When you think of sports cartoons — if you ever do — you probably think of something by Bill Gallo — he was the best known — and probably one of the last — practitioners of the art. The legendary NY Daily News sports cartoonist passed away yesterday in White Plains at the age of 88 after a 70 year career at the News.
Joining the staff just out of high school, Gallo took time off to join the Marines, and see WWII action at Iwo Jima and other battles before returning to the paper where he filled various roles. He became the regular cartoonist and a columnist for the sports pages in 1960, turning out cartoons on a daily basis for the next 50 years, and becoming a pillar of the paper, as this slideshow shows.
In addition to capturing the always-colorful New York sports scene, Gallo created his own gallery of characters, including Basement Bertha and Yuchie.
Over the years, Gallo would create nearly as many regular characters as he received awards. Those lampooned including George Steinbrenner himself never seemed to mind, even considering such treatment an honor. Sugar remembers with delight how the cartoonist turned him into the Cat in the Hat. Gallo’s work could also elicit aching emotion, as he did with the cartoon showing Thurman Munson up in heaven. “No matter who came into the office, no matter what walk of life, Bill would take the time to talk to him and help him,” said Delores Thompson, assistant to the sports editor. “On many occasions, he would draw cartoons or portraits of visitors or their kids.”
Gallo won the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonist’s Society in 1998, capping a long, award-winning career that included 20 Page One Journalism Awards. the Elzie Segar Award for Outstanding Cartoonist in 1975, the Achievement Award for Alumni from the School of Visual Arts, and ten Reuben Awards for Best Sports Cartoonist between 1968 and 1988.
Gallo was truly a fixture of the New York sports scene as the above photo of him presenting Yankee Announcer Phil Rizzuto with a “Holy cow” shows. As the opportunities for the profession which he practiced for a lifetime have dwindled, his role became increasingly quaint, and part of the lost glamour of the newspaper profession which the below photo with former New York Knick Earl “The Pearl” Monroe captures. If anyone’s passing can be said to mark the end of an era, Gallo’s truly qualifies.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.