By Glen Crevier
APSE Conference Coordinator
Herb Stutz had a sharp eye for talent and a flair for covering the big stories in competitive markets.
But mostly he’ll be remembered as a soft-spoken, caring editor during a career that spanned 41 years and stretched from coast to coast.
Stutz, a longtime sports editor and a former APSE president and convention coordinator, passed away on March 23 in Prescott, Ariz. He was 90.
“Herb Stutz changed my life,” said Robyn Norwood, a former Times reporter. “I met him for an interview in a hotel lobby in Washington, D.C., when I was 22 years old. He hired me as a temporary prep writer for the L.A. Times Orange County edition and I stayed at the Times for 22 years and covered many Final Fours, the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and have never left California. Thinking back to the talent he assembled in that bureau, it was truly astounding.”
Stutz is also well known to many APSE convention-goers as the event coordinator, teaming for many years with Ed Storin, the former Miami Herald sports editor and the 1992 Red Smith Award winner. They were commonly known in APSE circles as Ed and Herb.
“I cherished his friendship, which actually started in the 1960s,” remembered Storin. “He was a discussion leader at an API conference at Columbia and I was a student. He was the high school sports guru in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area. We remained friends through the years with APSE.
“We were a team in organizing and directing about 15 conventions. We were so close that some of the members got us mixed up and often called Herb Ed and me Herb. It was a great relationship.”
Stutz began his newspaper career in 1953 at his hometown Newark News following his discharge from the U.S. Army, and that began a 41-year journey in the business. Along the way, Stutz also worked at the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition.
In 1964, Stutz joined the Bulletin as scholastic editor and four years later found himself back in his hometown covering the Newark race riots.
He also covered golf for the Bulletin, and one of his memorable assignments was Raymond Floyd’s one-stroke victory over Gary Player in the 1969 PGA Championship near Dayton, Ohio.
Stutz served as the Bulletin’s assistant sports editor, and in August 1972 he was named Sports Editor. He served in that role for eight years, and he directed the newspaper’s coverage of the Flyers winning two Stanley Cups, the Phillies’ first ever World Series title, the Eagles’ transformation under Dick Vermeil and the resurgence of the 76ers, who advanced to the NBA Finals three times in six years.
In November 1980 he left to become Sports Editor of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and in March 1985 he was named Sports Editor of the Los Angeles Times’ Orange County Edition, which at the time was in a fierce newspaper war with the Orange County Register. Later that year, in what he called the pinnacle of his career, Stutz was elected as President of APSE.
“I hired him from Philadelphia, The Bulletin, where he was already a legend as their Sports Editor,” said Bill Dwyre, former Times sports editor, a past APSE president and the 1996 Red Smith Award winner. “He was hired as our Times Orange County Sports Editor. Those were the days when we did daily battle with the Orange County Register, where both those editions had circulations of 250,000-plus. Being the Sports Editor in OC was a big deal, and getting Stutz to come was a huge deal for us.”
Stutz retired from the Times in 1994, but he continued a long relationship with APSE, serving as its convention coordinator until 2007.
Stutz is remembered fondly by many of the writers who worked under him.
Said Mark Whicker, columnist for the Southern California Newspaper Group, who was hired by Stutz at the Bulletin when he was 26: “He was very kind, and he was very soft-spoken and patient. He liked writers. He was a quiet leader, a person people respected. He was consistent. He wasn’t impulsive. In Philadelphia, he was there during a lot of big events, with a lot of winning teams, a lot of playoffs. He knew how to get a staff to cover those things.”
Added Norwood: “Herb had an eye not just for talent but also for potential, and he was for many of us a kind, soft-spoken and even fatherly presence at the start of our careers.”
Another of Stutz’s hires was Mike James, who later became Sports Editor of the Times.
“Herb hired me from the Hartford Courant as his assistant sports editor at the Orange County Edition of The Times in 1985, and I worked for him for a little over three years before moving to the downtown office. Herb was a great guy to work for. He had a good eye for talent, hired well and believed in letting the people who worked for him do what they do best without a lot of interference from him. We had great freedom, but if you needed something, he would always listen and respond. He was such a genuine guy.
“We had a pretty big staff in those days, I think about 22 full-timers in the Orange County office, and Friday nights during football season were a very big deal. We were fighting the Orange County Register in those days and would do eight pages of coverage, generally covering every game in the county in some way, and Herb would occasionally chip in there, not someone who was too big to help on a big prep night.”
James also remembers Stutz’s calm demeanor, especially on the golf course.
“Herb and I played golf only once, on a course not far from us that might have been the most difficult in the LA area at the time,” he said. “I don’t think Herb managed to hit a drive more than about five feet in the air, which meant he went through more golf balls that disappeared into the very deep weeds before they could reach the fairway. But Herb, just as he was in the office regardless of how stressful the situation was, took it all in with great humor, never got upset and managed to complete the round with one or two golf balls left in his bag. I think his comment at the end when he checked out the supply was, “Well, I guess it wasn’t a total loss.”
Stutz was born to Gustave and Rose Stutz, in Newark, N.J., in 1929, just a few weeks before the start of the Great Crash on Wall Street. He was a child of the Depression as he grew up in northern New Jersey. He graduated from Irvington High School in June of 1947, but the course of his life began to take shape when he began attending Evangel Baptist Church in Newark, where he met his future wife, Esther Gayk.
In retirement, Herb and Esther moved to Prescott, where they devoted much of their time to church and family. They also enjoyed traveling with friends and family. He remained a very active sports fan. He was always active in Baptist churches and served in many capacities. At the First Baptist Church of Prescott (now Solid Rock Christian Fellowship), he used his talents to produce the church’s monthly newsletter as well as serving multiple terms on the Board of Deacons, well into his 80s. He also served on several pastor-nominating committees.
“I heard from him a few times in his retirement and he always seemed the same — measured, smart, guy-loving-sports, and always inquisitive about our industry,” Dwyre said.
Said Storin: “He and Esther visited with us in Hilton Head and they hosted us in Prescott. We shared many a meal and drink through the years. No one ever contributed more to APSE.”
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Esther; his daughter, Jean Hood (Wayne); his son, Ken Stutz (Lynn); three grandchildren, Chris Hood, Daniel Hood and Kathryn Stutz; and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for an as yet undetermined date.