Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo was a gem

Richard Carter | 8/24/2011, 3:39 p.m.
"And when he goes to heav- en, to Saint Peter he will tell. Another Marine...
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"And when he goes to heav- en, to Saint Peter he will tell. Another Marine reporting, sir, I've served my time in hell..."- Leonard Graves' narration, "Victory at Sea" (1952)

Once in a while, a familiar name in the news business pops up that makes me stop, look, listen and, occasionally, smile. Sometimes the name is that of someone who has distinguished him or herself. Sometimes it's because that someone has passed away.

The latter is the case with Bill Gallo-the legendary, long-time sports cartoonist-columnist of the New York Daily News, who diedonMay10attheageof88. And even as I put these words to paper, I find myself chuckling to recall our many interesting, informative conversations during my four years (1987-91) with that newspaper.

A native of Manhattan, Gallo began as a copy boy after high school in October 1941. Except for enlisting in the Ma- rines for service in World War II-where he took part in the historic, bloody battle for Iwo Jima-he remained at the paper until his passing.

Over the years, the affable Gallo gained fame for humorous, often poignant caricatures of countless sports figures. Among the most notable were Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Tiger Woods, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. His special creations included Backyard Bertha and Yuchie- representing New York Mets fans-and General Von Stein- grabber, his comic name for the late owner of the Yankees.

As a lifelong boxing fan, I was aware of Gallo's deep knowledge of the sport and his friendship with big-time fighters. Thus, when I came on board in June 1987, I quickly introduced myself, which led to a close, professional relationship. And I made sure he met my wife, Janice, who joined the News with me as an assistant to publisher Jim Hoge.

During one of our talks in his small office in a corner of the paper's city room, we discussed one of the greatest frauds in the history of boxing. It took place 46 years ago this week, May 25, 1965, in tiny Lewiston, Maine. In so doing,Gallo acknowledged what every objective boxing fan knew who saw it: The fight was fixed.

Gallo told me what I'd al- ways suspected: Charles "Son- ny" Liston clearly took a dive in a scandalous heavyweight title bout with young Muham- mad Ali, a.k.a. Cassius Clay, in the second of their two meetings. Liston-Ali II was as phony as a $3 bill. Gallo recalled the event in a Daily News column 27 years later on May 25, 1992. Head- lined, "It's still a mystery," he wrote: "Guys who saw the fight said that if, indeed, there was a punch, it wasn't as hard as if your sister had hit you-even if she was mad as hell. When Sonny hit the deck, I thought he had tripped or something. I was not alone. Everybody who saw the fight swore he or she had heard the splash from the water tank."