Jack Mann, 74, sports journalist for a number of national publications

March 12, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Jack Mann, a veteran sportswriter specializing in baseball and horse racing during a storied career that included an award-winning stint at The Evening Sun, died yesterday of cancer at Howard County General Hospital. He was 74 and lived in Laurel.

During a career that began in high school in 1940, Mr. Mann worked for numerous publications, including Newsday from 1952 to 1962, where he became sports editor; the Detroit Free Press from 1962 to 1963; the New York Herald-Tribune from 1963 to 1965; Sports Illustrated from 1965 to 1967; the Miami Herald from 1968 to 1970; the Washington Daily News from 1970 to 1971; the Washington Star from 1971 to 1972, when it folded, then briefly for the Washington Times.

He joined The Evening Sun in the early 1980s and remained until 1990. He then joined the Racing Times, which also folded.

"He was employed by five newspapers that went out of business," said daughter Karen Stevenson of Berkeley, Calif.

And "he said he'd been fired from the best," Clem Florio, odds-maker and handicapper for the Maryland Jockey Club at Laurel Park, said yesterday. Mr. Mann twice won racing's Eclipse Award: in 1987 for outstanding magazine writing in Spur magazine, and in 1993 he won the Eclipse Walter Haight Award for outstanding achievement in turf writing. These are "the Academy Awards, the highest honor," Mr. Florio said.

Mr. Mann also received the Maryland Jockey Club's Old Hilltop Award for lifetime achievement.

Mr. Mann was the author of the 1966 book, "The Decline and Fall of the New York Yankees"; he covered the Yankees as well as the New York Giants. He also wrote free-lance articles for Look, Life, People, Family Weekly, Penthouse, and other magazines.

"He was a very special kind of guy," Mr. Florio said. "He had a special insight into things -- and he was a stickler for English. He'd say, `If you're going to tell a story, tell it right. If you're going to write, write correctly.' He kept a bulletin board of faux pas -- including his own."

And sooner or later, Mr. Florio said, Mr. Mann would tangle with his superiors.

"He did some outstanding stuff, but at some point, no matter how well he was doing, somebody would fool with his copy. They just couldn't leave their hands off of his stuff. He cared about getting the facts straight and writing well."

At Newsday, Mr. Mann was fired, but returned in the mid-1960s -- when he either quit or was fired again, said Newsday sports columnist Steve Jacobson, who was first hired by Mr. Mann.

"He's the guy who dragged Newsday from local sports into the big leagues," Mr. Jacobson said. "He was brilliant."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Mann was educated in New York and attended Columbia University for a year on the GI Bill. He served with the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946 in the North Pacific during World War II.

Mr. Florio recalled Mr. Mann talking about the war. "He was on one of those islands where they were just killing each other everywhere, right and left, when they heard Franklin D. Roosevelt had passed, and he found a cave -- and he cried."

Another time, Mr. Mann wrote a column after "he was robbed by this guy who popped him on the head, and he got to wondering about this guy, and what drove him to it," Mr. Florio said.

That column for the Washington Star "generated a flurry of letters, about equally divided, which was typical for my dad. He had a lot of people who loved him and a lot of people who didn't -- nobody was neutral," said Mrs. Stevenson.

Mr. Mann began his career in 1940 while still in high school, writing for the weekly Long Islander until his graduation in 1942. In 1947, he returned to newspapers as a reporter and editor of two Long Island weeklies, then joined Newsday first as a reporter, then as assistant city editor, then as sports editor.

Funeral services will be private, with burial at the Long Island National Cemetery in New York.

Twice divorced, Mr. Mann is survived by four sons, Donald Mann of Ashland, Ore.; Steven Mann of Richmond, Va.; David Mann of New York City and Jeffrey Mann of Santa Cruz, Calif.; two daughters, Karen Stevenson of Berkeley, Calif., and Katherine Mann of McLean, Va., and five grandchildren.

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