STAN HOCHMAN was a people person. Wrote about them. Cared about them.
So it's not surprising the Brooklyn native ended up at the People Paper.
Hochman's storied career at the Daily News began when he was hired to cover the Phillies on June 9, 1959. Over the next 55 years, he chronicled the town's most memorable sports events and athletes, including the collapse of the 1964 Phillies, Joe Frazier's loss in the "Thrilla in Manila," Villanova's NCAA title run, and the Sixers', Flyers' and Phillies' championships.
"Why do I keep doing what I do? The answer is, because I still enjoy it," Hochman told colleague Rich Hofmann in 2009, on his 50th anniversary with the paper. " . . . I'm just a guy who truly enjoys what he's doing in a city that cares deeply about its teams, but wants to read stuff that's 'tough but fair.' "
Sadly, Philadelphia lost one of its literary legends when Hochman died at Bryn Mawr Hospital on Thursday after a recent illness. He was 86.
Hochman, according to Pat McLoone, managing editor of the Daily News, could be summed up in one word: "Great."
"When you think that Stan Hochman came on the Philadelphia sports scene in the late '50s, made a mark right away and has been great, truly great, for more than 50 years, it really is overwhelming," said McLoone, who was sports editor from 1989 to 2008. "I mean, Stan was great as a Phillies beat writer covering Gene Mauch in the collapse of 1964, great covering Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Doctor J, Bobby Clarke, Reggie White and great to his final piece [in February].
"His coverage of Dick Allen's shot at the Hall of Fame, how he helped champion the cause, showed how great he still really was. I have been in awe of Stan since the first time I read the Daily News as a young kid and remain in awe of him today. For his insistence on accuracy, his incredible speed as a writer and his courage and truth-seeking as a columnist. Most importantly, I have been witness to him as a great husband, father and grandfather. It is a sad day in the history of Philadelphia sports, and he will be missed by so many."
Hochman is survived by Gloria Hochman, his wife of 55 years; daughter Anndee and her partner Elissa Goldberg; and granddaughter Sasha.
"The last words Stan said to me were, 'Don't be sad. We've had a wonderful life,' " Gloria said. "He told me to tell Anndee how much he loved her and how proud he was of her; to tell Elissa what a special daughter-in-law she is; and to tell Sasha to choose her friends wisely.
"Stan's readers, viewers and listeners know him for his uncompromising integrity, his unique flair for words and his matchless wit. But Anndee, Elissa, Sasha and I know him for the unconditional love he has always given us, for his pride in our achievements and for the joy he felt when we were together.
"I can't imagine life without him."
Anndee Hochman said her father passed while wearing a baseball cap for the Miracle League, a charity for children with mental and physical disabilities, one of the many causes he championed in the pages of the newspaper.
"Readers, radio listeners and fans know the public Stan Hochman," Anndee said. "But I've been privileged, as his daughter, to know the private man - the one whose eyes always grew teary when he read one of my essays or watched his granddaughter perform on the silks at circus school.
"His most joyous moments were when the five of us - he and my mom, my partner Elissa and me, and our daughter, Sasha - sat down to a dinner, one that he, of course, had cooked, and raised our glasses in a toast to love and life. He would glance around the table and say, 'I'm the luckiest man.'
"But we were the lucky ones, to live side by side with his integrity, sensitivity, talent, humor and heart."
Hochman covered the Phillies for six seasons before being promoted to columnist in 1965. For 3 years, he even assumed the role of sports editor while continuing to write his column. His staccato style was often hard-hitting, but always fair and accurate.
"I learned a lot from Stan and here is an example," McLoone said. "Years ago, we were working on a graphic making fun of the Dallas Cowboys. Stan took a look at it, chuckled and asked who wrote it. I told him it was a collective effort by the staff. Stan said it had to carry someone's name. I asked why. Stan said he was fine with the criticism, but not fine unless someone took ownership of it and was willing to stand behind it. That taught me a lot about fairness and integrity."
