Working the copy desk is about as thankless as jobs get. I always equate it to playing offensive line: Nobody knows who you are unless you make a mistake.
In that sense, Steve Bell fit like a glove as a copy editor. He was about as centered and unassuming as a person can be. Like most of the offensive lineman you watch during a football game, you probably have no clue who I’m talking about.
Steve and I worked together for four years at the Topeka Capital-Journal, including three years (2003-06) on the sports copy desk. In the course of going to battle, and make no mistake, working the sports desk often is a battle, you grow close on a copy desk.
Close enough that hearing of his death Tuesday night hit rather hard, even though he’d been battling cancer for more than a year.
It was fitting that the Royals, a team he loved, made one of their more dumbfounding moves two days after he died, recalling a guy fans love to hate (Chris Getz) while demoting an underdog fans simply love (Johnny Giavotella). He would have HATED this move.
Though I left the Capital-Journal in 2007, I could count on getting a few emails during the baseball season about Kansas City’s allergy to doing anything right. That was our way of staying connected during the last six years.
I’m grateful I got a chance to share a few minutes with Steve last week before he passed. We spent 45 minutes talking about some fond memories, including state tournament weeks, co-worker blowups, his disdain for our computers (which has ascended to legendary status over the years), his ridiculously sound paper-tossing acumen (again, legendary) and, of course, the Royals.
After a decade of hearing about my collection of George Brett cards, he finally got to thumb through my beloved booklet containing more than 80 cards.
Many of you reading this recognize the “names” at the Capital-Journal. Dean. Haskin. Goering. Hentzen. Bisel. Corbitt. Maycock. Corcoran. All wonderful writers. But people like Steve Bell are the lifeblood of the industry, building pages, budgeting sections, piecing together stats and agate, perfecting copy before it hits the press and is delivered to your front yard.
While most of you didn’t know him, those who worked with him respected him a great deal and got a chance to visit him in the weeks before he died. You’ll recognize many of their names. Haskin. Bisel. Corbitt. Maycock.
Steve was 62 and is survived by his wife, Tonya Foster-Bell, and his son, Shane, among others. The Capital-Journal ran his obituary on Friday.