Author Topic: RIP, W.C. Heinz  (Read 19714 times)

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Offline WildBillyCrazyCat

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RIP, W.C. Heinz
« on: February 27, 2008, 08:09:41 AM »

Just saw this one move. RIP.

Death of a race horse was great reading.

W.C. “Bill” Heinz, sportswriter who chronicled Ruth, World War II, dies at 93
BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — W.C. “Bill” Heinz, a sportswriter and author who witnessed the Normandy invasion on D-Day, covered some of the greatest sports events of the 1940s and helped write the book “MASH,” has died. He was 93.
His daughter, Gayl Heinz of Amesbury, Mass., said he died early Wednesday in Bennington. The cause of death was not released.
A New York native, he attended Middlebury College in the 1930s and then went on to become a reporter at the New York Sun.
During World War II, he reported from Europe. After the war he covered sports, including Babe Ruth’s emotional last appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1948. In the mid-60s, he helped Maine physician H. Richard Hornburger write the book about a mobile army surgical hospital in the Korean War.

Offline Ace

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2008, 08:13:18 AM »

Damn. RIP to one of the giants.
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jgmacg

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The WC Heinz Tribute Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 08:14:42 AM »
We've lost one of our best. Please post your thoughts on his work and what it meant to you here. I'd like to collect and share them with his family.

For those wishing to send a card or letter of appreciation or personal condolence, the address is:

9 Bartlett's Reach
Amesbury MA 01913

In lieu of flowers, the family asks a donation be made in Bill's name to:

The Residents Fund
Vermont Veteran's Home
325 North St.
Bennington VT 05201

Thanks.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 08:40:29 AM by jgmacg »

Offline imjustagirl

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2008, 08:17:28 AM »
RIP.
The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. -- The Doctor

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jgmacg

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 08:18:06 AM »
I've reposted "Death of a Racehorse" over in the Workshop.
 
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 08:55:57 AM by jgmacg »

Chi City 81

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 08:25:34 AM »
Death of a Racehorse makes me tear up every time I read it. RIP to one of the greatest journalists the world has ever known.

Offline Highway 101

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 08:43:25 AM »
RIP

Sniff... please pass the box Kleenex.
"Misfortune and experience are lost upon mankind when they produce neither reflection nor reformation." Thomas Paine.

Offline In Exile

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2008, 09:16:08 AM »
Oh man.  Sad day, but he had not been well for a long time, and I've often wondered how hard it must be for a writer to be unable to write any more.  Bill Littlefield did a lovely spot on him on his NPR program a few years back in which Heinz stated that writing was like a piece of classical music, and at the start he always sought out the right chord, because everything else depends on that chord, on its sound.

If I track back my career as a writer, part of it starts when I first read Langston Hughes, and part of it starts when I first read Jack Kerouac, and part starts when I first read Heinz in the old Best Sports Stories anthology - "The Rocky Road of Pistol Pete," in particular, which I read when I was about ten and never forgot, and never stopped looking for his byline.

Got a personal note from him once and he wrote some very very nice words about something I wrote.  That's enough for me - the only kind of award that ever matters, the respect of your peers.  It's framed and on my wall.

FYI, David Halberstam's intro to the first edition of BASW, which was primarily about Heinz will be reprinted in an anthology of Halberstam's short form sportswriting which will appear in May.

Check out his collections - What a Time It Was, and American Mirror.

What a legacy.

Offline GBNF

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2008, 09:31:11 AM »
Forget the workshop, JMac, repost it here, too...
Gone....But not forgotten

jgmacg

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2008, 09:40:19 AM »
Death of a Racehorse

by

W.C. Heinz
                                                                       

     They were going to the post for the sixth race at Jamaica, two year olds, some making their first starts, to go five and a half furlongs for a purse of four thousand dollars. They were moving slowly down the backstretch toward the gate, some of them cantering, others walking, and in the press box they had stopped their working or their kidding to watch, most of them interested in one horse.

