His colleagues in the sports media in Albuquerque called him “Slick” because he was.
Many of the Duke City athletic characters he wrote about called him “Sniper,” a nod to the well-timed, targeted poison that often flowed from his pen.
He called himself – or at least his alter ego – “Der Linzer”, a wacky insulting comedian.
Richard Stevens, who worked in sports journalism for the Albuquerque Tribune and later wrote for the University of New Mexico’s athletics website, can be seen in an undated photo. He died on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (Courtesy Trevor and Kelsey Stevens)
Above all else, Richard Stevens was a mentor, friend, and proud and devoted father, say his former co-workers and two children.
Stevens, a sports reporter and columnist for the Albuquerque Tribune for 34 years, died Wednesday after contracting an aggressive form of leukemia. He was 70.
He loved his job, say his former colleagues, and was remarkably good at it. But, they said practically unanimously, his greatest love was his son Trevor and daughter Kelsey.
That love was fully reciprocated.
“I don’t think everyone has as close a relationship with their father as we do,” Trevor Stevens said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “He was our best friend, he really was.
“God we love this guy.”
A native of Albuquerque and a UNM graduate, Stevens started at the Tribune practically right out of school. It stayed with the city’s afternoon newspaper until it was folded in 2008.
“(Stevens) was a really, really talented writer,” said Edgar Thompson, who worked at the Tribune from 1990-2002 and now reports on track and field athletics at the University of Florida for the Orlando Sentinel. “I’ve seen a lot of really great, really talented people.
“Richard could really write, man.”
Steven’s contributions to the department, said Iliana Limon Romero, another former Tribune sports journalist, outperformed his own work.
“He took many young writers, photographers, and collaborators under his wing and made sure he provided timely feedback, advice, and immensely thoughtful feedback,” said Limon Romero, now deputy sports editor for the Los Angeles Times. “He really took his time reading and grooming and observing and looking and observing, and that meant a lot to so many of us.”
If the above paints the picture of a gentle and nurturing soul, think again. In both the Tribune and the newsroom pages, Stevens’s needle was – sharp and accurate – always out.
“He definitely pressed my buttons and knew how to reach me,” Thompson said. “And I’m a simple guy, pretty thin-skinned.
“But he’s always been on the other side and has made me a better writer in a good way.”
As a columnist, Stevens seldom held back in assessing the state of UNM athletics – be it on the field or in the administration building. His humor could be vicious, never more so than in the “Lindsey Line”, a feature that did not go by Stevens’ name and was supposedly composed by someone who called himself “The Linz”.
As old-fashioned as The Linz’s humor is, the feature has become a favorite of Tribune readers – and Stevens.
“He loved doing The Linz,” said former Tribune sports journalist Jeff Carlton. “Linz was almost more Richard than Richard.”
Stevens was a good athlete himself. Almost every year when the Jaycees Invitational Indoor Track Meet was held at the Tingley Coliseum, Stevens won the 60-yard run of celebrity. As a good recreational softball player, he had the little Willie Keeler talent of hitting them where they are not – spraying the ball on all the fields at will.
He honestly came from his athletic talent. His father, George Stevens, was one of New Mexico’s top amateur boxers.
The Stevens line continued in the form of Trevor and Kelsey.
Kelsey Stevens was an all-state softball pitcher at La Cueva and Volcano Vista, then played in Stanford and Oklahoma from 2013-2016. Trevor Stevens was the captain of the La Cueva wrestling team from 2006-07 and then moved to Stanford.
Both were honor students.
“He gave me my love of sports and my sense of humor,” Kelsey Stevens said of her father. “He was a really good coach and mentor to me and always helped me whenever I wanted to play, whatever the sport.”
After the Tribune collapsed in 2008, Stevens signed up as a senior writer in the UNM’s sports information department. When former sports journalist Greg Archuleta took a position in sports information in 2011, he relied on Stevens’ advice and experience.
The two became good friends, and after they both left the UNM they ate lunch together regularly. You talked about sports, of course, but one topic kept coming up.
“No lunch, no conversation,” said Archuleta, “passed when Richard wasn’t bragging about Trevor and Kelsey.”
Most of all, Carlton said, Stevens – Don Rickle’s tendencies and all – was a trusted friend.
“I’ve met a lot of people who say the right things and then aren’t really there for you,” said Carlton. “Richard was someone who almost enjoyed saying the wrong thing on purpose.
“Then he would show up for you every time.”