Dave van Dyck, a pioneering Chicago sports journalist, dies at age 76

Chicago Tribune baseball writer Dave van Dyck asked White Sox slugger Paul Konerko on a cold April day in 2013 whether he was having any sleepless nights over an early season slump.

“Always,” Konerko replied. “There are moments when you know you’ve got it and when you feel like you’re swinging the bat, you’re working hard to keep it. And then there’s other times when you know you don’t feel great up there and you’re working hard to get it.

“You’re always working hard. There’s no real in between.”

Konerko could have been describing Van Dyck, one of the hardest-working sportswriters in a town where sports is king. Van Dyck died on Nov. 22 in Florida at the age of 76.

That Tribune story, headlined “Konerko never stops working,” was one of van Dyck’s final bylines in a storied career as a journalist, including being sports editor of the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette to over three decades of writing for the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune. He quietly retired in April 2013, was feted by friends and colleagues at Harry Caray’s Steakhouse and later moved to Fort Myers, Fla., where he spent his retirement years with his wife, Connie, and aided the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of various Veterans Committees.

Word over the weekend that van Dyck had died came as a shock to many of his old friends and colleagues, some of whom he helped mentor, including myself, Tribune’s Cubs writer Meghan Montemurro,’s White Sox writer Scott Merkin and dozens of others who’ve since retired.

“Dave was a fierce competitor, but above all, he cared deeply for the profession and those in it,” former Daily Herald reporter Bruce Miles said. “He was a mentor to all, including writers from other newspapers. Dave could get the Commissioner of Baseball on the phone and he also could get the head of the Players Association on the phone. He had that kind of reach and that kind of respect.”

Former Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath said it was “devastating” to hear the news.

“Dave was as valued a colleague as I’ve had and as good a person as I’ve known over many years in the newspaper business,” McGrath said. “The knowledge, the reporting, the writing, the relationships … Dave had it all and he brought it all to every assignment.

“Chicago has a long history of great baseball writing and Dave certainly upheld the tradition. I used to tell our young reporters, ‘If you want to learn how to be a beat reporter, go out to the ballpark and follow Dave van Dyck around. He’ll show you how it’s done.’”

Always willing to ask the tough question, van Dyck ruffled some feathers along the way, from Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and manager Tony La Russa to Cubs star Sammy Sosa. When Reinsdorf moved the press box at U.S. Cellular Field from behind home plate to well down the first base line in 2007 to generate more revenue, van Dyck lobbied to MLB on behalf of the writers, saying it hindered their view of pitches.

“It doesn’t matter if Dave van Dyck can see how much the ball breaks,” Reinsdorf told the New York Times.

Van Dyck was widely respected by his peers and those he covered, despite some differences along the way. His baseball and auto racing stories were familiar to Chicago sports fans in the Sun-Times and Tribune, and he was also a regular panelist on WGN AM 720’s “The Sportswriters,” a precursor to sports talk radio stations and many of today’s TV imitators.

Hosted by moderator Ben Bentley and featuring local writers including Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss and Toni Ginnetti, the show typically followed Cubs broadcasts on late Sunday afternoons and provided raucous debates about the state of the local and national sports scenes. Van Dyck later became a regular on Comcast Sports Net’s “Chicago Tribune Live,” hosted by Dan Jiggetts and later David Kaplan.

For many years at the Sun-Times, van Dyck and Joe Goddard would switch team coverage at the All-Star break and penned “Dear Joe” and “Dear Dave” letters, advising the other about what to expect from the team they were leaving. Van Dyck and Goddard combined on a Sunday notebook package that was a must-read for any baseball fan.

After leaving the Sun-Times for a brief stint as national baseball columnist at, van Dyck returned to print journalism in 2004 when McGrath hired him to help beef up the Tribune’s baseball coverage. Van Dyck’s vast knowledge of White Sox history was on full display during their 2005 championship season..

McGrath recalled van Dyck and Tribune baseball writer Phil Rogers covering the Cubs’ late-night playoff exit in Los Angeles in 2008, then showing up at Sox Park the next afternoon for their playoff game against Tampa Bay.

“They’d filed their stories off the Cubs game, grabbed a cab to the airport and caught a red-eye flight to Chicago so they could help cover the White Sox,” he said. “That’s the kind of dedication Dave brought to the job. A pro’s pro indeed.”

Van Dyck was accepting of modern-day analytics, though he remained old school at heart, as evidenced when he referred to the introduction of wild-card games as “gluttony” by MLB honchos.

“Adding two more wild cards (one in each league) is a good idea — if you’re sitting in the accounting office of MLB Network or if you’re a fan of a summer game being played in November cold,” he wrote in a 2011 story. “Other than that, there’s very little reason for it, especially if it involves a one-game playoff ‘play-in.’ Baseball never has been a one-game sport.”

It took years for MLB to realize van Dyck was right. The one-game wild card format was replaced with a best-of-three series in 2022.

“We’d sit and talk about everything from the Hall of Fame to the merits of advanced statistics,” Miles said. “He always kept an open mind about others’ arguments.”

Van Dyck’s death notice in February said he would be remembered privately with no services held. He’s survived by his wife; his three children, Laura Silvestri, Geoffrey van Dyck and Amy Muscolino; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Van Dyck never really enjoyed fanfare and left the newspaper business without so much as a farewell column. He asked his Tribune colleagues not to make a big deal of his departure, and we reluctantly obliged.

A longtime Chicago chapter chairman for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, van Dyck was twice named a finalist for the BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award — then called the Spink Award — which is presented during Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. He fell short both times and though many writers have been elected their third time on the ballot, he directed the Chicago chapter not to nominate him again.

It’s a shame, because if anyone deserved to join the likes of great Chicago baseball writers like Jerome Holtzman, Ring Lardner and John Carmichael in Cooperstown, it was van Dyck.