     "Air Lift," Jim Roach said. "Full brother of Assault."

     Assault, who won the triple crown ... making this one too, by Bold Venture, himself a Derby winner, out of Igual, herself by the great Equipoise ... Great names in the breeding line ... and now the little guy making his first start, perhaps the start of another great career.

     They were off well, although Air Lift was fifth. They were moving toward the first turn, and now Air Lift was fourth. They were going into the turn, and now Air Lift was starting to go, third perhaps, when suddenly he slowed, a horse stopping, and below in the stands you could hear a sudden cry, as the rest left him, still trying to run but limping, his jockey -- Dave Gorman -- half falling, half sliding off.
 
     "He broke a leg!" somebody, holding binoculars to his eyes, shouted in the press box. "He broke a leg!"

     Down below they were roaring for the rest, coming down the stretch now, but in the infield men were running toward the turn, running toward the colt and the boy standing beside him, alone. There was a station wagon moving around the track toward them, and then, in a moment, the big green van that they call the horse ambulance.

     "Gorman was crying like a baby," one of them, coming out of the jockey room, said. "He said he must have stepped in a hole, but you should have seen him crying."

     "It's his left front ankle," Dr. J.G. Catlett, the veterinarian, was saying. "It's a compound fracture; and I'm waiting for confirmation from Mr. Hirsch to destroy him."

     He was standing outside one of the stables beyond the backstretch, and he had just put in a call to Kentucky where Max Hirsch, the trainer, and Robert Kleber, the owner, are attending the yearling sales.

     "When will you do it?" one of them said.
 
     "Right as soon as I can," the doctor said. "As soon as I get confirmation. If it was an ordinary horse I'd done it right there."

     He walked across the road and around another barn to where they had the horse. The horse was still in the van, about twenty stable hands in dungarees and sweat-stained shirts, bare-headed or wearing old caps, standing around quietly and watching with Dr. M.A. Gilman, the assistant veterinarian.

     "We might as well get him out of the van," Catlett said, "before we give him the novocaine. It'll be a little better out in the air."

     The boy in the van with the colt led him out then, the colt limping, tossing his head a little, the blood running down and covering his left foreleg. When they saw him, standing there outside the van now, the boy holding him, they started talking softly.

     "Full brother of Assault." ... "It don't make no difference now. He's done." ... "But damn, what a grand little horse." ... "Aint he a horse?"

     "It's a funny thing," Catlett said. "All the cripples that go out, they never break a leg. It always happens to a good-legged horse."

     A man, gray-haired and rather stout, wearing brown slacks and a blue shirt, walked up.

     "Then I better not send for the wagon yet?" the man said.

     "No," Catlett said. "Of course, you might just as well. Max Hirsch may say no, but I doubt it."

     "I don't know," the man said.

     "There'd be time in the morning," Catlett said.

     "But in this hot weather--" the man said.

     They had sponged off the colt, after they had given him the shot to deaden the pain, and now he stood, feeding quietly from some hay they had placed at his feet. In the distance you could hear the roar of the crowd in the grandstand, but beyond it and above it you could hear thunder and see the occasional flash of lightning.

     When Catlett came back the next time he was hurrying, nodding his head and waving his hands. Now the thunder was louder, the flashes of lightning brighter, and now rain was starting to fall.

     "All right," he said, shouting to Gilman. "Max Hirsch talked to Mr. Kleberg. We've got the confirmation."

     They moved the curious back, the rain falling faster now, and they moved the colt over close to a pile of loose bricks. Gilman had the halter and Catlett had the gun, shaped like a bell with the handle at the top. This bell he placed, the crowd silent, on the colt's forehead, just between the eyes. The colt stood still and then Catlett, with the hammer in his other hand, struck the handle of the bell. There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.

     "Aw ----" someone said.