Michael Days, the editor of the Daily News, said he too was in "awe" of Hochman.
"Iconic and luminary are two words used much too frequently in 21st-century America," Days said. "But those two words perfectly capture the gift that Stan was to the Daily News, and to all who knew him. I can't say I'm impressed by much, but I always felt in awe when I was in his presence - master writer, a renaissance man.
"But then I saw him swinging his wife Gloria around the dance floor at the paper's 75th birthday party, and I realized that he was just about perfect."
Former Daily News sports columnist Ray Didinger noted that Hochman's writing style was as distinctive as his gravelly voice.
"I always believed that you could take all of the bylines off of all of the stories written in a day and everyone would know which one was written by Stan," Didinger said. "His style and his voice were uniquely his own. There have been a lot of greats who have worked at the Daily News, but if you were going to pick the single byline that most people will associate with the Daily News forever, it's probably Stan.
"I think he would like to be remembered as a guy who followed the three precepts he learned at his first job - it was on the top of each piece of copy paper that he put in the typewriter: 'Keep it tight. Keep it bright. Get it right.'
"He was a schoolteacher for a little while before he was a sports writer. I think that once you're a teacher, you're always a teacher. For the people who read him and the people who worked with him, he always taught you something. His colleagues learned what it was like to be a professional from him. He was always prepared. He was a terrific writer, but I always thought he was a great interviewer and someone who could work a locker room better than anyone. He could get the players who hated talking to talk."
One of those Hochman interviewed many times throughout the years was former Sixers star and coach Doug Collins.
"I have the utmost respect for Stan," Collins said. "I've known him since 1973. He was passionate about his work, and he knew his subjects. Before he would interview you, he did his homework so you knew that anything that he was going to write was done with due diligence. I consider him a dear friend.
"Stan is Philly, through and through. When I think of all the writers that have come and gone through Philadelphia, that's what I think of. Stan and that voice. He was a throwback. He knew how to separate when to be a reporter and when to turn off the tape recorder. I understand the job that reporters have to do and sometimes it's not easy to ask the tough questions, the ones that need to be asked. Stan had a way of not only asking them so that you wanted to answer, but also made you feel better talking about it. He was tough, but fair. I always respected that."
Hochman, a gentle, humble man, acquired numerous awards in his career.
He was named Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year three times and was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame last June, and was set to enter the Big 5 Hall of Fame on April 13 at the Palestra. He was a four-time recipient of the Red Smith Trophy for his coverage at the Kentucky Derby and received the Nat Fleischer Memorial Award from the Boxing Writers' Association of America for excellence in boxing journalism in 1991.
"A Hochman column was a thing of beauty, delivered in a flash," said Zack Stalberg, who was the editor of the Daily News from 1984 to 2005. "Day after day, Stan wrote - and spoke - with depth, intensity and uncommon good sense. He was the finest all-around sports journalist Philadelphia has ever seen."
Hochman began his sports writing career in Augusta, Ga., before moving on to three Texas newspapers, the Brownsville Herald, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Waco News-Tribune. He also wrote for the San Bernardino (Calif.) Sun before coming to the Daily News, where he was hired by then-sports editor Larry Merchant.
In the 1960s, he did morning sports reports on WCAU radio and weekend sports reports for Channel 6. He hosted a 4-hour talk show on WIP with Didinger, did color for the Eagles and Sixers, and was a regular panelist on "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet. More recently, he appeared on WIP's "Morning Show" as the Grand Imperial Poobah, a role in which he dispensed advice and settled disputes.
He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 2012.
Hochman also wrote several books, including "Unmasked: Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies." He even had a cameo in the movie "Rocky V," playing a sports writer, and appeared in many sports documentaries.
Hochman was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1928. He received a bachelor's degree in history from New York University in 1948 and a master's degree in education from NYU in 1949. He served in the U.S. Army at Fort Gordon, Ga., from 1951 to '53.
The services for Stan Hochman will be Sunday, April 12 at 1:30 p.m. at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Road in Elkins Park, Pa.