Written by Chris Boyle Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00
Legendary sports journalist Hal Bock held a book signing at the East Williston Library on Tuesday, Sept. 10, celebrating the release of his ode to a special cartoonist who spent decades making poignant observations and poking good-natured fun at the great American pastime: baseball.
His newest tome, entitled Willard Mulling’s Golden Age of Baseball Drawings 1934-1972, is an ode to a great sports cartoonist and co-worker from his days at the World Telegram and the Sun.
An East Williston resident for 37 years, Bock seemingly has done it all during his 40-year career writing sports at the Associated Press. He covered 30 World Series and 30 Super Bowls. He attended his first fall classic and Super Bowl II in 1968. In fact, when he finally called it quits in 2004, he did so held a record.
“When I had retired I had covered more World Series and more Super Bowls than any other AP reporter,” he said. “That record may have been broken since, but that’s my claim to fame.”
Born in New York City, Bock grew up in The Bronx and eventually attended New York University. While there, he worked part-time for the World Telegram and Sun newspaper, where he first met Willard Mulling, not knowing that, decades later, he would be writing a book about him and his work.
After graduating from NYU, Bock joined the Army for six months and then worked for the New York Rangers hockey team for two seasons. Then he embarked upon his dream job: writing sports for the Associated Press.
“Working for the Rangers was fun, but what I really wanted to do is write sports, and I knew this all of my life,” he said. “When I was 8 years old, my father took me to my first baseball game, and when I saw the press box and found out that there were people whose job it was to come and watch a baseball game every day...bingo! I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”
After retiring, Bock taught journalism at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus for eight years.
“I really enjoyed talking to the kids and helping them to learn about sports journalism,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, but after a while the drive got to be too much.”
Over the course of his career, Bock has penned 13 books; the one he’s most proud of is The Pictorial History of Baseball, published in 1993. The new book is a chance to bring old-school visual storytelling to the Instagram generation.
“I can’t say I really knew [Mulling] personally, because at the time I was 17 years old, but I admired him and I watched him work...he had a new comic in the paper every day, and I always read it,” he said. “He died in 1978, and I thought it would be great if someone would put together a book of his cartoons and bring it to a new generation.”
Richard Pinsker and his wife Enid—an East Williston couple, who “live and breathe baseball,”—share that dream. “I remember reading the Daily News as a kid, and those cartoons were so great...they made a parody of everything and brought humor to a serious sport,” said Richard. “There’s a feeling of the cartoons back then that you just don’t get out of the text of the history of that time. Nothing represents sports like a great cartoon.”
Bock originally proposed the book to celebrate Mulling’s 100th birthday, which would have been in 2003; however, due to the long, bumpy road of assembling the cartoons, getting a publisher, and other sundry tasks, it is now celebrating Mulling’s 110th birthday instead.
At the library, Bock gave a lecture on the life and career of Willard Mulling, followed by a Q&A session and a signing of the book.
In speaking about his life and times as a sports writer, Bock’s remembrances brought a constant smile to his face; he said there isn’t a single thing he would change.
“I have led a charmed life,” he said. “I’ve been able to report on sporting events all over the world...it’s been a great adventure, and I’ve loved every moment of it.”