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The Dean
2008-07-22 06:03
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Jerome Holtzman passed away yesterday. He was 81 and had been ill for some time. Holtzman is best-known as the Hall of Fame's first "official" historian and for his involvement with the "save" rule, but his lasting literary achievement is the oral history "No Cheering in the Press Box."  (If you don't got it, get it.)  Here is John Schulian, remembering his old colleague:

I always called him Jerome.  I'm not sure why.  He answered just as readily to Jerry.  And then there were some young bucks who called him the Dean, as in the dean of the press box.  By any name, however, Jerome Holtzman was a classic -- a first-rate reporter, an amiable companion on the road and a man who backed down to no one.  If I have the story straight, he came out of an orphanage on the west side of Chicago and was a marine in World War II, which is to say he was in the thick of it in the Pacific.  "One tough Jew," in the words of my old friend and fellow Holtzman fan David Israel.
 
Long before I met Jerome, I reviewed his brilliant book "No Cheering in the Press Box" for the Baltimore Sun.  Glowingly, I might add.  The next time whichever Chicago team he was covering came to town, he called to thank me personally.  I had a hunch then that he was aces.  My hunch was confirmed when I went to Chicago as a sports columnist, first at the soon-to-be-dead Daily News and then as Jerome's colleague at the Sun-Times.  If I had a question about the game, Jerome answered it whether we were on the same side or not.  If I wanted to meet someone, Jerome took care of the introduction.  And trust me when I say Jerome knew everybody.
 
In the obituaries that will hail his passing, much will be made of the fact that he invented the save.  But I think it is far more impressive to think of the knowledge that he took to the grave, for this was a man who understood far more than hits, runs and errors.  He was a master of the business that baseball became, the finances and the labor struggles and all the scheming and backstabbing that went with them.  That, more than anything else, is what separated him from the pack.
 
He had a great library too, one with every book on baseball imaginable, and I felt like I'd joined a very special club the day he let me see it.  He even loaned me a couple of books -- Eliot Asinof's "Man on Spikes" was one -- because that was the kind of guy he was.
 
He had a big heart, he liked a good cigar (or even, I suspect, a bad one), and he hummed when he wrote.  The tune was of his own making, and that was as it should have been.
 
Rest in Peace, Mr. Holtzman.

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