Vic Ziegel, who passed along his humor and sports insight for almost a half-century as a New York City reporter, columnist and editor, died Friday in his native Bronx. He was 72.
Though he wasn't a smoker, Ziegel was diagnosed with lung cancer in November and recently hospitalized. Officially retired from the Daily News last year, he continued to cover thoroughbred racing for the paper. One of his last assignments was the Belmont Stakes in June, when he slyly informed readers that the winner was the previously unnoticed "Drosselmeyer, pronounced Drosselmeyer, but not too often in the week before the race.
"His winning time was 2:31.57. Secretariat, who won the Belmont in 2:24, would have beaten him by, oh, 40 lengths. Drosselmeyer must never be told."
Especially decorated for his coverage of boxing and horse racing, Ziegel - who wrote mostly for the News and the New York Post - also authored several books, including a satire of the 1970s marathon boom with Lewis Grossberger called "The Non-Runner's Book." His freelance work appeared in Rolling Stone, New York Magazine and Inside Sports, and he was part of the creative team that turned Jim Bouton's book, "Ball Four," into a television series. He also briefly produced a non-sports column for the News, where he starred for 25 years, called "Helluva Town."
Victor Ziegel was born Aug. 16, 1937, in New York City andgrew up two blocks from Yankee Stadium, which he described as "growing up near Castle Dracula"; he was a fan of the baseball Giants. While attending City College, he took a job with the now-defunct daily Long Island Press - "eight splendid bucks a night," he noted - taking high school basketball results over the telephone, then worked at the Post most of the 1960s and '70s.
His parents were emigrants from Eastern Europe and his father, by his own account, "didn't get it about sports. . . . It astounded my father - a man who rode with the Cossacks; the friendlier Cossacks - that a son of his earned a living writing 24-21, 4-3, $12.60 to win. The truth? It still astounds his son."
He called the job of covering sports "thrilling, fascinating, exhilarating, and it happens out of town often enough to accomplish wonderful things with an expense account."
Ziegel is survived by his wife of 34 years, Roberta; a daughter, Katy Ziegel; and a sister, Shelly Goldfeder.