Phil Pepe, a revered baseball writer and radio voice who spent more than five decades covering sports in New York, died Dec. 13 at his home in Englewood, N.J. He was 80.
The cause was an apparent heart attack, said his son, David Pepe.
Mr. Pepe was a longtime New York Yankees beat writer who chronicled franchise greats from Mickey Mantle to Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. He also wrote dozens of books on some of the biggest names in sports. He covered athletes such as boxer Muhammad Ali and basketball star Walt Frazier during a prolific career.
Mr. Pepe joined the Yankees beat with the New York World-Telegram and Sun in 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, and covered the team for the New York Daily News from 1968 to 1981.
Mr. Pepe wrote the newspaper’s lead game stories for every World Series from 1969 to 1981 and succeeded Dick Young as its sports columnist in 1982.
After leaving the paper in 1989, Mr. Pepe did morning sports for WCBS radio for more than 15 years — including his popular “Pep Talk” segment.
He also was the director of broadcasting and a radio analyst for the Class A New Jersey Cardinals of the New York-Penn League from 1994 to 2005.
In the meantime, Mr. Pepe churned out sports books at a vigorous pace. He wrote nearly 50 of them, including co-authoring Mantle’s autobiography “My Favorite Summer: 1956” (1991), which rose to No. 7 on the New York Times bestseller list.
He co-wrote Bob Gibson’s autobiography and wrote books with Whitey Ford, Gary Carter and Tim McCarver, among others. Mr. Pepe’s final book, in 2013, was on the Yankees’ celebrated “Core Four” of Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, the Daily News said.
For the past 21 years, Mr. Pepe was executive director of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Philip Pepe was born in Brooklyn on March 21, 1935. He graduated in 1956 from St. John’s University in Queens and joined the World-Telegram and Sun in 1957. He remained there until the newspaper went out of business in 1966, then wrote scripts with Howard Cosell for ABC radio.
His marriage to Adele Sbaratta ended in divorce. A complete list of survivors was not available.