Class of 1958
For more than 40 years, Vic Ziegel was a sportswriter whose wit and style enlivened the pages of New York’s two major tabloids as well as the press rows of every boxing arena, baseball stadium and racetrack he occupied. He was a natural storyteller. In the pages of The Post, The News, and in a formidable lineup of magazines, he combined a puckish sense of humor with fine-tuned prose that brought smiles to his readers’ faces and sweat to Ziegel’s brow as he searched for just the right word.
“The deadline is the enemy,” he once wrote. “It’s there, at the same time, every night. You relax your fingers, and it comes closer. You can’t fake it out because it doesn’t move. It grows closer and towers over you. It doesn’t understand that you’re trying to do the yeoman thing. Or that you need a better word than fast to describe a base runner. Very fast is very bad. Fleet is a bank. Swift, nimble, speedy, no, no, no. Fast is starting to look better. There’s coffee spilled on my notes. And the stranger in the next chair is on the phone telling somebody named Sweetie he’s on the way home.”
Ziegel was a quintessential New Yorker. Once, after participating in a hunting party and managing to shoot a deer, he was asked how far away he was. “About 200 yards,” he replied. “Eight sewers.” He was born in the Bronx on Aug. 16, 1937, attended William Howard Taft High School and joined the staff of The Campus when he enrolled at the College. While still in school, he was covering high school basketball for The Long Island Press and working as a copyboy at The Post. He was with The Post from 1958 to 1977 and his first byline was on a story about a bike-riding champion who happened to attend CCNY. Two years later, he began a six-year run as a baseball beat reporter, covering the Mets and Yankees, a team he had hated since childhood. His team was the Giants, the Polo Grounds variety. His next beat was boxing, then enjoying its last golden age. He was at ringside in Zaire for the Rumble in the Jungle and the Philippines for the Thrilla in Manila, and hundreds of other fights that didn't rhyme. He became a sports columnist at The Post in 1975 and left two years later to write for such publications as New York magazine, GQ, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Inside Sports.
He was friendly with Jim Bouton, a former Yankees pitcher whose 1970 book, “Ball Four,” provided a hilariously unconventional view of baseball. In 1976, Ziegel, Bouton and fellow City College alum Marvin Kitman created a short-lived television sitcom based on the book. Returning to daily journalism, Ziegel joined The Daily News in 1985 as executive sports editor. He enjoyed being in the press box more than in an office, however, and became a sports columnist for The News in 1990. He also wrote non-sports columns about life in the city. He retired in 2009, but continued to write about thoroughbred racing, one of his passions.
|Roberta Ziegel (far left), with the winning jockey and owners at the Vic Ziegel Memorial at Saratoga.|
He is the co-author, along with Lewis Grossberger, of “The Non-Runner’s Book,” a 1978 spoof of the running craze then taking place. In 2006, Ziegel published his ode to a decade of glorious baseball: “Summer in the City: New York Baseball 1947-1957.” A collection of his columns, “Sunday Punch,” was published in 1990. The Boxing Writers Association of America presented him with its Nat Fleischer Award in 1983. He won the Red Smith Kentucky Derby Writing Award in 1992 and in 1998.
Ziegel died on July 23, 2010. He was 72. Less than a month later, he was honored by the track at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., when a handicap race for New York-breds was dubbed the Vic Ziegel Memorial. “He would have loved today,” said Ziegel’s wife, Roberta. “It would be what he called ‘dancing around the kitchen.’”