Bill Fleischman, a former Daily News writer who covered the Stanley-Cup winning Flyers in the 1970s, passed away Wednesday, May 1, 2019 after a battle with cancer. He was 80.
Friends and former colleagues remember him:
“I remember when we added Trenton of the East Coast Hockey League as one of our affiliates and he saw a quote where I said Trenton was a good sports town. He called me up and said. ’What do you know about Trenton being a good sports town?’ I always got a kick out of that.”
-- Paul Holmgren, Flyers president
“He would send me an occasional email years ago to tell me I was doing a good job. I appreciated that more than I could ever explain to him.”
-- Aaron Carter
"After the [1974 championship] parade, which turned out to be a hundred times bigger than any of us ever imagined, Bill stopped at a diner to get something to eat before heading back to the office.
They had a radio on and just as Bill was about to bite into his sandwich he heard an ad saying, ‘And be sure to pick up tomorrow’s Daily News to read Bill Fleischman’s story about how this Flyers championship team was built.’ Bill said he almost choked. No one told him about any such story. He figured he’d just write a piece about the parade, that would be fun and easy. But now he had to write a whole history of how the team was built?
It was already the middle of the afternoon. He knew the deadlines were moved up because they wanted to print more papers. He hadn’t had a day off in weeks and he was exhausted, but he went to the office and wrote the story. I know other writers who would’ve thrown a fit and screamed at the editors for blindsiding him like that, but Bill just sat down and wrote a thoroughly detailed piece that read like he spent weeks researching it ... Bill was a true professional. I can’t think of a greater compliment or one he would appreciate more."
-- Ray Didinger
“Growing up, I couldn’t wait to read Bill’s Flyers stories. He had a colorful, unique way of making you feel like you were there. Later in life, I had the great fortune to meet Bill and spend time with him in the press box -- and as great as he was as a writer, he was an even better person. He never big-timed anybody, and he was always helpful, always upbeat, always classy. Bill had a charming down-to-earth persona that made people gravitate toward him and he will be greatly missed.”
-- Sam Carchidi
"Just a nice, generous, gentle man. When he covered Drexel late in his career, it was as important to him as covering the Flyers and it showed in his attention to every little detail. Got me to Dover Speedway one year and showed me the whole scene. Said I would come back when they had a toteboard with betting.”
-- Dick Jerardi
“For about 10 years, one of my favorite moments each spring was Bill walking in after covering the Broad Street Run waving a disc that had all the finishers and their times, that we were going to get in the paper, handing it to me to download ... then 10 minutes later asking me where [notable runners] had finished.”
-- Bob “Boop” Vetrone Jr.
"During the history of Daily News Live/Philly Sports Talk, Bill would -- not infrequently -- become caught in the midst of disgruntlement between his colleagues at the Daily News and his colleagues at Comcast SportsNet/NBC Sports Philadelphia. The subject of the acrimony varied: the writers complaining they did not appear enough, or one of their stories did not get discussed when they were on; the CSN/NBC folks complaining that some writers were on too much and some not enough. It was a pendulum swinging every day and Bill rode it like a mensch.
I don’t know how he kept everyone happy but I guess it starts with being nice and kind and gentlemanly and Bill possessed all of those attributes. He never lost his temper and we always worked things out.
In the early days of DNL Bill would book himself on the program to discuss auto racing, in particular NASCAR. I took to calling him ‘Ricky Rudd’ after one of the drivers and I would refer to him as such many times in our emails back and forth. He eventually began signing off his emails as ‘The Ruddster’ and right about now, I’m looking for one more from him in my inbox. I will miss you my friend, Rest In Peace."
-- Michael Barkann
"Bill was like the elder statesman in our sports department, even across the entire newsroom, so he was like your favorite uncle that you’d invite over for Sunday dinner. When I was coming up in the business, I often went to him for advice. I mean, he did cover two Stanley Cup winners. How many can say that?
In his role as the ‘Sports People’ writer [features on local sports], he probably touched more folks through the years than anyone in our little part of the world. And I think those people really appreciated the work he did, and how he did it. In his later years he did just about anything and everything that was ever asked of him, and he did it with a certain style and grace that was uniquely Bill.
He was the NASCAR guy, although I liked to kid him that in the 80s I might have covered more local races at Pocono and Dover than he did. Of course he didn’t believe it, until I looked it up and showed him. You should have saw the look on his face. Priceless. But that was Bill. Always there for us.
When we did our college football picks, he loved to email you on a Sunday to tell you how he’d done. And he was always doing ‘research,’ as he called it, to try and come up with more winners. Again, it was pure Bill. It became our running joke. But only in a good way. Because it was his way of staying a part of it all, even after he “retired.” Truth is Bill never really retired. It seemed like he was still staying involved, in some way, long after he supposedly left. Like making the schedule for Daily News Live, or covering the odd event. And we liked to bust on him about that, even though it made us feel good to still have him there in any capacity. He was, after all, one of us. That could never change.
For many years when we moved from the eighth floor to the first floor at 400 North Broad we sat together, along with writer Kevin Mulligan and editor Paul Vigna, in a section we affectionately dubbed ‘Amen Corner.’ It was never dull. Every day you could count on having some good conversation and laughs. We even had some good arguments. Nothing wrong with that. I miss those times. I will miss Bill. I promised him recently that I was looking forward to finally playing golf with him, since he had taken up the game a few years ago and wasn’t sure he was good enough to tee it up with me yet. Now, that will never happen. My loss. It would have been fun. Because I would have been with a decent man and a friend."
-- Mike Kern
I always marveled at the diversity of Bill when it came to covering sports. From tennis to NASCAR, and every sport in between, Bill prepared for his next story with an enviable tenacity. And when he found a nugget about something he was sure few were aware of, he gleefully shared it with anyone and everyone.
A true gentleman, I loved the stories he’d tell of his and Barb’s adventures -- whether it was about a trip to Florida or a weekend spent with relatives. Those usually ended when the phone at his desk rang, or a colleague called my desk to break up the conversation, knowing that there was some work to be done. Bill knew of this trick and roared every time it was attempted.
-- Bob Cooney
[Bill] was such a guiding light to me growing up. Our Dad traveled much for his work and Bill filled in as a male sounding board for me. He was extremely ethical in his responsibilities. A quick story. When I was in high school, I played on a very good football team. As sports editor of the Burlington County Times, he or one of the reporters would cover our games. If I had a good game, it would never appear in the paper. After I graduated, Bill came to me and apologized for it. He told me that he never wanted it to appear that he played favorites, since journalism should be objective. I had understood that from the beginning, but he needed to say it.
-- Chuck Fleischman
“So so sad to see yet another passing in our prestigious group. May Bill’s memory be for a blessing. Maybe he and Stan can keep talking sports wherever they are.”