To quote Bob Herzog's own words, from one of his most memorable Newsday stories, "You can't improve upon perfection." For him, getting to do a job that he loves for the past 39 years is the equivalent of a perfect game. Now, his decades of spirited Long Island sports journalism have brought him to a new apex: the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.
Herzog, who still is going strong in reporting on local sports, was inducted during a ceremony Friday night at Upsky Hotel in Hauppauge.
Ever since he was a youth in Commack, where he played for the high school teams, Suffolk sports have been a major part of his life, and vice versa. His enshrinement honored a Newsday career that began with his role as a sports copy editor in 1976 and has comprised a range of responsibilities and assignments.
Those included covering David Cone's perfect game at Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999 -- alluding to David Wells' perfecto the previous season, he wrote, "You can't improve upon perfection, so David Cone did the next best thing. He duplicated it" -- and his poignant telling of Shoreham-Wading River's 2014 Long Island high school football title following the death of popular key player Tom Cutinella.
"He's a wonderful, honest, high integrity guy who just epitomizes a reporter who puts his heart and soul into the story," said Hans Wiederkehr, president of the Suffolk Football Coaches Association and an assistant coach at Shoreham-Wading River. "He did a remarkable job this past fall with what our football team went through. He was very careful in how he approached it. He was very respectful.
"He's just a guy who you can really trust with doing his job the way it needs to be done," said Weiderkehr, longtime Babylon head coach, former Pittsburgh Steelers player and, like Herzog, a Syracuse University graduate.
Hank Winnicki, Newsday's executive sports editor, said, "If you're a sports fan and you're from Suffolk County, you know who Bob Herzog is. He has done it all in his career at Newsday, and the most impressive thing is that he still has the same passion and enthusiasm for his work as when he started out."
When he was the editor of the Sunday sports section in the 1980s and early 1990s, Herzog grew close to the entire department, from the columnists to the clerks. At a wake for venerable high school sports coordinator Jim Barbanell, Herzog concluded his eulogy by echoing Barbanell's nightly refrain to everyone in the office: "Goodbye, old friend."
Herzog supervised the interns and part-timers, propelling the careers of many young journalists, including Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci, who have gone on to become national baseball writers and television personalities.
Ultimately, Herzog followed his pupils' path into reporting, specializing in the local beat.
Current high school sports editor Gregg Sarra, who broke in as a part-timer under Herzog said: "Bob is an accomplished writer and is being recognized for his life's work at Newsday. Bob continues to give our readers top- notch coverage on the local platform. He has been a fantastic addition to our staff and does so much more than report stories. He is a role model and a mentor to the members of our staff and cares deeply about the local sports news and the student-athletes across Long Island."
Sayville football coach Robert Hoss said: "He really enjoys being around kids, and that says something for a guy who has covered major-league baseball. I think he just takes joy in the high school game. He's easy to work with. He has no agenda. You know he's not going to come out with a quote that's going to hurt you or the kids."
Herzog joined Barbanell, Sarra, Charlie Clark and George Usher as Newsday representatives in the Suffolk Hall.