     That was all they said. They worked quickly, the two vets removing the broken bones as evidence for the insurance company, the crowd silently watching. Then the heavens opened, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing, and they rushed for the cover of the stables, leaving alone on his side near the pile of bricks, the rain running off his hide, dead an hour and a quarter after his first start, Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault.


-30-

                                                                                                                                                       

Offline Piotr Rasputin

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2008, 10:03:43 AM »
I think it was SI that had a great heinz feature a few years ago. My dad cut it out and sent it to me with a note that NOW he understands why I and my friends have chosen this profession, and what it means to us.

Sad day. RIP to a spectacular journalist.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 10:14:36 PM by Piotr Rasputin »
"Please God, save me from heehaws pretending to be journalists." - Dr. Z

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Offline Jones

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2008, 10:10:53 AM »

My favorite writer in the world. I'm very sorry he's gone.
Son of Bold Venture.

Offline SF_Express

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2008, 11:16:00 AM »
This is a lousy place for mild outrage, perhaps, but it nonetheless pisses me off that there was so much footdragging and disagreement (I can only guess) about Heinz winning the Red Smith Award and now the inevitable has happened and he will only be able to win it posthumously. Would have been nice to award it to him while he was still around.
"In this world ... you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." -- Elwood P. Dowd

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Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2008, 11:30:35 AM »
Sirs, Madames,

As Mr macg knows the Christian Science Monitor asked me to do a piece on Heinz a couple of years back. Never did run, was going to hit the page in the event of him winning ye olde lifetime achievement award. I'll try to look it up in my dead letter office. The one thing, though, that stands out ... I asked him if he knew how good Death of Racehorse was when he wrote. "Oh yeah," he told me. "I knew that I hit that out of the park." Oh yeah, talking about his friendship with Red Smith, he told the legend once at dinner: "You've got the Pulitzer but I'm the better cook." (I don't know if that one was in your SI profile of the beloved figure.) He also would have none of the idea that the writers of old were any better than the writers of today. (I wanted to tell him the "said Bard" story but his life was already too short for that.)

RIP

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Offline Baron Scicluna

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2008, 11:53:55 AM »
RIP to one of the best.

Run to Daylight is one of my favorite books.
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Online playthrough

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2008, 12:00:08 PM »
I'm sad for Heinz' family, for our profession and for simply that era of sportswriting. People today get so bent out of shape if a horse is listed on an ESPN 50 Greatest Athletes or some such list, but way back when horse racing mattered. I will always go out of my way to read old stuff on the sport of kings, for the love of the game but also knowing that the titans of journalism were always at the track.
As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

Offline HejiraHenry

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2008, 12:46:20 PM »
I'm glad the reference to his contribution to M*A*S*H made the lead.
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Offline imjustagirl

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2008, 12:57:30 PM »
I was in the office today and mentioned he had died. The 62-year-old guy next to me, one of our long-timers, had no idea who he was, had never heard of him, nor of Death of a Racehorse.

Is that weird?
The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. -- The Doctor

This week: -4 lb. Total: -60 pounds

Offline Ben_Hecht

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2008, 01:04:41 PM »
I was in the office today and mentioned he had died. The 62-year-old guy next to me, one of our long-timers, had no idea who he was, had never heard of him, nor of Death of a Racehorse.

Is that weird?

Hard to rationalize, if the guy in question spent any appreciable time in the Northeast.
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Offline Ben_Hecht

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2008, 01:06:02 PM »
I'm sad for Heinz' family, for our profession and for simply that era of sportswriting. People today get so bent out of shape if a horse is listed on an ESPN 50 Greatest Athletes or some such list, but way back when horse racing mattered. I will always go out of my way to read old stuff on the sport of kings, for the love of the game but also knowing that the titans of journalism were always at the track.


