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Stan Hochman, 86, spun stirring tales of sports, - and people

Stan Hochman was a people person. Wrote about them. Cared about them. So it's not surprising the Brooklyn, N.Y., native ended up at the People Paper.

Hochman during his 50th anniversary at the Daily News in 2009. "Why do I keep doing what I do? The answer is, because I still enjoy it," he said at the event.
Hochman during his 50th anniversary at the Daily News in 2009. "Why do I keep doing what I do? The answer is, because I still enjoy it," he said at the event.Read more

Stan Hochman was a people person. Wrote about them. Cared about them.

So it's not surprising the Brooklyn, N.Y., native ended up at the People Paper.

Mr. Hochman's storied career at the Philadelphia Daily News began June 9, 1959, when he was hired to cover the Phillies. 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," Mr. 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.' "

Mr. Hochman, 86, died Thursday, April 9, at Bryn Mawr Hospital after a recent illness.

Mr. 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."

Gloria Hochman, his wife of 55 years, said: "The last words Stan said to me were, 'Don't be sad. We've had a wonderful life.' He told me to tell [daughter] 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 [granddaughter] Sasha to choose her friends wisely."

Anndee Hochman said her father died 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," she 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.' "

Michael Days, the editor of the Daily News, said he was in "awe" of Mr. 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 Mr. 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."

One of those Mr. 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," Collins said. ". . . He was tough, but fair. I always respected that."

Mr. 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, and the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in June. He was set to enter the Big Five Hall of Fame on April 13 at the Palestra. He was a four-time recipient of the Red Smith Trophy for his coverage of 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, 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."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1928, he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1948 and a master's degree in education in 1949, both from New York University. He served in the Army at Fort Gordon, Ga., from 1951 to 1953.

Mr. Hochman began his sportswriting 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.

Mr. Hochman covered the Phillies for six seasons before being promoted to columnist in 1965. For three years, he also assumed the role of sports editor while continuing to write his column. His staccato style was often hard-hitting, but always fair and accurate.

In the 1960s, he did morning sports reports on WCAU radio and weekend sports reports for Channel 6. He hosted a four-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.

He wrote several books, including Unmasked: Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies. He had a cameo in Rocky V, playing a sportswriter, and appeared in many sports documentaries.

In addition to his wife of 55 years and their daughter, Mr. Hochman is survived by a granddaughter.

Funeral arrangements were pending.