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Legendary Chicago sportswriter Bill Jauss dies at 81

Longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss died Wednesday. He was 81.

Longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss died on Wednesday. He was 81.

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Updated: October 10, 2012 10:50PM

Bill Jauss was a Chicago legend as a sportswriter, but television made him a national icon, known from coast to coast as one of ``The Sportswriters on TV,’’ a group of seasoned experts who gathered at a table to talk sports as if it were the local tavern. It was the first show of its kind and one that spawned the era of sports talk television.

Cigar smoke would fill the room, though Jauss was one who distained it. A beer and lively conversation were more his style.

Jauss died Wednesday morning at his Wilmette home at the age of 81. He had been battling declining health in recent months.

Jauss was an institution in Chicago sports, chronicling the history of wins and losses, the greats and not-so-greats, from prep sports to the elite ranks of the pros. He was an award-winning journalist, but his real heroes were the everyday people who were his readers.

``Never forget the people you are writing for,’’ he would remind reporters and editors, young and old. And he would never shy away from engaging in conversation with anyone and everyone who would recognize him. He often said he preferred their viewpoints to those of the ``sports experts.’’

Jauss was a graduate of Northwestern University where he played football and later would become a teacher in their school of journalism. He married his wife, Kenmar, in 1953 and spent the Korean War years stationed in Augustana, Georgia. His first newspaper job after the war was at a small newspaper in Neenah, Wisconsin. He came to Chicago in 1955 where he would spend the next five decades working at three of the city’s major daily newspapers.

He began at the Chicago Daily News and worked there until the paper’s demise in 1977. He went on to the Chicago Today, and then went to the Chicago Tribune after the Today folded.

``Bill spoke for Joe and Jane Six-Pack but he’d sell himself short,’’ said Sun Times columnist Rick Telander, a longtime friend and ``Sportswriters’’ colleague. ``He spoke for everyone with a heart.’’

He covered every major sport, every championship from Loyola’s 1963 NCAA national title to the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox successes, and knew the nation’s major sports figures by their first names.

``Bill covered every assignment, whether it was a Cubs or Sox game or a high school baseball game, with the same professionalism,’’ former Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath said. ``I remember the obituary he wrote for George Ireland, the legendary coach at Loyola, and how the central point was what a pioneer George was in starting four African-American players on his team in Chicago in 1963 [the national championship]. It was so powerful and I nominated it for awards.

``When he would hold our annual prep awards banquets and Bill was the speaker, I remember how he went to each of the parents to make sure he would pronounce the names of their children right,’’ McGrath said.

``My father-in-law was a devoted follower of ``The Sportswriters on TV’’ and he once asked me, `is Bill Jauss as good a guy as he seems?’ Of course, he was even better.’’

Jauss is survived by his three children, Virginia, David and James, and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Monday at 4 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette, 600 Ninth Street, Wilmette. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette Memorial Fund.


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