Jerry Izenberg, who turned 85 in 2015, continues to write for the Newark Star Ledger 64 years after he got his first job there as a copy boy while in college at Rutgers University. He was turned onto sports at a young age when his father took him to a Dodgers-Giants game at the Polo Grounds to see future Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell pitch. Spending his summers sneaking into Newark Bears minor league baseball games also had a profound impact on him.
Izenberg came to the Ledger looking for money to pay for tuition after the chemical plant he’d spent two years working in blew up. He may have entered the field on a whim, but he found a way to remain. Now a columnist emeritus at the Star Ledger following his retirement from daily work in 2006.
The three journalists who have covered every Super Bowl are Izenberg, Detroit’s Jerry Green and New Jersey’s Dave Klein.. He has been covering the Kentucky Derby for just as long, and has seen the Triple Crown races of each of the last four Triple Crown winners. He covers major boxing fights and his contract with the Ledger says he will be present for any bowl game Rutgers plays in.
Though Izenberg has covered the likes of Secretariat and Muhammad Ali and iconic events like the Thrilla in Manila, he says he feels his place more in the loser’s locker room and remains drawn to athletes who work tirelessly to try to get ahead. He says those people make better stories.
Some of the performances he remembers most are: Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss crawling to a 37th place finish at 1984 women’s Olympic marathon; Jim Eisenreich, who was wary of speaking to his teammates or the media because of his Tourette’s Syndrome, homering for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1993 World Series; and Ken Venturi receiving an IV between rounds of golf in the 100 degree heat and humidity of Washington, D.C. en route to a U.S. Open victory.
Izenberg also has written 12 books and is in the process of writing a 13th, this one on the golden era of heavyweight boxing champions, extending from Sonny Liston’s knockout of Floyd Patterson to Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Izenberg also had a presence on television. He lists “Grambling College: 100 Yards to Glory,” a show he directed, produced and wrote, as his greatest work on TV. The late Howard Cosell helped get that show on the air. He’s contributed to 35 network TV documentaries, with “A Man Named Lombardi” earning an Emmy nomination.
In 2000, Izenberg won the Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors for outstanding contributions to sports journalism. That year he was also enshrined in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Izenberg now lives in Henderson, Nevada with his wife Aileen.