W. O. McGeehan

W. O. McGeehan

William O'Connell McGeehan (November 22, 1879 - November 29, 1933) was a famous sportswriter and editor of the "New York Herald Tribune".

Early life

He was born to Hugh and Theresa O'Connell McGeehan on November 22, 1879 in San Francisco, California, United States, and died in Brunswick, Georgia, on November 29, 1933.

McGeehan entered Stanford University, but left within the first year as he enlisted in the Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. After the war. he returned to San Francisco, going to work as a reporter for the "San Francisco Bulletin". McGeehan continued to work for different papers in San Francisco, including the "San Francisco Chronicle".

It was during his reporter days in San Francisco that he received the nickname "Sheriff." It seems some 13 desperate convicts had escaped from Folsom Prison, outside Sacramento; one was killed in the escape but the other 12 headed for the state of Nevada. Many posses were formed and McGeehan, wanting to cover the story as a reporter, was deputized and led one of the posses into the Sierra Nevada. This group included a famous Indian Scout, Farro. They walked right by where some of the convicts were hiding and missed them. They made use of Bloodhounds, but the terrain got so rough that McGeehan had to help carry the dogs back down hill. The upshot was that 3 of the 12 were captured, but the rest got away. From that time on McGeehan was known to many as Sheriff.

In 1910, McGeehan married Sophie Treadwell. Treadwell was a reporter and writer who became famous in her own right for her books and plays in later years. They met while working on one of the San Francisco papers and went East when McGeehan felt is was time to move on. He claimed the old Days weren't that good not much pay, a lot of work and certainly no recognition.


Although many of his columns and much of his work was related to boxing, he covered nearly all sports and did a lot of writing about his travels which were very extensive. He fished and hunted moose in Canada and spent much time in Europe especially in the Balkans and traveling around the Mediterranean. He was most often accompanied by his wife, although he referred to her as the woman who is driving me. McGeehan had many excellent descriptive phrases related to various activities: Boxing was the manly art of modified murder or the Cauliflower industry. He called Primo Carnera the tall tower of Gorgonzola and referred to wrestlers as Pachyderms. An Italian wrestler was described as breathing garlic and defiance. He also often wrote of a Salmon named Alphide a leaping champion from the Meramichi river in New Brunswick, trained as a falls jumper, but died of a broken heart at the base of Niagara Falls. Also, Moe the Moose was named for Moe Levy a fur salesman in Manhattan.

Tributes after his death

With his death Bill McGeehan, the Sheriff, received many accolades from sportmen and newspaper men:

*GRANTLAND RICE, sports columnist - I worked with Bill McGeehan for more that fifteen years. He was one of the great people in this world and one of the greatest writers, besides being a most lovable character. His death means a loss to the world of sports and the world in general.
*BABE RUTH - Sorry to hear such a bad message. I know the entire baseball world will mourn his passing. Please extend my personal sympathy.
*JACOB RUPPERT, owner of the New York Yankees - I am deeply grieved at the death of my friend W.O. McGeehan. His death is a great loss to the newspaper world. he was a grand fellow.
*BERT BELL, football coach - The sports world and all his wonderful friends will miss Bill McGeehan. There never was a finer man , nor a better writer.
*ED THORP, football official - There never will be another McGeehan. He held a place all be himself in the world of sports and we all are going to miss his great personality and his fine columns.
*DAMON RUNYON, columnist - I am dreadfully sorry to hear of the Sheriff's death. We were the closest of friends for more than thirty years. We were soldiers together in '98, worked together for years in San Francisco. He was the outstanding sports writer in our country, the most fearless writer of our generation, the fairest and the most knowing. Bill was a brilliant writer and a grand fellow personally.
*BOB ZUPKE, football coach at Illinois University - Bill was one of the kindest souls in the sports world; so sympathic of other peoples feelings that at times he appeared timid. Thats the portrait he made to me.
*JOHN KIERAN, columnist - The news of the death of Bill McGeehan comes as such a shock to those of us who knew him that it is hard to find the words to fit the mournful occasion. There is no need to say anything about his brilliant writing. Like the late Ring Lardner, his genius stood out above and beyond the field of sport. But it was as a firm friend, a genial companion and as a fearless fighter for the right that we shall miss him most.
*TIM MARA, owner of the New York Football Giants - I knew Bill for many years and there was no one more sincere in his opinions or in expressing them.
*GENE TUNNEY, retired heavyweight champion of the world - The death of Bill McGeehan is such a shock I am at a loss for words. I was going down to see him. He was the top of his profession. No one came close to have the knowledge of sports that he had nor the talent for being able to differentiate between the genuine article and the fraud. He was a dear man and I shall miss him more than words can express.
*BILL CORUM, columnist - W.O. McGeehan was a literary genius, who chose the field of sports in which to express himself, but did not limit himself to it. Of late years his essays about his European travels, some of which have since been compiled in his book Trouble in the Balkans were to my mind the finest literature ever to appear on any sports page. And more than a great writer,The Sheriff was a grand gentleman, a splendid soldier, and a wonderful friend to have had and to remember.

There are many other writings of W.O. McGeehan and they are certainly worth reading, but this gives us a taste of who he was and what he did to educate and entertain his readers during the earlier days of this century. However from his writings and the thoughts expressed by those with whom he worked and lived that he certainly fulfilled the description given by Lawrence Perry, that "Sports has lost its greatest balance weight and journalism its greatest humorist since Mark Twain."

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