American sports journalism lost one of its icons with news that Dave Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, died today at the age of 89.
Many long-standing Jets fans were quite familiar with Anderson’s work, since he was the Times’ Jets beatwriter in the Sixties and Seventies and then wrote about the team as a columnist until his retirement in 2007. He covered the Jets’ Super Bowl III team and one of his 21 books was titled “Countdown to Super Bowl: How the 1968-1969 New York Jets Delivered on Joe Namath’s Guarantee to Win It All.”
Jerry Eskenazi, along with so many of his New York sports journalism colleagues, has great stories, reminiscences and praise of Anderson.
“My memory of Dave with the Jets was that he had the ability to have these guys trust him. Guys just opened up to him,” Eskenazi, who followed Anderson as the Times’ Jets beatwriter from 1975-90 before his own retirement, told newyorkjets.com. “Joe Namath was extraordinarily honest with him. I remember Namath after one game telling Dave, quote, I stink, unquote.
“He was a very readable guy. He worked his sources very, very well. And I think he prepared the public for the fact that there was something special going on with the Jets that year, that they were a better team than most people thought and were the quality of any team in the National Football League. He just had a lot of insight.”
Anderson also had many other interests, which shone through in his columns and even after his retirement as he still contributed to the Times. His last piece was about the U.S. Open tennis tournament for the paper’s online archives.
“Dave was respected by everyone,” Eskenazi said. “He was an expert on football. He was an expert on boxing. He was an expert on tennis. It was like everything he touched, he became the best-known guy covering that particular sport. It says something about his touch and his technique.”
Besides all that, Anderson was approachable, striking up a conversation with, say, a young fill-in Jets writer from the Morristown Daily Record, and he was diligent, often leaving events he covered as a columnist along with the beatwriters rather than packing up and bailing out of the pressbox like other columnists have been known to do.
“If I were covering the game and he would be the columnist, he would tell me what he was writing, ask me if it was OK if he wrote certain things so as not to conflict with anything I wanted to do,” Eskenazi recalled. “He was extremely helpful, he was a font of information. Just a sweet guy.”
ESPN’s obituary on Anderson notes that he won his Pulitzer in 1981 for sports commentary, was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1990, and was the 1994 winner of The Associated Press Sports Editors Red Smith Award. In 2014, ESPN and the Pen American Center presented him with a lifetime achievement award, citing his nuance and the depth of his writing.
He also received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame for career excellence covering football and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dave was a New Yorker all the way, graduating from New York City’s Xavier High School, leaving the city to attend and graduate from Holy Cross, then returning to New York to cover the Brooklyn Dodgers for the Brooklyn Eagle before moving to the New York Journal-American and in 1966 to the Times.
Anderson, who had lived in Tenafly, NJ, and his wife, Maureen, had four children. Maureen died in 2014. Anderson’s son Steve worked at ESPN for 35 years and had risen to executive vice president, content operations and creative services, before his retirement in 2015.