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RIP Bill Gallo

Yogi Barra and George Steinbrenner in one of Bill Gallo's cartoons. Bill drew Steinbrenner as General Von Steingrabber.

I was saddened to read the news that legendary sports cartoonist Bill Gallo has passed away. Bill worked at the New York Daily News, drawing cartoons sports and editorial cartoons for more than five decades.

Bill’s rendition of George Steinbrenner, or as Gallo labeled him, General Von Steingrabber was a regular character that I got to know every day when I lived in New York City; Bill was a New York institution. I got to know Bill through the National Cartoonists Society, we were both past presidents.  He was a great guy.  Old timers in the NCS tell stories of Bill introducing the cartoonists to sports stars, taking his cartoonist buddies to sports parties and big boxing matches.  Bill was a cartoon party animal.

Gallo’s passing leaves a hole in the profession of sports cartooning. Other than a few freelancers, and some staff political cartoonists who occasionally draw a sports cartoon or two, most newspapers no longer print any sports cartoons.

Drew Litton, the former sports cartoonist for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, draws cartoons now for The Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com, and wrote some of his thoughts on Bill for us:

Bill Gallo owned New York. At least the heart of it. He was a legend in the once vibrant field of sports cartooning. He left his lasting mark on a sports hungry city in thousands of cartoons, done  thousands of different ways about thousands of  elite athletes, coaches, franchises and fans. To say he will be missed is an understatement. He closes a chapter in history. He was the last daily sports cartoonist publishing in an American newspaper. Yes, we still have Tank McNamara and In the Bleachers, (thankfully) but the era of the full-time staff sports cartoonist is over.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Gallo at a National Cartoonist Society convention in Toronto in the 90′s. I was up for the award for best sports cartoonist that year along with Gallo and Eddie Germano I think. I had, of course, a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning the category because Gallo’s name had been permanently etched on the thing for like 20 years running. He told me I would win it. I looked at him as if he had lost his mind. He smiled and said kindly “just not this year.” He was right. Gallo took home the award again that night. But the following year, Gallo’s prediction came true, and they found some way to etch a different name than Gallo on the award. They Put an L and an I over the G and the A, crossed the two L’s to make them into two T’s and added an N on the end. And I won my one and only award in the sports cartoon category, I’m convinced only because Gallo told them he had run out of wall space. The NCS killed the sports cartoon division award for the following year which I took as a sign that I had killed the entire genre of sports cartooning previously kept very much alive by the humble but happy and enormously talented Bill Gallo.

I will always consider meeting Bill Gallo one of the greatest highlights of my career and honors of my career. He was a genuine American hero, dining with Mantle and Maris and Namath and all of the sports icons of the day. And he stood tall is stature, above them all.

Longtime illustrator and syndicated cartoonist Randall Enos drew a tribute cartoon to Gallo: