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 sports writer, died 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, New York, where Dodger ballplayers were idolized by many a youngster, Mr. Anderson channeled his love for sports in a different direction.
“My heroes were sports writers: 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 sports writer 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 sports writer in 1966.
Mr. Anderson began writing the Sports of The Times column five years later. He was among three sports writers 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. 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.”
David Poole Anderson was born on May 6, 1929, in Troy, New York, 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, professional football, and baseball.
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 leaves 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 sports writers to a Western Union telegrapher standing by the tracks.
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.”