Newsday sports reporter Jane Gross during a break in the...

Newsday sports reporter Jane Gross during a break in the action at a basketball game she was covering on March 26, 1976.  Credit: AP

In one sense, Jane Gross came to sports journalism as an insider. Her father, Milton, was a prominent syndicated sports columnist at the New York Post.

“I spent my childhood trailing in his wake to spring training, did my homework in the bowels of various arenas while he was writing,” she said in a 2013 ESPN documentary, "Let Them Wear Towels."

“When I graduated from college, essentially he got me a nepotism job.”

But in a more important sense, she was an outsider, a woman in what in the early 1970s was an almost exclusively male profession.

That soon began to change, thanks largely to pioneers such as Gross, who died Wednesday at 75. The New York Times, quoting Gross’ brother, Michael, said she died at a nursing home in the Bronx from a traumatic brain injury after a series of falls.

Gross was among a generation of young women journalists who in the mid- to late 1970s forced their way into locker rooms to interview players — just as their male colleagues and competitors did. She was the first to do so in the NBA.

Many newspapers of that era hired token women sportswriters under pressure from class-action suits, but some editors, fellow writers, coaches and athletes often were not fully on board.

It never was easy.

“It was incredibly lonely, and incredibly difficult,” Gross said in the 2013 documentary, “and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that virtually all of us from that first cohort eagerly went on to do something else.”

In Gross’ case, that included a long career at the Times that began in sports but soon evolved into news coverage. She later made aging a reporting focus.

She wrote a book in 2011 about her experiences helping her mother as she declined in health, and of the challenges of being a caregiver.

The first major men’s sport to allow equal reporting access to women was hockey.

Robin Herman, who grew up in Port Washington and worked for the Times, made her way into the locker room after the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 21, 1975. Herman died in February of this year.

Then, less than a month after Herman’s milestone, the Knicks allowed Gross, who was working for Newsday at the time, into their locker room to do her job.

Later that winter, Gross did the same in covering the Nets of the American Basketball Association.

On Feb. 14, 1975, Newsday sports columnist Stan Isaacs wrote in support of women in locker rooms, saying, “some of the yahoos in the sports establishment are reverting to Neanderthal form. They are treating young women as interlopers and second-class citizens.”

Nets publicist Barney Kremenko was quoted in that column saying, “Sooner or later, women will walk in and nothing will be thought about it. But right now, it’s a new thing and people have to get used to it.”

Five days later, Gross wrote a story in Newsday about a women’s college basketball game between Queens and Immaculata, and quoted Queens coach Lucille Kyvallos saying she would welcome men and women into her team’s locker room.

“It would be sexist if I didn’t open it,” Kyvallos said.

John Jeansonne, a retired Newsday sports writer who joined the paper in 1970 and worked with Gross, recalled her on Friday as a quiet person who fit in comfortably among her male colleagues.

Like many younger male writers of the era, Jeansonne took the presence of female colleagues in stride, but he came to realize later “the grief they went through” in the process.

“We were just oblivious" to the obstacles they faced, Jeansonne said. “She really was a pioneer, but we almost didn’t notice it."”

Progress remained slow as the decade wore on.

Major League Baseball was the last major domino to fall, but it required a federal court ruling in the wake of the Times’ Melissa Ludtke being barred from the Yankees locker room during the 1977 World Series and then suing for access.

Gross started her career at Sports Illustrated upon graduating from Skidmore College, before joining Newsday.

She was honored by the Association for Women in Sports Media in 2018 and recalled the trials in her early career, which included having a bucket of water poured on her and spaghetti and meatballs thrown at her.

But she was heartened by the thank you letters from girls who looked up to her and wanted to follow her into the profession.

She said at the time of her 2018 AWSM celebration, “They wrote of reading my stories on microfilm and feeling the world open up.”

In one sense, Jane Gross came to sports journalism as an insider. Her father, Milton, was a prominent syndicated sports columnist at the New York Post.

“I spent my childhood trailing in his wake to spring training, did my homework in the bowels of various arenas while he was writing,” she said in a 2013 ESPN documentary, "Let Them Wear Towels."

“When I graduated from college, essentially he got me a nepotism job.”

But in a more important sense, she was an outsider, a woman in what in the early 1970s was an almost exclusively male profession.

That soon began to change, thanks largely to pioneers such as Gross, who died Wednesday at 75. The New York Times, quoting Gross’ brother, Michael, said she died at a nursing home in the Bronx from a traumatic brain injury after a series of falls.

Gross was among a generation of young women journalists who in the mid- to late 1970s forced their way into locker rooms to interview players — just as their male colleagues and competitors did. She was the first to do so in the NBA.

Many newspapers of that era hired token women sportswriters under pressure from class-action suits, but some editors, fellow writers, coaches and athletes often were not fully on board.

It never was easy.

“It was incredibly lonely, and incredibly difficult,” Gross said in the 2013 documentary, “and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that virtually all of us from that first cohort eagerly went on to do something else.”

In Gross’ case, that included a long career at the Times that began in sports but soon evolved into news coverage. She later made aging a reporting focus.

She wrote a book in 2011 about her experiences helping her mother as she declined in health, and of the challenges of being a caregiver.

The first major men’s sport to allow equal reporting access to women was hockey.

Robin Herman, who grew up in Port Washington and worked for the Times, made her way into the locker room after the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 21, 1975. Herman died in February of this year.

Then, less than a month after Herman’s milestone, the Knicks allowed Gross, who was working for Newsday at the time, into their locker room to do her job.

Later that winter, Gross did the same in covering the Nets of the American Basketball Association.

On Feb. 14, 1975, Newsday sports columnist Stan Isaacs wrote in support of women in locker rooms, saying, “some of the yahoos in the sports establishment are reverting to Neanderthal form. They are treating young women as interlopers and second-class citizens.”

Nets publicist Barney Kremenko was quoted in that column saying, “Sooner or later, women will walk in and nothing will be thought about it. But right now, it’s a new thing and people have to get used to it.”

Five days later, Gross wrote a story in Newsday about a women’s college basketball game between Queens and Immaculata, and quoted Queens coach Lucille Kyvallos saying she would welcome men and women into her team’s locker room.

“It would be sexist if I didn’t open it,” Kyvallos said.

John Jeansonne, a retired Newsday sports writer who joined the paper in 1970 and worked with Gross, recalled her on Friday as a quiet person who fit in comfortably among her male colleagues.

Like many younger male writers of the era, Jeansonne took the presence of female colleagues in stride, but he came to realize later “the grief they went through” in the process.

“We were just oblivious" to the obstacles they faced, Jeansonne said. “She really was a pioneer, but we almost didn’t notice it."”

Progress remained slow as the decade wore on.

Major League Baseball was the last major domino to fall, but it required a federal court ruling in the wake of the Times’ Melissa Ludtke being barred from the Yankees locker room during the 1977 World Series and then suing for access.

Gross started her career at Sports Illustrated upon graduating from Skidmore College, before joining Newsday.

She was honored by the Association for Women in Sports Media in 2018 and recalled the trials in her early career, which included having a bucket of water poured on her and spaghetti and meatballs thrown at her.

But she was heartened by the thank you letters from girls who looked up to her and wanted to follow her into the profession.

She said at the time of her 2018 AWSM celebration, “They wrote of reading my stories on microfilm and feeling the world open up.”

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