Friday, February 29, 2008

W.C. Heinz: 1915-2008

One of the all-time great sportswriters died yesterday. W.C. Heinz was 93, and a name that probably wasn't known to most folks younger than forty. He cut his teeth as a war correspondent, where he witnessed the D-Day invasion and shared a typewriter with his friend Ernest Hemingway. When the war ended, he went to work for the New York Sun covering baseball, boxing, and horse racing. He invented a new genre when he immersed himself with the Green Bay Packers in 1962, producing a detailed account of a week in the football life of coach Vince Lombardi. This style, later called "new journalism," shaped a whole generation of writers, from Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese to George Plimpton and John Feinstein.

Heinz also wrote the classic boxing book "The Professional" and, under the pseudonym Richard Hooker, wrote the novel "M*A*S*H*," later made into both a film and a television series.

Some of the tributes and obituaries which have appeared today do a better job of describing the importance of his work and the place he holds among 2oth century writers than I could. (thanks to my friend Greg Spira for passing some of these along.)