- New York Post
Jimmy Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who chronicled
life in New York City for more than five decades and became known as the
champion of the common man, died Sunday. He was 88.
Breslin, who may be best-remembered for interviewing John F.
Kennedy’s gravedigger, passed away at his Manhattan home after suffering
from a number of “problems stemming from pneumonia,” his wife, Ronnie
“He had a great life … he died just like that,” Eldridge, 86, a
former city councilwoman, told The Post, snapping her fingers for
“I’m going to miss him terribly.”
The Queens-born Breslin — who authored the books “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?” about the hapless 1962 Mets, and “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,”
about the Mafia — was known for his work on several New York daily
newspapers: including Newsday, the New York Herald Tribune and the New
With a style that was once described as “equal parts Dickens and Yogi
Berra,” Breslin covered presidents and mayors, wiseguys and cops, the
downtrodden and the victimized.
“Jimmy had this great empathy for people . . . He didn’t like pretentious people,” said Eldridge, who married Breslin in 1982.
He was considered a pioneer of the narrative-driven, detail-laden “New Journalism,” alongside masters such as author Gay Talese.
Pete Hamill, the former columnist and editor of the Post and Daily
News, said Breslin changed the way reporters approached the news.
“The thing to remember about him is he revolutionized the city-side
column by taking the techniques of sports writing and applying it to the
city-side,” Hamill said.
Instead of just writing about a news event, Hamill said Breslin used his talents to transport his readers to the scene.
“If the reader didn’t make it to the game, the reader would feel what
it was like to be at the ball field,” Hamill said of a good sports
scribe. But with Breslin: “He was able to make it to the scene of the
Michael Daly, a newspaper columnist who’s known Breslin since
childhood, said many writers tried to copy his street-smarts reporting
style and his hard-boiled attitude — without success.
“He was uncommonly bright and actually went to the scene and he had a
good ear,” Daly said of Breslin’s use of shoe-leather journalism and
attention to detail to nail a story. “All the bluster. . . that’s not
who he was and what he was.”
Breslin once agreed that he could be copied but never duplicated.
James Earle Breslin was born in Richmond Hills, Queens, on Oct. 17,
1928 to James Breslin Sr. and his wife Frances. His alcoholic father
abandoned the family when he was 6.
Breslin got his first newspaper job as a copy boy at the Long Island Press in 1948.
Breslin had two daughters and four sons with his first wife,
Rosemary, who died of cancer in 1981. He married Eldridge the next year.
His elder daughter, Rosemary Breslin, died in 2004 at age 47 from a
rare blood disease. His other daughter, Kelly Breslin, collapsed at a
New York restaurant in April 2009 and died a few days later. She was 44.