LEBOVITZ, HAROLD (HAL) (11 September 1916-18 October 2005) was a longtime sports writer and editor for Cleveland-area newspapers.
As a teenager, Lebovitz worked as a vendor at LEAGUE PARK. Following his graduation from Glenville High School in 1934, he attended WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY where he played football, basketball and baseball, and even coached the freshman basketball team. (Among his pupils was Steve Belichick, who would go on to a lengthy coaching career, as would his son, Bill.) Lebovitz, who also served as sports editor of the Reserve Tribune, graduated with a degree in chemistry and got a job teaching at Euclid Central High School, where he coached football, basketball and baseball. He also earned a master’s degree from Reserve, in 1944.
While a coach, Lebovitz started assembling high school sports statistics and submitting them to local newspapers. In 1942, he started writing a regular high school sports column for the CLEVELAND NEWS. Four years later, he was hired by the News full-time – as the paper’s science writer. He was sent to the sports desk to fill in and quickly distinguished himself there. In 1948, Lebovitz co-wrote Pitchin’ Man, an autobiography of Indians “rookie” SATCHEL PAIGE.
In 1949, Lebovitz started covering the BROWNS, then still in the All-America Conference. The following year, he became the Indians lead beat writer. When the News folded in 1960, he went to the PLAIN DEALER. In 1963, during a newspaper strike, Lebovitz led a special edition put out by local sportswriters after ART MODELL fired Paul Brown as Browns coach.
In 1964, Lebovitz was tapped to succeed Gordon Cobbledick as the Plain Dealer’s sports editor, a role he held until his retirement in 1984. Lebovitz is credited with helping to keep the Indians from moving to Seattle in 1964, and broke the news of Jim Brown’s retirement in 1965. One of his columns, “Never Cut a Boy,” about a student getting cut from his high school team, was reprinted regularly. After his retirement, he went to work for the News Herald in Lake County, and continued to file columns up until his death from cancer in 2005.
In addition to his work in Cleveland sports media, Lebovitz was also a regular contributor to The Sporting News from 1947 to 1993, and wrote freelance pieces for a variety of publications, including the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers magazine. In addition to Pitchin’ Man, Lebovitz is the author of two more books, both compilations from his columns: Ask Hal, Answers to Fans' Most Interesting Questions about Baseball Rules, from a Hall of Fame Sportswriter and The Best of Hal Lebovitz, Great Sportswriting from Six Decades in Cleveland.
Lebovitz also served as a sports official, and was known for his “Ask Hal the Referee” column, both in local newspapers and in The Sporting News. He was interviewed for multiple documentaries, and regularly appeared on “More Sports and Les Levine” on cable.
Lebovitz served as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1966, and was inducted into the GREATER CLEVELAND SPORTS HALL OF FAME in 1999, the same year he received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also a member of 10 other halls of fame, including those of the Press Club of Cleveland, Glenville and Euclid high schools, and Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve). The media dining room at PROGRESSIVE FIELD is named in his honor.
Lebovitz married the former Margie Glassman in 1938. They had a son, Neil, and a daughter, Lynn, and remained married until Lebovitz’s death. Margie Lebovitz died in 2011.