NEW YORK (CBSNewYork / AP) — Bill Gallo, a cartoonist and columnist for the New York Daily News, whose playful characters included depicting the blustering New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in a spiked Prussian military helmet, has died. He was 88.
Gallo, who worked for the paper for seven decades, died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia at White Plains Hospital, the News reported Tuesday.
“His death closed a chapter in the storied history of The News,” Daily News Chairman and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman told the paper. “The passing of our great cartoonist, colleague and friend Bill Gallo marks the end of an era.”
WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace And Pat Carroll With Bert Sugar On Bill Gallo
Gallo profiled in ink and sometimes in words most of the great sports figures of the past century, going back to Jack Dempsey, Man O’ War, Jesse Owens and Dizzy Dean and his St. Louis Cardinals’ Gas House Gang. The latter were his secret heroes, he told The Associated Press in an interview in 2000, secret because he devoted a lifetime at a drawing board to amusing New York’s rabidly loyal sports fans.
Among his memorable characters, aside from General Von Steingrabber, were Basement Bertha and Yuchie, who represented devoted Mets fans.
“We’ve lost a part of New York,” boxing writer and Gallo friend Bert Sugar told WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace and Pat Carroll on Wednesday. “He was more than a cartoonist, more than just a writer. Bill was part of New York. He was a link to the past and he was a present. I don’t want to tell you how many people open their newspaper everyday just to see his cartoons.”
Sugar said Gallo was a “people’s man” and even got together once a month Gallagher’s for the “Geezers Club” where he met up with people he grew up with.
“Bill was a monument to New York,” Sugar told 1010 WINS.
The News said Gallo’s last cartoon ran in the paper on April 19. It showed Bertha window shopping and hoping to be invited to the royal wedding.
In a column last year, Gallo said he chose the General Von Steingrabber moniker for Steinbrenner because the Yankees owner grabbed so much of the newspaper’s space.
He once drew an overweight Muhammad Ali pushing his stomach before him in a wheelbarrow. Ali hung the original in his training camp as an incentive to get in shape for the Larry Holmes fight.
But he used his craft to address other subjects as well, including a tribute to the 9/11 firefighters and police officers and the devastation of the terrorist attacks on the city.
His drawings can be found in a Manhattan art gallery and at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There is also a collection of Bill Gallo papers, which includes 900 original cartoons, at the Syracuse University library.
He told the AP that as a child, he dreamed of becoming a star reporter like his father, Francisco, a byline writer and editor at La Prensa, New York’s prestigious Spanish language newspaper.
He also dreamed of becoming a cartoonist like Milton Caniff, who drew “Terry and the Pirates,” his favorite comic strip. From age 5, the aspiring artist never left the house without a crayon and a bit of scratch paper.
Gallo was born in Manhattan on Dec. 28, 1922, and grew up across the river in Queens.
He started as a copy boy at the Daily News just after he graduated from high school.
Sugar said Gallo “knew newspapering, knew people and knew New York.”
“I once was in a picture with him. I’m on one end of about a line of five people, he’s at the other end. He reached across and shook my hand all the way to the end,” Sugar said. “I later asked him, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said Harry Hershfield had told him once, ‘When there are two hands in there, the photo editor won’t crop you out. He’ll just have two hands.'”
He took a break from the paper to join the Marines during World War II, landing a foxhole on Iwo Jima where 6,820 of his Marine comrades died.
After his WWII service, he returned to the Daily News and enrolled under the GI bill at Columbia University, according to the newspaper.
Laboring for decades for a big city tabloid, Gallo at his drawing board seemed to favor blue-collar spectator sports.
“I think I once did something with lacrosse,” he confessed sheepishly to the AP.
Gallo told the AP he regarded basketball’s Michael Jordan as the most gifted athlete he ever drew, and rated baseball’s Joe DiMaggio, boxing’s Sugar Ray Robinson, hockey’s Wayne Gretzky and football’s Jim Brown as the tops in their professions.
He is survived by his wife, Dolores; his son, Greg; a son, Bill; a brother, Henry; and four granddaughters.
“People tend to make a lot about age, but I don’t think of myself as an old guy,” Gallo once told the AP. “My philosophy on age is: don’t bother me, I’m busy.”
“Bill Gallo was one of kind, I think he’ll be missed like so many other things in the past. But he’ll live on through his cartooning, through the memories of him and through the people who knew him,” said Sugar.
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