmingham Groves High School and then Michigan State.

His first job out of college was at a small paper in Three Rivers, where he worked news side, taking assignments like snapping a picture of the "Pet of the Week" with his Sears camera.

That job didn't last a month.

"My boss called me in one day," said Caputo, "and said I was just horrible."

Within weeks, he was hired to answer phones at the Oakland Press.

There was one problem: He couldn't type. That wasn't lost on his colleague, the late Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski. Caputo remembers Kowalski lumbering into the office one day to work a graveyard shift in the spring, his Taco Bell in tow.

Caputo was trying to make sense of track times, and trying to figure out how to type.

"This guy," said Kowalski, "has got some coordination problems."

But less than a year later, Caputo had found his footing — OK, his typing — and on Feb. 27, 1984, he was hired full-time to cover high schools.

In 1986, he began covering the Tigers, a job that ran through 1998, when he switched over to the Lions, and did that for five seasons.

Then, in 2002, Caputo became the paper's sports columnist, a job he'd held ever since. Until Tuesday.

He's covered just about every major sporting event, including Super Bowls, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals, though if you make him choose, the Rose Bowl sticks out most.

Mostly, though, Caputo said it's been about the people he's gotten to cover.

"When Al Kaline passed, I knew Al Kaline well. Ernie Harwell. These iconic figures, I've known them," Caputo said. "And everything I've been able to do that way is because of the Oakland Press."

Caputo didn't want to get into the details behind his dismissal, though it's quite clear. There are no sports going on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses are hurting — including the newspaper industry, which has been on shaky ground financially for many years, and it's only gotten worse recently. Both Detroit dailies have instituted mandatory furloughs, and MLive has taken financial-cutting measures, as well. And 97.1 The Ticket has laid off multiple on-air workers, including most notably and recently Kyle Bogenschutz.

A message for Don Wyatt, an Oakland Press editor and vice president of editorial for MediaNews Group in Michigan, wasn't immediately returned Tuesday. Denver-based MNG also owns The Detroit News.

Caputo, whose resume also includes countless awards including top sports columnist in Michigan and recognition has one of the top columnists in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors, will continue at 97.1. His radio career dates to the mid-1990s, first on WDFN The Fan, then 1270, the precursor to 97.1.

"I got to cover these things, meet these famous people," Caputo said before turning to his co-workers, which we're not listing for fear he's accidentally left someone out. "And everybody I've worked for and everybody I've worked with, I really, really appreciate everything with my experience."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984