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Legendary NY cartoonist Gallo dies

Bill Gallo
Legendary NY Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo passed away Tuesday. He was 88.
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NEW YORK

Bill Gallo, a cartoonist and columnist for the New York Daily News, whose playful characters included that of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as General Von Steingrabber, has died. He was 88.

Bill Gallo

"No game today," was Bill Gallo's tribute to Thurman Munson, the day after the Yankees star's death on Aug. 2 1979.

Bill Gallo/ New York Daily News

Gallo, who worked for the paper for seven decades, died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia at White Plains Hospital, the News reported Tuesday.

“His death closed a chapter in the storied history of The News,” Daily News Chairman and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman told the paper. “The passing of our great cartoonist, colleague and friend Bill Gallo marks the end of an era.”

Gallo profiled in ink and sometimes in words most of the great sports figures of the past century, going back to Jack Dempsey, Man O’ War, Jesse Owens and Dizzy Dean and his St. Louis Cardinals’ Gas House Gang. The latter were his secret heroes, he told The Associated Press in an interview in 2000, secret because he devoted a lifetime at a drawing board to amusing New York’s rabidly loyal sports fans.

Among his memorable characters, aside from General Von Steingrabber, were Basement Bertha and Yuchie, who represented devoted Mets fans. The News said Gallo’s last cartoon ran in the paper on April 19. It showed Bertha window shopping and hoping to be invited to the royal wedding.

Bill Gallo

Gallo's greatest works

During a career that spanned seven decades at the New York Daily News, legendary cartoonist Bill Gallo chronicled sports in a unique way. Check out his classic cartoons.

In a column last year, Gallo said he chose the General Von Steingrabber moniker for Steinbrenner because the Yankees owner grabbed so much of the newspaper’s space.

He once drew an overweight Muhammad Ali pushing his stomach before him in a wheelbarrow. Ali hung the original in his training camp as an incentive to get in shape for the Larry Holmes fight.

But he used his craft to address other subjects as well, including a tribute to the 9/11 firefighters and police officers and the devastation of the terrorist attacks on the city.

His drawings can be found in a Manhattan art gallery and at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He told the AP that as a child, he dreamed of becoming a star reporter like his father, Francisco, a byline writer and editor at La Prensa, New York’s prestigious Spanish language newspaper.

He also dreamed of becoming a cartoonist like Milton Caniff, who drew “Terry and the Pirates,” his favorite comic strip. From age 5, the aspiring artist never left the house without a crayon and a bit of scratch paper.

Gallo was born in Manhattan on Dec. 28, 1922, and grew up across the river in Queens.

Bill Gallo

Bill Gallo introduced Basement Bertha, friend of the underdog, in response to the pitiful Mets teams of the early ‘60s.

Bill Gallo/New York Daily News

He started as a copy boy at the Daily News just after he graduated from high school.

He took a break from the paper to join the Marines during World War II, landing a foxhole on Iwo Jima where 6,820 of his Marine comrades died.

After his WWII service, he returned to the Daily News and enrolled under the GI bill at Columbia University, according to the newspaper.

Laboring for decades for a big city tabloid, Gallo at his drawing board seemed to favor blue-collar spectator sports.

“I think I once did something with lacrosse,” he confessed sheepishly to the AP.

Gallo told the AP he regarded basketball’s Michael Jordan as the most gifted athlete he ever drew, and rated baseball’s Joe DiMaggio, boxing’s Sugar Ray Robinson, hockey’s Wayne Gretzky and football’s Jim Brown as the tops in their professions.

He is survived by his wife, Dolores; his son, Greg; a son, Bill; a brother, Henry; and four granddaughters.

“People tend to make a lot about age, but I don’t think of myself as an old guy,” Gallo once told the AP. “My philosophy on age is: don’t bother me, I’m busy.”

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