Earl Gustkey dies at 69; former L.A. Times sportswriter


Earl Gustkey, a Los Angeles Times sportswriter for more than 30 years who brought vitality to the paper’s coverage of boxing, outdoor sports and the WNBA, has died. He was 69.

Gustkey, who was diagnosed with leukemia in early March, died Friday of the disease at St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, Mont., according to his wife, Nancy Yoshihara.

Gustkey had lived much of the time in Bozeman, Mont., since retiring from The Times in 2001.


“He was a sports editor’s dream,” columnist Bill Dwyre, The Times’ former longtime sports editor, said of Gustkey. “Not only was he willing to do everything, but he was enthusiastic about it. He covered boxing, he covered USC football. . . . I put him on women’s basketball . . . and he was one of the prime reporters on the WNBA for years. He became kind of a league historian.”

Gustkey, the paper’s outdoor sportswriter in the mid-1980s, covered the Iditarod trail race as well as salmon fishing in Alaska. He traveled to Costa Rica on a fishing expedition for tarpon and snook and to Christmas Island for a piece on what was then one of the hottest fly-fishing spots in the world.

He was “a wonderful outdoors writer,” Dwyre said.

Through much of the 1980s, Gustkey also covered boxing and, Dwyre recalled, from 1984 through the Barcelona games in 1992, he saw every match in Olympic Games competition.

He left the boxing beat in 1993 to cover USC football, but not before writing a column detailing the top 10 professional fights he had seen from 1982 to 1993.

Gustkey put the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas bout in Tokyo on Feb. 10, 1990, which was won in a knockout by the “hopeless long shot” Douglas, at the top of his list. That was followed by the Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns fight on April 15, 1985, which Hagler won, also in a knockout. Gustkey wrote that it was “probably the best fight of the 1980s.”

He was born Harry Earl Gustkey Jr. in Washington, Pa., on Feb. 20, 1940. At the age of 10, he moved with his family to Orange County and graduated from Newport Harbor High School.

He attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa before transferring to San Jose State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1962.

He worked for the Orange Coast Daily Pilot and the Oceanside Blade-Tribune before joining The Times’ sports staff in Orange County in 1969.

Gustkey wrote a biography of former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel called “Roman Gabriel: Outstanding Pro” in 1974 and contributed the text for “Great Moments in Southern California Sports” (Harry N. Abrams, 1990).

His first marriage, to Cathey W. Fowler, ended in divorce.

In addition to Yoshihara, his wife of 29 years and a former editor and writer for The Times, he is survived by his sister, Jane McCreadie, of Chicago.

Memorial services are pending.