Jim Armstrong was 25 years old when he met Irv Moss.
“I arrived at the Denver Post in July of 1984,” Armstrong told The Denver Press Club in a phone interview. “And Irv had been there about 112 years by then, give or take.”
Moss had, in fact, been with the Denver Post for 28 years at the time, but he was not even halfway to his eventual tenure of 60 years with The Post.
The Denver Post recruited Armstrong for their sports section during a pivotal time in history for Denver news. It was the height of the so-called “newspaper war” between The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
“Management was just crushing us left and right if we didn’t get every little story,” Armstrong said. “You needed someone to kind of calm you down and tell you that you weren’t a miserable failure.”
For Armstrong, that someone was Irv Moss.
“When you missed a story, you beat yourself up pretty good back then,” Armstrong said. “There was a dark cloud hanging over your head, and Irv was kind of the ray of sunshine.”
Moss died on Jan. 8 because of complications from esophageal cancer.
“A walking, talking timeline of not only sports of Denver, but the history of Denver,” Armstrong said of Moss.
Born Dec. 14, 1934, in Denver, he graduated from West High School in 1952. He later attended Colorado State University — what was then known as Colorado A&M — but dropped out after his father fell ill, according to an obituary from The Post.
Moss began work as a copyboy at The Post in 1953, eventually leaving the paper briefly to work as an electrician. He returned to the paper in 1956 and went on to cover high school, college and professional-level sports before retiring in 2016 after 60 years.
His attitude towards friends and colleagues was always kind-hearted, but no one denied his status as a “bulldog” reporter.
“He was an old-school newspaper man,” Armstrong said. “He’d fight over a piece of news like a Pitbull over a steak.”
Armstrong went on to say that he had a unifying presence within the newsroom.
“He just ingratiated himself to everybody across lines,” Armstrong said. “The janitors up to the older newspaper people and the newcomers.”
Everyone at The Post knew Moss, and he also became a household name within the Colorado sports community over his years reporting. He was even awarded the Football Writers Association of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2016 and inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame in 2017.
“He was sort of a legend of covering high school sports,” said Mike Monroe, Moss’s former coworker and friend. “All the coaches, all of the athletic directors, anybody involved in high school sports knew Irv Moss.”
In college sports, Moss was most engaged by the Air Force Academy, perhaps because of his U.S. Army background. He served in Germany in the late 1950s.
“I think he had just a special love for the Academy,” said Gary Sever, a longtime family friend and sports media colleague. “He was one of the first reporters to actually cover the Air Force as they were just getting started.”
Among the professional sports, Moss’s heart was all-in for the Colorado Rockies. Baseball was his true love, and he had covered the team since its debut in 1993. Sever fondly remembered Moss’s excitement whenever he got to visit Coors Field.
“Even after retirement, he’d go up into the press box just to catch up with everybody,” Sever said.
Moss was overjoyed when Major League Baseball finally came to Denver, but his love for the sport was formed well before the Rockies.
“Irv was a huge baseball fan, and a huge Yankees fan and a huge Mickey Mantle fan,” Armstrong said.
When Moss was growing up, sports coverage was considerably different from today — he heard games on the radio, and ESPN’s around-the-clock coverage was still decades away. Growing up in Denver meant he couldn’t watch a professional baseball team in-person, so listening to the games on the radio was the next best option.
But Moss’s parents did treat him to a special day at Wrigley Field in Chicago, his sister Irma Watson recalled.
That day, she got to watch — and practically force — her shy and mesmerized brother get his baseball signed by one of the most notable players in the history of Major League Baseball.
Before the game, Watson heard someone in the crowd call out, “I think that’s Babe Ruth!” Sure enough, the baseball legend was on the field, and she knew they had to get Ruth’s autograph.
“I gave [Irv] a baseball and told him to go down and get Babe’s autograph,” Watson recalled. “He was very bashful. He wouldn’t do it. So I took his arm and said, ‘C’mon Irv let’s go!’”
Watson dragged her reluctant brother to meet him.
“We got his signature,” she said. “Babe turned around to us, held our hands, rubbed our shoulders, said hello.
“And I think that baseball might still be in existence.”
While baseball was Moss’s first love, he also worked other jobs outside of reporting.
He served as a press aide for the U.S. Olympic Committee for many years. Sever, his friend, estimated he had worked as an aide for 10 different Olympic games. While working, Moss traveled the world and walked next to Team U.S.A. during the opening ceremonies. His job mostly required arranging interviews with the athletes and assisting the U.S. journalists with game logistics.
“He was sort of a jack of all trades for the U.S. Olympic Committee when it came to dealing with the media because he understood the needs of the media better than most people,” Monroe said.
Moss’s contributions to Denver journalism also extended to the Denver Newspaper Guild. He ferociously advocated for employees of both The Post and Rocky Mountain News, negotiating with management over salaries, hours and other benefits.
“He was a warrior for the Denver Newspaper Guild,” Armstrong said. “[Management] brought people in from Washington, D.C. — labor lawyers and whatnot — to fight over every little nickel, and Irv went toe-to-toe with them for decades.”
Monroe worked with Moss on some of these negotiations and said his stubborn attitude and fearless nature served him well, though his relentless efforts often went unnoticed.
“It’s my opinion that Irv Moss is the person most responsible for the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, at one time, having been among the highest paying newspapers in the country,” Monroe said. “And I don’t think enough people really appreciated that fact.”
Armstrong even credits Moss and his efforts with the Guild for bringing him to Denver in the first place.
“The Post offered me a massive raise from what I was making in Memphis,” Armstrong said. “You could make the argument, without Irv, I wouldn’t have come to Denver.”
Moss further served Denver’s journalistic community through his work with the Denver Press Club. Monroe said he served on the board for many years and was appointed president of the Club.
“We were always on the brink of not having enough money to keep operating, but somehow we did,” Monroe said. “Irv had a lot to do with that.”
For a man with so many connections and friends, Moss was surprisingly reserved. His friends often referred to him as an “international man of mystery” because of his tendency to keep a lot of things to himself.
“Irv was a very private man and we all respected that,” Armstrong said.
Despite this, many were drawn to Moss, and Monroe said he maintained friendships better than anyone he had ever known.
“He had some kind of magnetism about him,” Sever said. “He always was just well liked by everyone, and it wasn’t because he over-talked, I can tell you that.”
Said Armstrong: “If you think about that for a second: 60 years, same industry, same newspaper, same city, same circle of friends. I mean you can imagine what he meant to us all.”
Moss is survived by his wife Barbara, and two children: Andy Moss and Karen Mitsch.