Dick Schaap's TV career blossomed when he became a correspondent for 20/20 and World News Tonight in the 1980s. He profiled a broad range of personalities and earned three Emmy Awards. In 1990, Schaap joined ESPN as host of The Sports Reporters, a Sunday morning talk show. Working with his son Jeremy, Schaap had a Saturday morning radio show, The Sporting Life with Dick Schaap, on ESPN Radio.
Famed newspaper, radio and television journalist Dick Schaap was born Richard Jay Schaap on September 27, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. With a career spanning five decades, Schaap was one of the best-known and admired journalists of the twentieth century, especially in the field of sports. Growing up on Long Island, New York, he had his first journalism job at the age of 15, working for an editor named Jimmy Breslin at a local paper. The two would become lifelong friends, each an influential journalist in his own right.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1955, Schaap earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. After some time in newspapers, he became a reporter for Newsweek in 1959, providing sports coverage. Five years later, he joined the staff of the New York Herald Tribune as city editor. There Schaap oversaw the work of old friend Jimmy Breslin and Tom Wolfe. Trading the editor job for the position of columnist, he wrote about local and national news for the paper.
By the late 1960s, Schaap had become a leading author and editor of successful sports books, including Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (1968) and I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow... 'Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day(1969), a biography of football legend Joe Namath. Later works featured collaborations with other sports stars, including pitcher Tom Seaver, baseball and football hero Bo Jackson, and Olympian Tom Waddell.
In addition to being a successful author, Schaap became a television journalist in the 1970s. At first, he worked for a local NBC station in New York City and then joined NBC News as a correspondent. Schaap may have seemed an unlikely candidate for television with his raspy voice, but he was a natural on camera. Multitalented, Schaap co-wrote a novel with Jimmy Breslin entitled .44, which offered a fictionalized account of the infamous Son of Sam murders, published in 1978.
Schaap's television career really took off when he changed networks in the early 1980s. Serving as a correspondent for the newsmagazine 20/20 and the nightly news program World News Tonight, he demonstrated his excellent skills as an interviewer. Schaap profiled a broad range of personalities and earned three Emmy Awards in the process, most notably for his story on comedian Sid Caesar's battle with substance abuse. While often associated with sports, he was also interested in the arts and filed theater reviews for ABC. It has often been said that Schaap was only person who ever voted for the Heisman Trophy for college football and the Tony Awards.
In 1990, Schaap joined the cable sports network ESPN as host of The Sports Reporters, a Sunday morning talk show. He later had an interview show, Schaap One on One, on the network's ESPN Classic channel. Working with his son Jeremy, Schaap had a Saturday morning radio show, The Sporting Life with Dick Schaap, on ESPN Radio.
One of his last projects was also his most personal. His autobiography, Flashing Before My Eyes: 50 Years of Headlines, Deadlines & Punchlines, was published in 2001. Some critics rolled their eyes at the number of times Schaap mentioned the names of other famous people. A reporter from New York Times even counted the instances of namedropping and came up with more than 500 references. While some may have been put off by that, it was a true reflection of the incredible life Schaap led. He met and befriended some of the leading sports figures of his time, including baseball great Hank Aaron, boxer Muhammad Ali, and tennis star Martina Navratilova, as well as people in the arts, such as comedian Billy Crystal and actress/singer Patti LuPone. A popular quotation of Schaap seems to sum up his well-populated life: "Often I am asked what my favorite sport is, and always I say, 'People.' I collect people."
A devoted New Yorker, Schaap had a standing Monday night reservation at Rao's, one of the city's most exclusive restaurants. It is the type of place that only serves its regulars and all of its regulars are VIPs of one sort or another.
In the fall of 2001, Schaap went to Lenox Hill Hospital to have hip replacement surgery. Unfortunately, he experienced complications afterwards and died on December 21. Schaap was survived by his third wife, Trisha, and his six children. The family later sued several of the doctors involved in his surgery and the hospital for his death.
More than one thousand people gathered for a memorial service in New York City in January 2002. Jimmy Breslin and Billy Crystal were among the many that spoke about Schaap at the service. He will be remembered as a talented writer, subtle interviewer, fair reporter and good friend to many.
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