Chuck Newman, who covered the Flyers for The Inquirer when they won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, was a mentor to many of us, someone who taught us to be tough but fair with the teams we covered; someone who could be abrasive but, in the next minute, kind and patient.
He was someone whose biting, sarcastic quips made bad situations more bearable.
Whatever he did _ whether it was refereeing, teaching a journalism class at Temple, or cheering for one of the horses he owned _ he enjoyed every second of his life.
Sadly, shockingly, that life ended Wednesday when Newman, 79, died of a heart attack. He had retired from The Inquirer about 10 years ago, but remained at Temple as a teacher.
It seems impossible to believe he is gone. He appeared to be in great health when I saw him at a party for retiring Inquirer sportswriter Ray Parrillo at the Cherry Street Tavern in Philly on Monday.
For much of the night, Chuck sat with Jack Chevalier and Jay Greenberg _ three highly respected scribes who covered the Flyers for many years _ and caught up on things. There were stories about the late Fred Shero, stories about former writers and players, stories about Chuck’s beloved and successful racehorses.
“They’re paying some of my bills,” he told me, proudly.
Chuck was, in a word, a character. When covering Villanova football, he had been highly critical of the Wildcats. A disenchanted fan walked up to the pressbox.
"You," he screamed at Newman, "are a butcher!"
Newman, without hesitation, made pretend he was holding a piece of meat.
"Would you like that with or without the fat?," the "butcher" replied, smiling.
On Twitter, tributes poured in.
Inquirer columnist Bob Ford: “Terribly sad news of the death of former Inquirer colleague Chuck Newman, a link to a distant newspaper era that laughed more, Tweeted less.”
ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who used to work with Newman at The Inquirer: “Saddened to hear of passing of the late, great Chuck Newman. Thanks to Chuck I learned a lot & laughed a lot. A true sportswriting original.”
Daily News columnist Rich Hoffman: “RIP Chuck Newman. Picked Villanova to beat G'town in '85 NCAA title game. Don't know another writer in the country who did.”
Inquirer Eagles writer Jeff McLane: “Chuck Newman was a mentor to a lot of young sportswriters in Philadelphia, including this scribe. He knew hoops as well as any reporter.”
CSN’s Tim Panaccio, who worked with Newman at The Inquirer: “Tough to concentrate on third period, etc. after hearing the news on Chuck Newman. I'll miss him.”
Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal tweeted about the recent deaths in the Philadelphia sports media: “Phil J, Larry O'R, Donna McQ, Jeff O, Jack O'R, and now Chuck Newman. RIP. God, what an awful year for Philly sports media.”
Brian Schiff, who said he was a loyal reader: “So sad to hear about Chuck Newman. Back then read every Flyers story by Newman (Inky), Fleischman (DN) & Chevalier (Bulletin) every day. RIP”
Some had stories that they recalled warmly. Panaccio, for instance, remembered covering a Rutgers football game with Newman in the late 1970s in Piscataway, N.J. When they left the pressbox, he said, they walked down a steep hill to a grassy parking lot. One problem: The lot had no lights, and they searched futilely in total darkness to find their car.
Newman and Panaccio were resourceful. They folded up their stat sheets, lit them with a lighter and made paper airplanes that they threw in the air, trying to locate the vehicle.
“We couldn’t stop laughing,” Panaccio said.
They did this, repeatedly, until the fire-lit planes finally allowed them to locate their car.
That was Newman. Always finding a way to get the job done. Always finding a way to make a bleak situation humorous.
Many Temple students called Newman “old school” and said they loved the journalism class he taught.
Zack Hill, the Flyers’ public-relations director, was a guest speaker at Newman’s classes during the last 15 years. “I’ll always remember his friendly smile and the love he had for teaching,” Hill wrote in an e-mail. “Although he was a journalist first (and sometimes basketball referee), I could see the true joy in his eyes and heart in teaching kids the trade that he loved, journalism. He was a great writer, teacher and, most important, a friend. I will miss him deeply.”
A lot of us share those sentiments. A lot of us have an empty feeling right now.
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Sam Carchidi can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BroadStBull.
Click here to read more about the passing of Chuck Newman, in the obituary from this morning's Inquirer.
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