John Derr was born in 1918, a year before a horse named Sir Barton won the first-ever Triple Crown. This weekend, it appears that the 97-year-old retired golf journalist and author passed away just moments after witnessing American Pharoah’s historic run at Belmont.
From today’s AP obituary:
[Daughter] Cricket Gentry said her father watched American Pharoah win the Belmont Stakes to capture the Triple Crown. She went to his house after the race Saturday evening and found him in his chair in front of the TV.
“It was like he had stood up and said, ‘Hooray!’ and then fell over,” said Gentry, a paramedic for 40 years.
As a sportswriter, radio broadcaster and TV journalist, Derr covered 62 Masters tournaments in Augusta, beginning with the one held in 1935, and personally attended seven more. Per his website bio, he became personal friends over the years with several of the sport’s legends:
Derr’s golf reporting earned him many accolades, including induction into four Halls of Fame, the National Journalism Award… He retained a lifetime friendship with golf greats such as Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. He reported Hogan’s initial victory in 1940 at Pinehurst and the golfer’s British Open win at Carnoustie in 1953.
You’d be hard pressed to find another person alive today who has connected with more stars, heroes and influencers of the last century. John was a companion to Mahatma Ghandi, shared coffee with Grace Kelly and discussed defense doctrine with General Joseph Stilwell. He received a Bronze Star in India and was a neighbor to Stephen King in Maine.
Babe Ruth, Rocky Marciano, Margaret Mitchell, Bing Crosby… the list goes on. His presidential engagements include Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and a walking collision with Herbert Hoover. And upon asking Albert Einstein if he played golf, the theoretical physicist replied, “Tried it once. Couldn’t understand it. Quit.”
[Photo via: johnderrsports.com]