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GOAT writers, by sport

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Some, I suppose, would say that Dick Young qualifies as the greatest baseball beat writer of all time. After all, he was the guy who headed down to the clubhouse to talk to the players for his stories, at least as I've heard it.

    But who else would be in the conversation among baseball beat writers?

    What about the other main sports: NFL, NBA, NHL?

    My topic, my parameters: I'm talking about body of work but only as a writer specific to that sport and those who primarily drew their identity from beat work. OK if a guy or gal evolved into a national writer or even general sports columnist, but they'd need to have made their mark while doing the sport -- and ideally, beat -- specific work. Guess I also favor the grinders, which means no once-a-week or once-a-month magazine types.

    I'm suggesting Bob Ryan as the best NBA writer of all time, based on his Celtics coverage for the Globe. His time as a columnist didn't eclipse or diminish that, IMHO.

    Can't say I instantly have suggestions for NFL or NHL people, though I'm sure others here will.
  2. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    I'd say Red Fisher for the NHL. His first Canadiens game was the night of the Richard Riot in 1955, and he was still covering them 57 years and 17 Stanley Cups later. He finally packed it in last year, at age 86.

    Even greater on an all-around basis, though, was Milt Dunnell of the Toronto Star, who covered anything and everything in a journalism career that lasted 70 years. He was still writing three sports columns a week at age 89 when he finally decided to walk away.
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    No one has read nearly enough to answer this.
  4. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    Will McDonough for the NFL.
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    John Lowe of the Freep for baseball -- SOLELY because he once asked to see a wine list in the Anchor Bar in Detroit...
    Double J is right on the NHL
  6. Steak Snabler

    Steak Snabler Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I grew up in the pre-Internet age and a hundred or so miles from the nearest major metro area (in my case, New Orleans). Aside from USA Today, I didn't get the chance to read any real "beat work" in real time. And most of what I've read from before my time is guys who wrote for Sports Illustrated or what I've read in collected works.

    Anyway, I'm sure Dr. Z and Dan Jenkins, to name two, would have dominated their beats had they chosen to stay in newspapers. But there was more prestige and better pay at SI.
  7. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    I know, it's probably unrealistic to think that many could be in position to judge across eras and regions. Might explain why this topic hasn't been floated (if it hasn't). But I figured we'd at least round up 5-10 candidates per sport this way.

    I cannot possibly disagree with the Red Fisher nomination for NHL, even though I never read him. Longevity probably rates someone pretty high, though it's not foolproof. Jerome Holtzman in Chicago would be on my ballot as a (if not the) top baseball writer, party due to his staying power. Didn't get called "The Dean" for nothing.
  8. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Even if one person could absorb everything read by everyone on this board, there's not enough collective knowledge do put together this list. If you're talking about beat reporting, you're talking about daily stories. You're talking about breaking news, writing features, analyzing the game, presenting thorough game stories, embedding with deep sourcing, etc. And that's all just discussing pre-Internet needs.

    We maybe could talk about now, but I have a hard time believing anyone reads 70-plus NFL stories a day, either.
  9. Steak Snabler

    Steak Snabler Well-Known Member

    Holtzman is immediately disqualified for creating the save statistic.
  10. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    William Nack, horse racing.

    His work on Secretariat is legendary.
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I agree with Versatile, but it's not like we're handing out cash prizes. Just for fun.

    I'll abstain, though. I always consider how the reporter does on breaking news against quality opponents, which depends where you've focused your close attention and should consider how much help that reporter is getting compared with his competitors.

    Can't argue with McDonough, for example, but Simers was the best beat writer of any kind that I've seen up close and he did so as an NFL writer in at least three large markets that were strongly competitive when he worked as a beat writer (Denver, San Diego, Los Angeles).
  12. jackfinarelli

    jackfinarelli Well-Known Member

    If you consider college football as a beat, Tony Barnhart and Chris Dufresne would be 1 and 1a in my mind.
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