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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Remembering Gallo, in his own words

By Matt Marrone
ESPNNewYork.com

Before I took my current job at ESPNNewYork.com, I spent six years in the New York Daily News sports department.

Working there, I had the pleasure and the privilege to know Bill Gallo, the legendary cartoonist, columnist and editor who died late Tuesday night at 88.

Sitting steps away from the office of a legend, I felt it was my duty as a budding journalist to pop in on Gallo from time to time, seek his advice when I needed it, and hear his stories from bygone days.

On one of those occasions, I brought a tape recorder with me.

I let it roll as Gallo told me the story of how he broke into the business, stayed true to himself as an artist, found the inspiration for General Von Steingrabber -- his famous caricature of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner -- and tackled tragic moments such as the untimely death of Yankees catcher Thurman Munson.

Gallo's life can't be wrapped up into three three-minute audio clips, but I went home one night and cobbled them together anyway, taking out the pops and hisses as Gallo described unforgettable moments like his first confrontation with Steinbrenner after his cartoon parody of The Boss made its debut in the Daily News.

Steinbrenner, in his inimitable, intimidating style, walked right past Gallo and up to Gallo's wife Dolores, held out his hand, and said, "How do you do, Mrs. Gallo? I'm General Von Steingrabber."

Gallo also told me the story of how his very first editor, looking for more of a good thing, asked him to draw in the same style of his popular predecessor. Eager for the plum assignment, Gallo took the job -- but he couldn't keep it up.

"It held me back from being myself," said Gallo, who ultimately walked into his editor's office and told him he'd have to resign.

"It's not me drawing," Gallo told his editor, convinced his days as a cartoonist were over. "I can't sleep because I can't be myself."

The next day, his editor called him in, sat him down, and said, "Lad, from now on -- you do it your way."

"And from then on," said Gallo, "I did it my way."

Gallo did it his way for 70 years at the Daily News.

All of us -- co-workers, family, friends and readers alike -- were lucky to be a part of it.

Matt Marrone is an editor for ESPNNewYork.com.