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Longtime sportswriter James J. Tuite dies

Undated obit photo of James J. Tuite, sportswriter

Undated obit photo of James J. Tuite, sportswriter and editor. Credit: Handout

James J. Tuite, who launched his sportswriting career as a teenager and went on to become a sports editor at The New York Times and a contributor to several newspapers, including Newsday, has died.

Tuite, of Ridge, died Saturday. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's and been in declining health. He was 90.

Tuite was born March 22, 1921, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. His mother was a homemaker and his father was a city fireman.

Tuite attended Boys' High School in Brooklyn but by 16 had a column in the Greenpoint Star, where he wrote features and covered youth sports. "His love was writing," said Tuite's son, Jim Tuite, 67, also of Ridge. "He quit school to write, to be a reporter, to cover events and talk to people."

Tuite said his father married a young woman from Greenpoint, Margaret Lynd, in the early years of World War II, before leaving for Europe. A U.S. Army staff sergeant from 1943 to 1946, Tuite and his outfit received a Presidential Unit Citation in France near the end of the war, Jim Tuite said.

In a 2001 Newsday article, Tuite recounted an episode early in 1945 in which a fellow Brooklyn serviceman, Murray Lancer, lost his life after volunteering to find and get help from U.S. tanks in the area as German troops closed in.

"As GI survivors of World War II die, the memories of their valor should be perpetuated," he wrote. "This story is for all the Murray Lancers in uniform who we never knew about."

After leaving the Army, Tuite worked as sports copy editor at the Providence Journal. He started on the sports copy desk at The New York Times in 1948, and the Tuite family settled on Long Island, first in Roslyn, later in Dix Hills.

Jim Tuite said his father spent 36 years at the Times and was named a sports editor there in 1973. Over the course of his career, he saw Muhammad Ali take on George Foreman in Zaire in 1974 and interviewed an unknown Joe Namath just as he was coming out of the University of Alabama.

Tuite enjoyed writing about sports less popular than football and baseball, his son said, and his ability to do research was so great that he was approached by a publisher to write a book about snowmobiling despite having no experience with the machines. The book was published in 1969.

"His real love in the end was horse racing," Jim Tuite said. "He knew everybody in the sport, and my mother and him went to races all over the country."

A loving father, Tuite made time for his five children despite the demands of his job.

"I got to go sit in press boxes and sit in interviews in locker rooms," Jim Tuite said. "I met Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle . . . It was a wonderful childhood."

In addition to Jim Tuite, other survivors include his sons Robert and Kevin and his daughter Virginia Roth. He is also survived by 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his wife, Margaret, in 1990 and by his son John, who died in an automobile accident at age 18.

Visitation is being held Monday at O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Tuesday, 10 a.m. at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church in Shoreham, followed by burial at Calverton National Cemetery.

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