Sports columnist Tom McEwen dies

Updated: June 5, 2011, 5:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tom McEwen, a longtime sports writer and editor at The Tampa Tribune who amassed more than 10,000 columns during his tenure and pushed hard to bring professional franchises to the city, has died. He was 88.

McEwen died early Sunday at his Davis Island home. His son, Rick McEwen, said his father suffered from numerous illnesses in recent years, including cancer and poor blood circulation that led to one of his legs being amputated a year ago.

The son credited McEwen with putting Tampa on the map in the sports world. McEwen's campaigns for professional franchises helped Tampa land the NFL's Buccaneers and the NHL's Lightning.

"That's his biggest legacy," Rick McEwen said. "He loved the community, he fought for the community, he championed it."

The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, said in a statement Sunday: "Had Tom decided to dedicate his trademark smarts, gusto, and energy to something else, there would be no Buccaneers. If Tampa Bay had its own Mount Rushmore, Tom McEwen would be etched on it."

McEwen wrote six columns a week for much of his career and also wrote four books. He served as sports editor from 1962 until 1992, and his final column for the paper appeared in 2001.

"Tom McEwen will always remain a legend, not only in Tampa but throughout sports," NFL senior vice president Greg Aiello said in a statement.

McEwen covered nearly every Super Bowl, along with major events for virtually every other sport: the World Series, Final Fours, the Masters, Wimbledon, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, World Cup soccer and several Olympics.

"To say that Tom was just a sports writer would be an understatement," University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Sunday. "He was a leader in his industry and a leader in sports."

At least two press boxes were named for him, as was a street near Raymond James Stadium, where the Buccaneers play. McEwan was named Florida Sportswriter of the Year a record 19 times and won The Associated Press Sports Editors' Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993. He also was a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue once said: "Tom is a giant in his industry."

McEwen developed a close relationship with the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who lived in Tampa. Their families spent Christmas Eve together, and McEwen persuaded Steinbrenner in the 1990s to move the Yankees' spring training base from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa.

Thomas Massey McEwen was born in Tampa on March 16, 1923, and raised in Wauchula as a member of a pioneer Florida family that included his cousin, former state agriculture commissioner Doyle Carlton. He was salutatorian of his high school class and earned a journalism degree with honors from the University of Florida, where he was executive editor of The Alligator student newspaper. After serving in World War II, McEwen began his professional newspaper career in a $35-a-week position at the Fort Myers News-Press in 1946. He also worked at the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Times.

Despite ill health in recent years, McEwen kept writing until his death. He had a blog for TBO.com and his own web site, heytommcewen.com. A column was posted on the blog just two days before he died. In many of those columns he signed off with: "Babaloo!"

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.