PEF member resurrects newspaper sports columns to honor his dad
By DEBORAH A. MILES
For more than 40 years, Phil Ranallo brought to life a wide range of sports celebrities in his daily column called “What’s New, Harry?” that entertained not only sports fans, but a large reader audience of the former Buffalo newspaper, The Courier-Express.
Ranallo’s words, written on an Olivetti-Underwood manual typewriter, helped to immortalize the stars of baseball, basketball, boxing, football, golf and horse racing. As a thoroughbred racing enthusiast, he wrote passionately about Secretariat and earned a prestigious Eclipse Award for excellence in reporting.
He captured the personalities of his subjects while weaving them into significant athletic events. He was able to put a human side, and sometimes controversial perspective, on people such as boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, or football icons such as Vince Lombardi, and even old favorite baseball heroes such as Hank Aaron or Joe DiMaggio.
For example, Phil Ranallo’s column on DiMaggio, published July 19, 1978, opened this way.
“Although more than 25 years have passed since he took his last classic swing of the bat for the New York Yankees, Joseph Paul DiMaggio is still the “people’s choice” – still No. 1 – among millions of baseball fans on the wrong side of 40.”
One of his sons, Paul Ranallo, a PEF member who works at the state Department of Motor Vehicles as a body repair inspector, compiled a book of his dad’s columns. It is a tribute to his father who passed in 1986, and relives the exhilarating moments found in World Series thrillers, Super Bowl blowouts and Triple Crown cheering ovations.
The self-published book called “What’s New, Harry? And Remembering Phil Ranallo,” was released in December 2015. It also includes columns about critical times in the U.S. with a focus on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
“When my dad was alive, he spoke about putting a book together, but never got around to it. My dad was a humble man, and never realized how talented he really was,” Ranallo said.
“My dad had a deep compassion for people. He cared about poor people, working people and he supported unions, He used to say a family man deserved to have good benefits to take care of a wife and kids.”
Ranallo said the book was an undertaking, but he was driven to have his dad’s columns “here forever.”
“At one point, I hit a roadblock. I thought I couldn’t do it. But now in the computer age, you can do just about anything. I have heard from people who remembered my dad, other writers and journalists around the country, and they all have embraced the book,” Ranallo said.
The book is available on Amazon.com and at the Talking Leaves Bookstore in Buffalo. And if you are wondering about the name of Phil Ranallo’s column, it came from “Honest Harry,” a featured horseplayer in his columns, along with his suffering wife, Ruby. Both were a conversation staple among Western New Yorkers for more than 20 years.
For more information, visit https://philranallo.wordpress.com