"Big Dan - An Old Sports Writer"
For many years the Brookline
Little League games were covered in the Brookline Journal by "Mas Neyrb".
I don't think it was much of a secret who the man was behind the alias,
even though at first glance you may deduce that it was Sam Bryen. The
answer is Dan McGibbeny, former executive sports editor of the Pittsburgh
Dan wrote the baseball round-ups
during the 60's and 70's before "retiring," then returned as a columnist
for the new "Journal" in the mid-80's, with "One Dan's Opinion" and "The
Brookline Pipeline." His weekly columns featured stories on many Brookline
personalities, and in 1985 won Big Dan a first-place Keystone Press
Daniel James McGibbeny was born
July 2, 1915 and spent his childhood in Carrick, graduating from
Carrick High School in 1933. During this time "Dunny" was a highly touted
basketball player and worked on the editorial staff of the schools
A car accident left Dan with a
nagging back problem and ended his promising basketball career. Focusing
on his writing talents, he entered the newpaper industry and began a long
career that ended as the Executive Sports Editor of the Pittsburgh
Dan and Elva McGibbeny in
Atlantic City - 1940.
In 1937 Dan married his sweetheart
Elva Ferns, whom he met while working part-time at the Duquesne Brewery.
He worked for some time at the Monessen daily and the Toledo Blade, then
jockeyed between the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the old Pittsburgh
Sun-Telegraph. The Sun-Tele eventually merged with the Post-Gazette and
"McGib" spent the next 30-odd years at the P-G in "the slot,"
co-ordinating the content and layout of the daily sports
When not working in the office,
Dan wrote columns and features on such Pittsburgh Pirate legends as
Honus Wagner and his long-time friend Ralph Kiner. He also was active in
promoting the collegiate sports scene, focusing on his two favorites, the
Robert Morris Colonials and the Pitt Panthers.
Dan interviews Pirate great Ralph
Kiner and his wife, tennis star Nancy Chaffee, in the mid-1950s.
Daughter Patricia was born in 1938
and son Danny in 1951. The McGibbeny family moved to Brookline in July of
1953 and took up residence on Bellaire Place. Dan and Elva were soon
active in community affairs, with Elva a member of the Community Center
Association and the Community Council, and Dan hooking up with Sam Bryen
and the Brookline Little League as their unofficial media
Dan's weekly columns, written
under the alias "Mas Neyrb" brought the Little League games from the
fields at the Community Center into the living rooms of Brookline. Every
game was covered, and the individual stars were immortalized in print.
Many a dusty, yellowing scrapbook includes the time-worn clippings that
made youngsters feel like the pros, if only for a moment.
Dan retired from the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette in 1979, and also packed away the old typewriter that had
served Dale Noah, the Brookline Journal and his beloved community for so
many years. But his love of writing could not be suppressed, and the old
writer soon found himself again doing weekly columns, this time for "The
Journal", the Keystone Press publication that took over when Mr. Noah
retired in the early '80s.
Dan and Elva after 50 years -
From 1984 through 1987, McGib
wrote his two weekly Journal articles, "One Dan's Opinion" and "The
Brookline Pipeline," promoting the concept that Brookline is "A Special
Place." His 1985 Keystone Press Competition Award (for a column on boxer
Charlie Affif) was a long-overdue recognition for an old sports writer
who spent 20-odd years bringing notoriety and acclaim to the community
In February 1987, Daniel James
McGibbeny was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame
as a sports writer, joining his late-son Danny (inducted in 1983),
another notable Pittsburgh sports figure, as the only father/son duo to
receive that prestigious award. It was an emotional moment for the proud
father, whose son had passed away tragically in 1977, at age 26. The two
Dans were together once again.
Dan and Elva McGibbeny, at Dan's
Hall of Fame induction - 1987.
Big Dan gave up his writing career
in early-1987. He and his wife Elva celebrated their 50th wedding
anniversary in April that same year. Illness struck in the summer of 1988
and Dan spent his remaining two years at home with the true loves of his
life, Elva and his family.
