Howie Schwab attends the 10th Annual ESPN The Magazine Pre-Draft...

Howie Schwab attends the 10th Annual ESPN The Magazine Pre-Draft Party at The IAC Building on April 24, 2013 in New York City. Credit: WireImage/John Lamparski

Howie Schwab, a popular behind-the-scenes figure at ESPN who in the mid-2000s rose to fame as the star of a sports trivia show, died on Saturday. He was 63.

The researcher, statistician and producer widely known as “The Schwab” grew up in Baldwin and was a St. John’s University alumnus.

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a friend and longtime colleague, announced the news and later issued a statement through ESPN.

“Howie played a vital role in my career,” Vitale said. “His incredible research was so valuable for decades. Howie’s loyalty and dedication was so special. His passion and love for sports was off the charts.

“Most recently he was ecstatic with the UConn Huskies going back to back and was also thrilled to see Rick Pitino bring back his beloved St. John’s to prominence.”

Schwab had health issues in recent years, but no cause of death was announced.

Schwab was at ESPN from 1987 to 2013, when he left during a wave of layoffs at the network, a decision that prompted numerous shocked and angry public reactions from colleagues.

He later worked on the Crackle show “Sports Jeopardy!” and for Fox Sports.

Most people outside ESPN knew him as the star of “Stump the Schwab,” which appeared on ESPN2 and later ESPN Classic from 2004-06.

On the show, originally hosted by the late Stuart Scott, Schwab would regularly display his sports trivia knowledge by outwitting contestants. He rarely lost.

A 2005 review in The New York Times that called Schwab “so uncool that he’s cool,” captured the vibe of the program:

“The appeal of the show lies in its carefully cultivated reverse snobbery. Watching Mr. Schwab gun down all comers is a bit like watching Homer Simpson prevail over Ken Jennings, the all-time ‘Jeopardy!’ champion, in a college quiz bowl.”

As a student working for the St. John’s newspaper, Schwab broke the news that Brooklyn high school basketball star Chris Mullin would be attending the university. He also worked for the radio station.

Upon joining ESPN in 1987, he helped develop its research department and became its first official statistician and later director of the unit.

Numerous friends and former colleagues reacted to the news on social media on Saturday.

Longtime ESPN host and announcer John Buccigross posted on “X”:

“Damn. Howie was pure ESPN. What a time it was in Bristol when everyone was a fanatic sports follower — the real heart and soul of the place. The newsroom had such a palpable energy and Howie was a light all us bugs were drawn to.

“Lived and loved the job. A producer once asked Digger Phelps to record his analysis on the game. Digger yelled toward Howie, ‘Howie, what's my analysis?!’ Rest, Howie.”

More sports media


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months