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Former Daily News and Sun-Times sports editor Joe Rein dies at 99

Updated: November 11, 2012 6:27AM

The grocery store his family ran near old Comiskey Park might as well have been first base for Joe Rein’s career.

While his dad ran the store, young Joe sometimes went across the street to work as a ballboy for the visiting teams playing the White Sox during the 1920s.

‘‘All he got for it were dirty baseballs,’’ nephew Irving Rein said of his uncle, who died Tuesday at 99.

But Mr. Rein would go on to bigger things in sports. He worked his way up from a part-time copy boy at the Daily News to its sports
editor when the newspaper closed in 1977. He then served as the sports editor of the Sun-Times.

‘‘Whenever I came in, I’d see Joe Rein working at his desk,’’ retired Sun-Times sportswriter Joe Goddard said. ‘‘And when I’d leave, he was still working at his desk.’’

Mr. Rein’s sports career spanned 49 years, and his friends and colleagues included Ben Bentley, Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss and Globetrotters patriarch Abe Saperstein.

‘‘He was a character right out of Damon Runyon,’’ said Irving Rein, a professor at Northwestern. ‘‘He was a great storyteller and a kind guy. He spent his entire life doing this.’’

When Rein joined the Daily News as a copy boy, he worked for Henry Justin Smith and Frank Knox, who went on to fame in their own rights as managing editor of the paper and publisher respectively.

Knox went on to become secretary of the Navy under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 ``My uncle was a very organized guy, and eventually they felt the sports section needed some organizational help,’’ Irving Rein said. ``My uncle had the keys to the building, and people would see this young guy opening the building up and closing at night.’’

Mr. Rein was the sports editor of the Daily News but also served as its boxing writer. He wrote stories about scandals in boxing that led to congressional investigations.

But his tough side was tempered by a love of his profession and the people who worked for him.

‘‘He was a master of the polite
imperative,’’ longtime Daily News and Sun-Times colleague Albert Dickens said. ‘‘You always knew what Joe required, and we always met it. He never had to raise his voice.’’

‘‘He really cared about his work and his people,’’ said his nephew, a professor at Northwestern University. ``They had to get out seven and eight editions a day, and he was also covering boxing. He had a staff a third of the side of the Chicago Tribune, but they were competing on an equal basis.’’

Putting out an afternoon edition meant finding new angles to stories. ‘‘His favorite line to his writers was ``just surprise me,’’ his nephew said.

His wife Audree remembered his other favorite line.

‘‘And the wind-up is…,’’ she said. ‘‘That would probably make a good title for a book.’’

In addition to his wife and nephew, Mr. Rein is survived by a son, Irwin; a daughter, Barbara Libkin; and six grandchildren. Services are pending.

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