Phone calls almost always began with “Hello, Kenton Eugene Somers”.
How Tim Tyers knew my full name, I don’t know, but he was a reporter for 43 years at The Phoenix Gazette and The Arizona Republic, so it was no surprise.
Why Tim, not my parents, gave me the middle name of “Eugene”, I don’t know. I never asked because the calls quickly turned to anything going on with the Cardinals, Arizona State, Diamondbacks, the newspaper and my family.
The call from Tim Tyers’ number on Thursday morning was different. It was Tim’s wife, Susan, leaving a message to call her back.
Tim died earlier that morning, she said. He was 75 years old and suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The family hoped to spend more time with him.
Tim and Susan celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last fall. He is survived by their daughters, Traci and Kerri, grandchildren Jacob and Nora and Miss Rosie the Poodle.
If you knew Tim Tyers, you have stories of Tim Tyers, some of which could be printed in a newspaper.
In his 43 years as a sports writer and journalist, Tyers has covered nearly every sport played in the Valley.
It had been his home since he was 2, when his family moved from Los Angeles to Phoenix. Tyers graduated from Washington High, attended Northern Arizona and ASU, and began working at The Gazette in 1965.
At one point or another, he wrote beats for ASU, the Suns, the Coyotes, and just about every other team. He’s covered NASCAR, Indy Car, high schools, the Fiesta Bowl, USFL, junior colleges, and anyone and anything else in Arizona that has played competitively on fields, courts, skating rinks, courses and tracks.
It seemed like Tyers knew everyone, and as someone who feuded with him for a while before The Republic and Gazette merged, it seemed like they told Tyers everything.
“There wasn’t a guy who knew this city better when it came to sports,” said retired Valley host Jude LaCava.
“Two things always come to mind when you think of Tim,” said Dale Hajek, who worked with Tyers at the Gazette and the Republic. “He was absolutely one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, and he was relentless in his quest for information. He reveled in breaking a great story.
Tyers was an ardent Sun Devils fan, but he didn’t spare ASU criticism when warranted.
“He sits pretty easy at 70-7,” said ASU assistant athletic director of media relations Doug Tammaro, referring to the Sun Devils’ win over Arizona in football last month. “No question about that.”
At the Gazette, Tyers was a mentor to young reporters and an effective recruiter. When his colleague Jeff Metcalfe interviewed for a job in 1985, Tyers and another writer took him to Herman’s, a bar in Tempe that served really big beers. Tyers made a compelling case for Metcalfe to leave Colorado Springs to cover for ASU.
Metcalfe covered the last seven years of baseball coach Jim Brock’s career, which also meant spending a lot of time with Tyers, who was close to Brock.
Tyers had opinions. Brick too. And these opinions were often contradictory.
“Whenever Tim questioned a coaching decision, Brock would tell him to ‘create his own team,'” Metcalfe said.
Tyers loved that kind of give and take, whether it was with a guy two stools away or with a friend on the phone.
Tyers has never met a stranger. Over the years, he called me from time to time to ask me if I had time for a beer. But there was no such thing as just having “one” beer with Tyers. The conversation and the stories could go on for hours.
Norm Frauenheim, a former sportswriter and columnist for The Republic, knows this as well as anyone because he spent years competing with Tyers on the Suns beat.
“Tim was a friend and a rival, a real character and a real pro,” Frauenheim said. “He drove me crazy and made me laugh, all at the same time. For most of the 1980s, we shared flights, taxis, insults, compliments, scoops and far too many last calls.
“He always had a wry, quirky remark about something we saw on the basketball court or on the street. His sense of humor made the NBA a little easier. Players loved him for it. Tim was the media version of a player coach. He was a gamer writer.
One example, Frauenheim said, was a trade between Tyers and Suns guard Dennis Johnson near the end of a game at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the early 1980s.
The game was tied with seconds left and Suns coach John MacLeod called time out. Tyers sat next to the Suns bench, with Frauenheim next to him.
“MacLeod knelt down, penning a play,” Frauenheim said. “The whole time DJ was leaning against the press table, talking to Tim and paying no attention to MacLeod. Tim was telling a joke. Just before he got to the punchline, MacLeod looked up and shouted, “Hey, hey, we’re trying to win a damn baseball game here!”
“DJ looked at Tim, told him to hold that punchline, took the inbound pass, turned around and hit the game winner from about 20 feet. MacLeod looked on in disbelief. I almost fell off my chair.
“DJ came back to the table, looked at Tim and said, So what’s this punchline? “It’s you, Dennis,” Tim said.
“He never missed a beat. God bless him,” Frauenheim said.
Tim decided to be an organ donor “to continue the gift of life for others,” Susan said. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asks you to consider becoming an organ donor by registering at www.dnaz.org or www.organdonor.gov.
Details of a memorial service are pending. Valley of the Sun Mortuary in Chandler, AZ will make arrangements and a message can be left for the family on Tim’s obituary page.
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