Frank Litsky, 1926-2018: A Times Sportswriter of Humor and Breadth

Frank Litsky, 1926-2018: A Times Sportswriter of Humor and Breadth

“Back then, the relationship with members of the media was far different than it is today,” Parcells said by phone on Thursday. “It was a group of guys you got to know, and the electronic media wasn’t really around, so it was more like a group meeting.”

Parcells recalled of Litsky, “I found him a genuine, warm person.”

The depth of Litsky’s knowledge was staggering, from precise statistical notes culled from years with sports such as track and field and swimming to more than 300 obituaries he wrote for The Times, many brought to life by his infinite knowledge and fraternity of friends, local and international. Litsky’s legacy will live on for readers in the coming years through the 65 advance obituaries he has left for future publication.

If you were sitting next to Litsky at a sports event, “you were always in the right place,” a former Times colleague, Malcolm Moran, recalled. He could offer hilarious off-the-cuff, inside-the-game stories, helpful style hints or even a quality post-event dining spot he had uncovered. Small wonder that over 36 years, Litsky wrote yearbooks for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, World Book and Collier’s, among others, along with a 1975 coffee-table book, “Superstars,” that became a main selection of the Sports Illustrated Book Club.

Litsky’s appreciation and respect for minor sports — at a time when most news media outlets focused their coverage on football, basketball, baseball and hockey — extended to his early embrace of women’s sports and gender equity. In 1967, he covered the Boston Marathon when a woman, Kathrine Switzer, was pulled off the course by race officials because only men were allowed to run it then. Decades later, his courtside account of the first national college basketball title by an undefeated UConn women’s team made the front page of The Times.

In 1997, Litsky became the first newspaper journalist named to the media wing of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, one of many such national honors.

Born in Waterbury, Conn., Litsky graduated from the University of Connecticut in three years at age 19. After an early career with United Press, he was initially hired by The Times as a sports copy editor, specifically in Olympic sports. But over the next 11 years, his role expanded to an assistant to the sports editor supervising the weekday sports and then as a deputy sports editor supervising the Sunday section.

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