This obituary is reprinted with permission from The New York Times.
By Richard Goldstein
Dave Anderson, a sports columnist for The New York Times for more than three decades and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for commentary, an award rarely bestowed on a sportswriter, died on Thursday in Cresskill, N.J. He was 89.
His death, at an assisted living center, was announced by his son Stephen. Mr. Anderson had lived for many years in Tenafly, N.J.
Growing up in Brooklyn, where Dodger ballplayers were idolized by many a youngster, Mr. Anderson channeled his love for sports in a different direction.
“My heroes were sportswriters: Frank Graham, Jimmy Cannon, Red Smith, Arthur Daley, W. C. Heinz,” he told the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism in 2014. (Povich was an award-winning sportswriter for The Washington Post.)
Mr. Anderson wrote for his high school and college newspapers and got his first newsroom job at 16, in the mid-1940s, when he was hired as a messenger by The New York Sun, where his father worked in advertising sales.
After college he covered the Dodgers for The Brooklyn Eagle in 1953 and 1954. When that newspaper went out of business in 1955, he went to The Journal-American. He moved to The Times as a general-assignment sportswriter in 1966.
Mr. Anderson began writing the Sports of The Times column five years later. He was among three sportswriters who have received a Pulitzer for commentary, a category dating to 1970. Red Smith, Mr. Anderson’s fellow Times columnist, was the first recipient, in 1976. Mr. Anderson won his Pulitzer in 1981, and Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times was honored in 1990. (Other sportswriters over the years have won Pulitzers in other categories, including local news and feature writing.)
Mr. Anderson also received the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award in 1994 for major contributions to sports journalism.
On winning his Pulitzer, Mr. Anderson remarked that sportswriting was “part of American culture, just as much as music, art or anything else.”
One column he wrote in November 1980, leading up to the Pulitzer, was headlined “The Food on the Table at the Execution.”
It began: “Near the door of George Steinbrenner’s office in Yankee Stadium yesterday, there were two trays of bite-sized roast beef, turkey and ham sandwiches, each with a toothpick in it. As soon as 14 invited newsmen entered his office for the execution of Dick Howser as manager and the transfer of Gene Michael from general manager to dugout manager, Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, looked around.
“ ‘Anybody want any sandwiches?’ he asked. ‘We’ve got a lot of sandwiches here.’ Gene Michael had piled four little roast beef sandwiches on a small plastic plate and he had a cup of coffee. But as he sat against the far wall, under a huge Yankee top-hat insignia and several enlarged photos of memorable Yankee Stadium moments, he was the only one eating when Dick Howser suddenly appeared and walked quickly to a chair in front of the table with the sandwiches.”
Mr. Anderson next related how Steinbrenner had announced that Howser, whose Yankees had been swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 American League Championship Series, had decided to go into real estate development in Florida instead of returning as manager.
“Dick Howser got up quickly and walked out of the room without a smile,” the column concluded. “Behind his round desk, George Steinbrenner looked around. ‘Nobody ate any sandwiches,’ the Yankee owner said.”
David Poole Anderson was born on May 6, 1929, in Troy, N.Y., the only child of Robert and Josephine (David) Anderson. One of his grandfathers was publisher of The Troy Times, and his father was the advertising director. His family moved to the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn when he was 9.
Mr. Anderson wrote for the newspaper at Xavier High School in Manhattan and became the sports editor of the paper at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. He graduated from there in 1951 with a degree in English literature.
He was especially remembered for covering golf (he was an avid golfer), boxing, pro football and baseball.
In November 2002, Mr. Anderson and his fellow columnist Harvey Araton submitted columns in connection with a campaign urging Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of the Masters, to admit women, something The Times had covered heavily. Both columns were rejected by senior editors.
Mr. Anderson’s column argued that Tiger Woods had no obligation to get involved in the debate by boycotting the Masters tournament, and it took issue in passing with a Times editorial that suggested Mr. Woods do so. (Mr. Araton’s column, which concerned the future of women’s softball as an Olympic sport, questioned the importance of the Augusta debate as it related to women’s sports.)
When word got out that the columns had been rejected, there was a tide of “critical commentary in the news media and resentment in the Times newsroom,” as a news article in The Times reported.
Howell Raines, the newspaper’s executive editor at the time, said that the editors’ objections had been based not on the opinions expressed in the columns but on separate concerns having to do, in the case of the Anderson column, with “the appearance of unnecessary intramural squabbling with the newspaper’s editorial board,” the Times article said. (Mr. Araton’s column, it said, “presented problems of structure and tone.”)
The columns were published soon afterward, with revisions agreed to by Mr. Anderson and Mr. Araton.
In addition to his newspaper work, Mr. Anderson wrote books and hundreds of magazine articles. His books include “In the Corner: Great Boxing Trainers Talk About Their Art”; “Muhammad Ali,” a visual biography with Magnum Photographers; “Pennant Races: Baseball at Its Best”; and collaborations with Frank Robinson, John Madden and Sugar Ray Robinson on their memoirs.
He retired from full-time column writing in 2007 and contributed columns to The Times after that on a part-time basis.
In addition to his son Stephen, Mr. Anderson is survived by another son, Mark; two daughters, Jo and Jean-Marie Anderson; three grandchildren; and one great-grandson. His wife of 60 years, Maureen (Young) Anderson, died in 2014.
The thrill of newspaper work never left Mr. Anderson, as he made clear in 2014 when he recalled a night in 1956 when he had covered a New York Rangers game in Montreal for The Journal-American.
Mr. Anderson was on a train heading back to New York City when, as the train slowed at the border at Rouse’s Point, N.Y., he had the task of tossing game stories by the New York sportswriters to a Western Union telegrapher standing by the tracks.
“It’s in the middle of the night, it’s snowing and I’m standing between cars in the dark and toss the package of stories to him and hope somehow he teletypes the copy and it all gets in the newspapers,” Mr. Anderson recalled.
In the morning, he picked up a copy of The Journal-American at Grand Central Terminal.
“There was the story,” he said. “It was exciting. Even now, when I’m writing, I wake up on a Sunday and still get excited if I’m in the paper.”