PHOENIX (AP) -- Bert Rosenthal, who became one of the top track and field writers in the United States in more than four decades with The Associated Press, has died. He was 79.
Rosenthal died Sunday night in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had lived since his retirement from the AP in 2001.
He had a long history of heart problems and had been in failing health for some time, his wife Emily said.
"Bert was considered an authority on track and field and certainly was one of the premier beat writers during the '80s and '90s," said Terry Taylor, AP sports editor from 1992 to 2013. "He had a little black book with phone numbers for every big name in the sport. His access was remarkable."
Rosenthal joined the AP as a statistician in 1957, shortly after he graduated from City College of New York. He was the AP's track and field writer from 1972 until his retirement and covered the NBA from 1973-76. Rosenthal covered seven Olympics, from Montreal to Sydney, as well as every world track championships during that span.
Rosenthal won story of the year awards from The Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) in 1983 and 1984. He received the Jesse Abramson Award from the Track and Field Writers of America (TAFWA) as writer of the year in 1988 and the George Sheehan Award from the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2000 for his work over the years on the Boston Marathon.
Rosenthal was president of TAFWA for two years and served as secretary-treasurer of the Professional Basketball Writers of America.
"Bert was 'the' track and field writer of his era," longtime friend and fellow track writer Gene Cherry said. "He was extremely knowledgeable and was always willing to help others who were not as knowledgeable of the sport as he was."
Known for his work ethic, Rosenthal once dictated a story from his bed after he was hospitalized with heart problems in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. After his retirement, he covered Phoenix Suns games for the AP as a freelance writer.
"Bert was the best. Also the hardest worker in the AP sports department," said Ken Rappoport, a colleague of Rosenthal for more than 25 years. "They didn't call him 'Full Day' for nothing,"
Rosenthal was born in The Bronx, New York, on June 10, 1936.
Besides his wife, he is survived by son Scott of suburban Denver, Colorado, daughter Gail Fatizzi of Scarsdale, New York, twin daughters Sandy Rosenthal of Manchester, Missouri, and Rebecca Rosenthal of Brooklyn, New York, and one granddaughter.