Dan McGibbeny
Executive Sports Editor
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Picture of
 Dan McGibbeny
Columnist "Mas Neyrb" Unmasked

"Big Dan - An Old Sports Writer"
by Clint Burton

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.

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 competition award.

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 "Carrickulum". In a little-known Carrick High historical anecdote, it was young Dan McGibbeny who first coined the name "Raiders."

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 head of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Department.

Picture of
 Elva and Dan McGibbeny - 1940
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, where he became the Executive Sports Editor.

The Sun-Telegraph merged with the Post-Gazette in 1960. McGib became the chief editor of the P-G sports section and spent the next fifteen years sitting in "the slot." He spent his evenings coordinating the various writer's content and then working with the type-setters on formatting the page layouts. In November 1975 he took over as head of the department.

Dan McGibbeny - August 1975
Dan McGibbeny in August 1975.

When not working in the office, Dan liked to write columns and features on such Pittsburgh Pirate legends as Honus Wagner and his long-time friend Ralph Kiner. He was also very active in promoting the collegiate sports scene, especially his beloved Pitt Panthers and the Robert Morris Colonials. Dan McGibbeny was just a jolly, sports loving, Pittsburgh kinda guy with a flair for writing. It was a part made just for him.

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 spokesman.

Dan McGibbeny
 with Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Kiner
Dan interviews Pirate great Ralph Kiner and his wife, tennis star Nancy Chaffee, in the mid-1950s.

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.

Pa Gibb, as he was known to his sports staffers, retired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1979. He 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 journalism could not be suppressed. After a short break and the old writer 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 1980s.

Dan McGibbeny and family - 1966
Dan McGibbeny and family circa 1966. Shown here are Gerald Bucciarelli (photo bomb), Dan's mother Gladys,
Dan, Elva, Danny, Elva's mother Mae Ferns, daughter Patricia and son-in-law Gerald Burton.

From 1984 through 1987, McGib wrote 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 he loved.

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.

Picture of Elva and Dan McGibbeny - 1987    Elva and Dan McGibbeny - 1987
Dan and Elva during their 50th year together in 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.

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Those Zany Nicknames

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.

Clint Burton and Dan McGibbeny - 1978
Clint Burton and Dan McGibbeny - 1978

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, Hairbreadth 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 few.

Hairbreadth Harry

I ran into Hairbreadth 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 said 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.

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"Pop Art" ... No ... that's "Pod Art"

With that in mind, let's take a moment to consider some of Dan McGibbeny's lasting artistic achievements. Mrs. McGibbeny and I were at Houlihans one afternoon eating lunch, long after Dan had passed. Houlihans likes to decorate their restaurants with memorabilia and sports artwork.

PG sports page - October 14, 1960   PG sports page - October 14, 1960

As we gazed around at the many items on display, hanging on one wall was the cover page of the Post-Gazette sports section after Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. I looked at my grandmother and reminded her that "Pod" (short for "Padre," as we affectionately called him) had laid out that page and, in a way, created one of the more enduring pieces of artwork in Pittsburgh sports history.

The Pod made the same form of "Pod Art" for morning editions after the 1971 and 1979 Pirates World Series victories, and the for the first three Steeler Super Bowl victories. I'm sure there are copies of those Dan McGibbeny masterpieces hanging on the wall of other Pittsburgh theme restaurants.

Dan McGibbeny and the Post-Gazette type-setters.
Dan McGibbeny (second from left) with the type-setting crew on the third floor of the Post-Gazette building.
on the tables are Dan's actual page layouts ready to be sent to the printing department.

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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 word.

Picture of
 Dan McGibbeny and his son Danny - 1974
Hall of Famers Dan McGibbeny and son Danny in 1974.


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 away.

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 clock.

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 knew best.

Your Old Dad

Dan McGibbeny and his son Danny - December 1976
Dan McGibbeny and son Danny in December 1976.

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