Red Smith, who had some idea what was going on, frequently said that the racetrack provided the best storylines.  Late in his career, the percentage of his time Smith spent at Belmont, Saratoga and on the classic trail increased.
"I don't mind if you don't like my manners, I don't like them myself.  They are pretty bad.   I grieve over them  long winter evenings."

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Offline Bristol Insider

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2008, 01:10:20 PM »
Moment of silence, please ...
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Offline funky_mountain

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2008, 05:14:19 PM »
here is a link to a profile of heinz from the sept. 25, 2000 issue of sports illustrated with excerpts from some of Heinz's work:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/magazine/02/27/heinz.flashback092500/index.html
« Last Edit: March 05, 2008, 07:12:36 AM by funky_mountain »

Offline Double Down

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2008, 07:34:54 PM »
In thinking of Heinz today, I think of John Donne.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Any writer's death diminishes me, because I am committed to this great adventure -- this brotherhood and sisterhood -- we call The Writing Life.

But this death diminishes me, and all of us, a bit more so than others.

I did not know Bill Heinz. But thanks in part, because of him, I understand this: words matter.

There is music in the simple, understated elegance of clear, descriptive sentences. There is a rhythm... a candance... a heartbeat... to a good story, and it can be understood and internalized by the reader even if they only absorb it at the subconscious level. My favorite part of Death of a Racehorse has always been the rain. The rumbling thunder, the lightening in the distance, and the rain, falling faster now, hinting at the sad inevitable ending that's rushing toward us. I didn't catch it the first time. But I felt it. I understood why it was so important to framing those scenes.

Heinz was one of the first people who truly elevated the coverage of sports to the level of literature. Yes, bless the scribes who give us the daily scores and the best quotes about the sore hamstrings and No. 3 starters, for they are the underappreciated  and underpaid foot soldiers in this business and always will be. But bless Heinz for giving us the human drama behind it all, for showing us the beauty of broken men standing in a ring, alone, trying to find the courage for one more round, one more fight, one more punch.

As a young(ish) writer today still trying to find his voice, one of the most important lessons I learned was about dialogue. The way a person talks says so much about him (or her), and rarely do you see that reconstructed well in today's journalism. It takes time. It takes listening. It takes just hanging around, and even editors don't always understand why tiny snippets of overheard conversation can make a piece sing in ways that direct question and answers cannot. Heinz knew dialogue. The paragraph from "The Fighter's Wife" that funky_mountain posted is a perfect example.

I was thinking of Donne's poem today not only because one of Heinz's biggest fans, some guy named Ernest Hemingway, decided to name one of his novels after a line in the poem, but because Heinz recognized that we were all a part of something, that even a washed up, uneducated Jewish boxer from Brownsville, or a broken down, unlucky ballplayer with a bad heart was a part of the main.

He didn't influence me, perhaps, as much as he influenced and inspired those who influenced and inspired me. I knew almost nothing of him until I read, years ago, that profile Jeff MacGregor did for SI that was linked in this thread. But I've caught up, in a slow and rewarding way. His work spanned generations and changed what sports writing could be. Talese, Wolfe, DeFord, Gary Smith, S.L. Price, all of them owe a debt to Heinz, for he carved the foundation we stand on today. And that's a testament to his undeniable magic. 

Many blessings to his family, to his memory, and to his passion. A glass raised in his honor, and also in awe, of what seemed like an amazing life well lived.

And may the art he left behind continue to move us, especially as we pound our keyboards -- whether it's at first light or last -- trying to find the words, the rhythms, the heartbeat, the music in our next story.

Rest In Peace. 
Trying to be the lantern in the swamp.

Fenian_Bastard

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Re: RIP, W.C. Heinz
« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2008, 08:51:11 PM »
A great and generous soul. A reason to be proud that we share his profession.
I started this four times. Fuck it. Mr. Yeats can take it home.

And thereupon with aged, high-pitched voice   
Aherne laughed, thinking of the man within,    
His sleepless candle and laborious pen.

RIP, Bill.
Take notes for us, OK?