A wordsmith who never played the game
When it came to sports, Ed Hershey really had no competition.
That’s because, as he readily admits, “I wasn’t any good.”
But he never shied away from what he loved most – the games, the action – and more than that, writing about those games.
“I was a nerdy guy, but loved sports,” he told the Eagle. “In fact, I had to go to a Jewish summer camp to find my competition.”
He spent four summers at Camp Harmony – two as a camper, two as a camper waiter.
The kid who grew up on Ocean Parkway on the first-floor of a six-story apartment house between Avenues N and O, may not have found his completion on the ballfield, but he absolutely had no competition reporting on sports.
He lived in walking distance of P.S. 238, attended Seth Low Junior High School and Lafayette High School.
“While others were playing the games,” he said, “I had my head buried in the New York Times on the subway, reading baseball box scores.”
Writing for Ed Hershey was as natural to him as pitching was for another Lafayette High grad – Sandy Koufax.
“I started at the school paper,” he said, “And worked my way to the (now defunct) Journal American.”
At the ripe old age of 15, Edd Hershey was taking scores for the J-A under the tutelage of the legendary high school writer Morey Rokeach.
“Most of what I did in high school, wasn’t in high school,” he reasoned. “I covered the track team for their meets in the 168th Rgt. Armory. I snuck in, met the sports reporters and soon became the Lafayette High correspondent.”
Hershey was actually working — and covering events – in his junior year of high school, for the Journal American.
“One New York Daily had an internship program,” he said, “The World Telegram and Sun. They hired me for $25-a-week in the winter of 1966,” he said. “I was working four-to-five-days-a week.”
Not for long.
Three-and-half months after his hire, the WT&Sun went belly-up.
The paper may have died – Ed Hershey’s love for sports – and his desire to continue remained fierce.
At the age of 22, Hershey was covering the New York Knicks for the Suffolk Sun and later with Newsday.
But Ed, why such a love of sports?
“If you grew up on Ocean Parkway the Dodgers were a religion. The Dodgers were what the world was all about. I heard Red Barber on radio from one-apartment to another –walking down the street,” he said.
And it wasn’t always about listening to the Dodgers – Hershey had to see them at Ebbets Field.
“We’d follow Willie the Ice Cream Man,” Hershey said. “We’d pick up the (ice cream) wrappers from the gutter and with twenty-five cents and 10 Elsye wrappers the Dodgers would send you one ticket to a game.”
Ed Hershey remembers that first visit to Ebbets Field. “It was 1953, I was nine-years-old,” he said, “I was astonished on how bright it was.”
It was the Philco radio at night, keeping it low so his parents wouldn’t
hear it, that Hershey followed his beloved Dodgers.
As a kid, Ed Hershey covered high school track meets at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx, Saturday mornings, and earned a by-line in the Journal- American.
At the World-Telegram he covered the then LIU Blackbirds who made it to the small-college basketball championship (1967) in Evansville, Ind. “LIU lost in the opening round to Akron,” he remembered.
He covered super stars like Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath and Bill Bradley.
He wrote a book with Cleon Jones—a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets — this was before switching to news reporting that won awards for coverage of a deadly bus accident and exposure of an election campaign scam.
The “Son of Sam” case was a story he broke in New York City as well as the Attica prison revolt – that led to a book on hostage negotiation.
For 40 years Hershey has served on the George Polk Awards committee, honoring the best and brightest in journalism. He and wife Leah, a retired college administrator, live in Portland, Oregon where he was spokesman for the state’s largest union, chaired the City Club’s weekly forum, served on the Independent Police Review Board and is on the board of the Storytellers Guild.
He turns 80 next year, and his life is truly summed up in his book, “The Scorekeeper: A Memoir.”
Sure, he never played the game – but he certainly could write about it.
Hershey has since switched his allegiance from his Dodgers.
“I’m excited about the Mariners these days,” he says.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmasnFSR
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