The great New York City sportswriter Phil Pepe passed away yesterday at the age of 80. Mr. Pepe was known for his acuity about baseball history and strategy and had a reputation for writing lively game stories. He covered all sports but his great passion was baseball.
“There was a time, in another time in New York, when whatever had happened the day before or the night before with the Yankees didn’t become official until you picked up the Daily News and read Phil Pepe,”
Philip Francis Pepe was born in Manhattan on March 21, 1935, and grew up in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, the son of Michael Pepe Jr., a bookkeeper, and the former Lillian Martini, a store clerk. He graduated from Lafayette High School and St. John’s University and served in the Army.
Mr. Pepe joined The World-Telegram & Sun in the 1950s and covered the Yankees from 1961 until 1966, when the newspaper merged with The Journal American and The Herald Tribune.
After a stint writing radio copy with a fellow broadcaster Howard Cosell, he joined the Daily News in 1968 as the beat writer for the Yankees and wrote the lead story for the paper on every World Series game from 1969-1981. He then succeeded Dick Young as The News sports columnist in 1982. Pepe covered most of Muhammad Ali’s championship fights, as well as the Knicks championship years.
After leaving the paper in 1989, Pepe did morning sports for WCBS radio for more than 15 years -- including his popular "Pep Talk" segment."A giant among baseball writers who never got his true credit," Hall of Fame baseball writer Bill Madden told the Daily News.
He was the executive director of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for the past 21 years, having also served as the chapter’s chairman in 1975 and 1976. He attended every BBWAA awards dinner since 1962 and ran the event for more than two decades.
In addition to his career in newspapers and radio, Pepe was a prolific author, writing close to 50 books with some of sports’ biggest names. He co-wrote Bob Gibson’s autobiography, and wrote books with Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Ken Griffey Sr., Jim Kaat, Gary Carter, Bud Harrelson, Howie Rose and Tim McCarver. His last book was in 2013 on the Yankees’ Core Four.
“He was a mentor to me and a giant among baseball writers who never got his true credit. He is going to be sorely missed by the New York chapter of baseball writers.”
~Hall of Fame baseball writer Bill Madden (who succeeded Mr. Pepe as The Daily News’ Yankee beat writer).
Culled from three articles by Mark Feinsand, Bill Price, Bruce Weber, and AP
Photographs from The Daily News.
Phil Pepe, right, with Mets pitcher Tug McGraw in the sports department of The Daily News in October 1969. Credit Gene Kappock/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty Images
Two greats, Phil Pepe and Sports Artist/Cartoonist Bill Gallo ham it up for the cameras in 1969.
RIP Mr. Pepe. You were read and respected by all New Yorkers.