The Man Behind 8,000 Bylines

Former New York Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi loves to talk about his days at City College, and especially his gig as editor of the Observation Post, which used to be a competitor of The Campus.

Last month, during a visit to CCNY, Eskenazi described how he got his job at the Times in the early 60s. “I went in for the interview and the guy doing the hiring asked me one question,” says Eskenazi, CCNY class of 1959. “Do you work on your school newspaper? I said yes, and I was hired.”

Eskenazi, who retired from the Times several years ago after 41 years and 8,000 bylines, entertained about 30 CCNY journalism students with stories about professional athletes, including Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, Michael Strahan, Mike Tyson, Joe Namath and Michael Jordan. He recalled the day boxer Muhammad Ali said to him, “you know, you’re not as stupid as you look,” and the time he wrote a story from ringside at Madison Square Garden on a typewriter splattered with blood. His all-time favorite event, he says, was covering the spellbinding 1980 Olympic hockey match when the US. beat the Russians. “They called it the sports event of the 20th century for a reason,” he says.

Eskenazi, who grew up in Brooklyn, says that being a good “talker” helped his career. “I was always able to start up a conversation with anyone I’ve ever met,” says Eskenazi. “Somewhere, with anyone, there’s the germ of something that we share.”

He encouraged students to get involved with CCNY student media. “There was so much good journalism when I was here,” he recalls. “That’s why I didn’t graduate in four years; I spent all my time working on the paper.”