No. 5 Sports Story of the Year: Hall of fame sportswriter remembered

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Bob Burns (right) was joined by former Riverhead Falcons semi-pro baseball players Walter Rolle (left) and William Grodski (center) in 1994 on the Riverhead High School baseball field. The three played together in the years following the end of World War II.

The passing of a hall of fame sportswriter could have been seen as the end of an era in East End sports.

Bob Burns, whose sportswriting touched the lives of countless athletes, coaches, fans and readers for nearly a half-century, died in August at the age of 90.

The man who was known as the “dean of East End sports” was a prolific writer who started writing about sports in 1946. With the exception of a five-year spell during which he was retired, he continued until 1998. His column, “The Sporting Whirl,” appeared in eastern Long Island newspapers for more than four decades.

“He was East End sports royalty,” said Ed Zaborowski, host of “The Hot Stove League,” a cable television sports talk show.

Burns began his writing career by alternating between two rival Riverhead newspapers, The Riverhead News and The County Review. He said that whenever he was offered a $5 raise, he switched to the other paper. The bidding war ended when the two papers later merged to become The News-Review, now known as The Riverhead News-Review.

Burns was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, one of only three inductees in the sports journalism category.

Burns was a three-sport athlete at Riverhead High School, playing football, basketball and baseball. He is enshrined in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. Burns became a lineman for the Hobart College football team in 1942. He served in the Army Air Corps, spending time in Italy during World War II. After returning home, Burns got into the banking business, rising to the position of vice president at Suffolk County National Bank.

But there was no doubt that his heart was in sports.

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