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Leonard Koppett, 79; Lauded Sportswriter Covered Baseball From DiMaggio to Bonds

June 24, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Leonard Koppett, one of the nation's most insightful baseball writers, whose career spanned nearly six decades in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, has died. He was 79.

Koppett died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, where he and his wife, Suzanne, were to attend a concert, said his son, David.

Elected to the writer's wing of baseball's Hall of Fame in 1992, Koppett began his sportswriting career in New York when Joe DiMaggio was roaming center field for the Yankees. It continued when he moved to Northern California in 1973, where he wrote about current stars such as Barry Bonds.

"He was one of the most innovative, knowledgeable and astute thinkers in the game of baseball," said Ross Newhan, Hall of Fame baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times. "I think, with all of the years he spent writing about the game, he brought a fresh perspective to complex subjects."

Born in Moscow, Koppett moved with his family to the Bronx section of New York -- one block from Yankee Stadium -- when he was 5.

Koppett served in the Army during World War II and, after his discharge, earned his bachelor's degree from Columbia University.

His first newspaper writing job was with the New York Herald Tribune. He later joined the New York Post before moving to the New York Times in 1963.

In 1973, he became the Times' first West Coast sports correspondent. Later, he became editor of the Peninsula Times Tribune, after which he wrote a general interest column for the paper. After he left the Times Tribune in 1993, he continued to write columns about baseball for newspapers around the country.

He wrote 16 books, including "The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball" and "24 Seconds To Shoot," a history of the NBA.

He was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Koppett also taught journalism at Stanford and San Jose State University.

In addition to his wife and his son, Koppett is survived by his daughter, Katherine.

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