Philadelphia AP sports writer Ralph Bernstein dies at 85

The
Associated Press

Ralph
Bernstein, who peppered coaches and players alike with tough questions for
nearly a half-century while covering the

Philadelphia
sports scene for The Associated Press, has died. He was 85.

Bernstein
died of cancer on Saturday, his daughter-in-law, Maureen Bernstein, told the AP
on Monday.

“He
was ferocious and he made the AP’s presence known at football fields,
ballparks, basketball courts and hockey rinks in

Philadelphia. And if the Nittany Lions were
playing at home, Ralph was there,” said AP sports editor Terry Taylor, who
worked with Bernstein in the

Philadelphia
bureau from 1977-81.

“I’ll
bet you there wasn’t a single person involved in sports in

Pennsylvania and beyond who didn’t know of
Ralph Bernstein,” she said.

Bernstein,
who lived in

Pembroke Pines,

Fla., since retiring in February
1994 after more than 48 years at the AP, would have turned 86 on Thursday.

“No
sportswriter in the history of Philly had a more widespread influence or
presence,” longtime Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin
told his newspaper. “He covered every Phillies spring-training and home
game, every Eagles preseason and home game, every Sixers and Flyers home game,
every Big 5 doubleheader, all the press conferences for hirings and firings,
and everything in between.”

Colleagues
recalled Bernstein’s hard-nosed questions sending the normally cool Dallas
Cowboys coach Tom Landry stalking angrily from a stage, and prompting
Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark to kick a trash can in the team
clubhouse and threaten to punch him.

“Nobody
– and I mean nobody – could grill someone in an interview the way he
could,” said Frank Bilovsky, retired sportswriter for the former
Philadelphia Bulletin and longtime friend of Bernstein.

But after
fielding a series of tame questions at news conference shortly after
Bernstein’s retirement, Philadelphia Eagles coach Rich Kotite groaned, “I
miss Ralph.”

“He
refused to take ‘no comment’ for an answer,” Conlin said. “But his
questions were straight-ahead. He never set anybody up for a cheap shot. And
when his story appeared, the quotes were accurate and in context.”

Bernstein,
a
Philadelphia native, started as a stringer for
the old Philadelphia Record while attending

Temple
University.
After serving in the Army in World War II, he returned home and worked for
United Press before joining the Associated Press.

In
addition to his work for AP, Bernstein wrote books on Philadelphia A’s pitcher
Bobby Shantz, La Salle University coach Ken Loeffler and Phillies pitcher Jim
Bunning.

He is
survived by a son, Robert; a brother, Bernard; and two grandchildren.

Bernstein’s
first wife, Barbara, was stabbed to death during a robbery in their Jenkintown
condominium on Dec. 29, 1982, while he was covering the Sugar Bowl in

New Orleans. A former

Philadelphia police
officer was convicted in her murder.

Bernstein’s
second wife, the former Mary Ann Melincoff, died in 2003.

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