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W. C. (Bill) Heinz

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W. C. (Bill) Heinz 1915 - 2008 BENNINGTON, VT. - Sportswriter, author, and journalist W. C. (Bill) Heinz, died Feb. 27 in Bennington at age 93. He and his late wife, Betty, were former residents of Dorset, (1965-2002) and of Stamford, CONN., (1955-1965). Most recently, Heinz resided at The Village at Fillmore Pond assisted living facility in Bennington. Mr. Heinz, who for the past several years was one of the few remaining writers from the "golden age" of sports writing of the forties and fifties, is often referred to as the godfather of the New Journalism movement of the sixties. He broke down the walls of staid, factual sports reporting and took the reader inside the athlete's world through the use of colorful dialogue and lean, crafted description. Mr. Heinz said of his writing, "What I attempt to do is set the scene and put the characters in it and let them talk. When I can do this with sufficient accuracy and sensitivity, the reader experiences the impression, very real, that he, himself, saw it and heard it, for he was there ." Heinz wrote about men who tried to be the best they could be in their chosen profession, who took risks to exceed their innate limitations, thus becoming true professionals. Newsweek called him "a matchless reporter and brilliant author." Sports Illustrated claims, "In an era when America's great sportswriters were as big as the athletes they covered, W.C. Heinz may have been the best of the bunch." Wilfred Charles Heinz was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. on Jan. 11, 1915, the only child of Fred L.S. and Elizabeth Thielke Heinz. He attended Middlebury College where he met Vermonter, Elizabeth Bailey, whom he later married there in January, 1941. After graduating in 1937, he started his writing career as a copy boy on The New York Sun. From 1939 to 1943 he served as a general assignment reporter. With the outbreak of World War II, the Sun sent him abroad as their war correspondent. From 1943 until mid-1945 he covered submarine warfare in the Atlantic and, from aboard the USS Nevada, the D-Day landings in Normandy. When the Sun's senior correspondent was captured by the Nazis, Heinz took his spot with the 1st Army as they went into Paris, and continued with them through their Northern European campaign through Belgium to Germany and the Battle of the Huertgen Forest, to the meeting with the Russians on the Elbe River, and VE-Day. Following the end of hostilities in Europe, the Sun's editor gave Mr. Heinz his own sports column, "The Sport Scene," in which he covered various events; but Heinz was most drawn to boxing, which was for him the most truthful sport, pitting man against man. He spent his afternoons at New York's Stillman's Gym absorbing the colorful personalities, language, and boxing styles. He wrote stories of fighters including Rocky Marciano, Willie Pep, Ezzard Charles, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Graziano, among others, letting each speak in his own language. When The New York Sun ceased publication in 1950, Heinz turned down newspaper offers and became a freelance writer for magazines including Argosy, True, Esquire, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Sport, Look and Life. His subjects included an array of boxers and other sports figures such as jockey Eddie Arcaro, hockey great Gordie Howe, Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, Stan Musial, and Joe DiMaggio. He won the E.P. Dutton Award five times for best magazine sports article of the year, the A. J. Liebling Award for outstanding boxing writing, and his work has been reprinted in more than sixty anthologies and textbooks. After Heinz's widely acclaimed boxing novel, "The Professional, was published in 1958, he received a congratulatory telegram from Ernest Hemingway in Havana calling it "the only good novel about a fighter I've ever read, and an excellent first novel in its own right." Mr. Heinz also authored the medical novels "The Surgeon" (1963) and "Emergency" (1974), capturing the life-and-death challenges won and lost by the highly trained professionals of operating and emergency rooms. In the early sixties Mr. Heinz collaborated with Vince Lombardi, then coach of the Green Bay Packers, to write the football classic, "Run To Daylight!" (1963). In the following years Heinz was asked to rescue a struggling manuscript based on the antics of wartime surgeons in Korea. Heinz took on the project, and in collaboration with the original author, Dr. H. Richard Hornberger, he rewrote the story, further developing the characters, adding scenes, describing surgical techniques and thus legitimizing the often unruly behavior of the doctors. The book was published in 1968 with the title "M*A*S*H, " under the pen name of Richard Hooker, and was the forerunner to the award-winning film and television series. In 1979 Mr. Heinz authored "Once They Heard the Cheers" in which he takes a journey across the country to search out former sports heroes about whom he had written during their glory days. He authored three collections: American Mirror (1982), which contains his best magazine and newspaper pieces, What a Time It Was: The Best of W.C. Heinz on Sports (2001), and When We Were One: Stories of World War II (2002), a collection of his wartime dispatches and post-war articles. Mr. Heinz was also the editor of the Fireside Book of Boxing (1961) and co-editor of The Book of Boxing (1999). His national television credits include Biography of a Fight (1960) and the ABC award winning documentary, Run to Daylight! (1967). In recent years he appeared in several of ESPN's Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century episodes as well as Ken Burns' Jack Johnson: Unforgiven Blackness and was quoted in Burns' episodic World War II documentary, The War. Mr. Heinz was featured on NBC's Nightly News with Tom Brokaw on D-Day in 2002 and has appeared on the Boston-based television program Chronicle. In 2001, Mr. Heinz was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in Salisbury, N.C., and in 2004 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Mr. Heinz was pre-deceased by his wife, Elizabeth Bartlett Bailey, in 2002 and his daughter, Barbara Bailey Heinz, in 1964. He is survived by his second daughter, Gayl Bailey Heinz, her husband, Gerald Pantalone, and one grandchild, Kristina Heinz Pantalone, all of Amesbury, Mass. "You work hard," Mr Heinz has said, "and you take pride in your work. But it's the work, in the end, that is the important thing. not the person." FUNERAL NOTICE: At Mr. Heinz's request, there will be no services. A celebration of his work will be scheduled at a later date. Mr. Heinz always felt a great debt to American servicemen and women. Contributions in his memory may be made to The Activities Fund at the Vermont Veteran's Home through the office of the MAHAR & SON FUNERAL HOME, 628 Mainn Street, Bennington, VT 05201., 325 North St., Bennington VT 05201.]]>
Published in Bennington Banner on Feb. 28, 2008
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