One of the great New York sports columnists, Vic Ziegel, has passed away at age 72 from lung cancer. You can and should read about his life and career here. He covered the early Mets as a beat writer with the Post and once told me there was no greater group of guys he came across in his professional travels than the 1969 world champs. He was also probably the most vocal of torchbearers for his childhood baseball team, the New York Giants. Vic was gracious enough to respond to my queries on a few occasions regarding the team I never saw but has always fascinated me. I was fortunate enough to meet him and, though I didn’t get to know him well, found him to be a wonderful man whose kindness matched the talent he consistently displayed whether he was writing about baseball, boxing, racing or anything. I’ll miss him.
Vic wrote a column in 2000 that was inspirational to me in my quest to understand the Giants as best I could. It appeared in the News the same morning I finally made good on a longstanding pledge to visit the site of the Polo Grounds. The timing — he had just gone there himself and rediscovered the remains of the John T. Brush Stairway — was coincidental but oh so appropriate. The whole thing is here, but I’d like to share a bit of it below:
One of the worst days in my life — I know you’ve been wondering — was a baseball afternoon in 1957 when it became indisputably clear that the Giants, the only team I would ever love, were leaving the Polo Grounds and New York.
Winters were for the Knicks and Rangers. The football Giants were more than a passing fancy. But I rooted harder for snow.
Baseball was the game and the Giants were my team. Until they left, and did the small quiet thing known as breaking hearts. It hurt then and — I made this discovery when I visited the Hall of Fame a few summers ago — it still hurts.
The New York Giants have disappeared. Which may not surprise anyone who has gotten off the subway at 155th St. and 8th Ave. Father Knickerbocker now pitches beer in that great saloon in the sky. Willard Marshall never calls. Sal Yvars never writes. The Giants are another lost tribe.
This man had been a pro for decades, yet in that instant, he was a fan again. A fan of a team that had neither won nor lost in more than forty years. A fan who could be honest and self-deprecating and sincere and dry and funny as hell. All fans who wish to write about their love affair with their team would be blessed if they could write as well and as long as Vic Ziegel.
And I just came across this: Vic on being a sportswriter, replete with Wes Westrum/Cleon Jones anecdote. Geez, he was good.