Dan McGibbeny passed away on March
15, 1990 at age 74. His life was spent working towards bettering his
community through the written word, and he did so with style. Among the
many memories that we old ballplayers carry with us of the infamous "Mas
Neyrb", the one that sticks the most is the way he always came up with
these wild nicknames.
ESPN's Chris Berman may be the man
of the moment with regards to zany name-calling, but he couldn't hold a
candle to Dan McGibbeny. To this day many of the monikers slapped upon
us as young ballplayers have endured:
Johnny "Choo Choo" Szewczyk, Paul
"Big Poison" Malloy, Johnny "Spider" Lee, Eddie "Spinach" Beveridge,
Jungle Jimmy DelGreco, Hairbreath Harry Patterson, German Jimmy
Marshall, Denmark Cafe's Amazin' Milts, Sam "Big E" Bryen, Mark "Old
Folks" Wenger, Jerry "Big Bite" Burton, Bob "Big Wheel" McNeill, Dave
"Little Wheel" McNeill, Gentleman Jack Henry, David "Bull" Ondik,
Bobby "Mad Russian" Dimitroff, Tim "Crazy Legs" Schumacher, Jughandle
Joey Fundo and of course my own, Clint "Big Bo" Burton...to name just a
I ran into Hairbreath Harry
Patterson one day and we reminisced about some of the zany nicknames that
were thrust upon us, wondering where on earth "Mas Neyrb" came up with
some of them. Harry informed me that he came across an old comic strip from
the 1920's about, to his astonishment, "Harry Hairbreath." It struck me
that there really was a method to the madness!
Dan McGibbeny, the old sports
writer, is gone. But through the written word, those familiar words and
phrases, and nicknames, his legacy lives on.
Hall of Famers Dan McGibbeny
and son Danny in 1974.
Dan McGibbeny never fully
recovered from the loss of his son Danny back in 1977. He spent the
following 12 years hiding his pain and waiting patiently for the
inevitable reunion amid the heavens. Below is an old sports writers
way of saying "goodbye, but we'll meet again"; with the written
ODE TO OUR
God, with all His infinite wisdom,
when He came to that decision in His Heavenly Kingdom, may have made His
first mistake that day, by taking our Danny to that place far
Why you were chosen for that
damnable disease is beyond your Mum's and Old Dad's comprehension; your
career, your life, your love were all such a breeze, trying to understand
why, there's nothing to calm our heartbreak, our tension.
Not a day's gone by since 9-6-77,
that you're not in the hearts of your Mum and Old Dad; we remember all
the good times, there were so many, thank heaven, but today, please
forgive us, the pain and hurt, it leaves us so sad.
The days since you left total
2,922, it's eight years today, but it feels like forever; we'll never
forget that memorable day you became our child No. 2; your big sister was
thrilled, she thought we were so clever.
From that day you were born, April
9, '51, you brought joy to the lives of your sister and parents; the
years sped by much too quickly, my son; you flowed with the tides and
battled the currents.
Your Old Dad gave you hell, he
expected a lot, and, yes, there were times he pushed too hard on his son;
you wanted to please, you said, "I'll give all that I got," but you were
only a boy and deserved time to have fun.
You grew to manhood, with all the
vitality, you had guts, you had talent, you were loyal and honest;
through high school and college, you were rated top quality, you walked
right into a career and proved you were the best.
You found your true love on campus
one day, you told us Christmas Eve you'd give her a ring; Mum looked at
Old Dad, then we chorused "Hooray," we knew this marriage for you only
happiness would bring.
Youngest coach in pro sports
history was one of your claims to fame, but our son at 25 laughed and
said, "Now ain't that a crock; you "coached" - your quotes - as though
you knew the game; little did we know then you were racing the
A smile was your trademark, your
word was your bond, you had an army of friends, they knew of your
loyalty; we cry today, never accepting you're gone, our boy, you see, had
that rare touch of royalty.
All of your family is looking
ahead to the reunion, we know you're with grams and gramps and all the
rest; thinking back to the heartbreak and sadness of 9-6-77, considering
your suffering, our inability to help, maybe - just maybe - God really
Your Old Dad
Dan McGibbeny and son Danny in December