Finney chronicled Louisiana sports for more than six decades
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The Louisiana sports writing community has lost another giant.
Pete Finney, a New Orleans based writer and columnist who wrote about Louisiana sporting events including LSU and the Super Bowl, passed away at his home in New Orleans Saturday morning at the age of 88. He’s best known for his work at The Times-Picayune.
It’s difficult to convey exactly what Finney meant to the Louisiana community who religiously read his brilliant work over the course of 68 years of loyal service — particularly as a 23-year-old from out of state.
Instead, take it from one of Finney’s peers, a fellow journalistic giant in this state. Here is how Marty Mule’ summed up Finney in his final column for Tiger Rag. Mule’ passed away on March 12.
It happened in 1963. I remember one of them laughing about it years later, the other still perplexed about what was so funny.
The two New Orleans sportswriters who then covered LSU football, Peter Finney of the States-Item and Buddy Diliberto of The Times-Picayune, were traveling up the highway to Charlie McClendon’s Tuesday press conference for the upcoming Ole Miss game. This was the week when the Cuban Missile Crisis first hit the headlines and airways.
Finney made mention that there was a genuine fear this could lead to war with Russia. “I’m not worried about any war,” Buddy D., a purple heart recipient in Korea, shot back. “They’re talking about canceling the LSU-Ole Miss game. That’s serious! If that happened, I’d never forgive that guy Khrushchev.”
What a killer line.
That one and many others, along with insights and observations, over decades of covering sports – including more than a few of landmark LSU moments – are included in a treasure trove of the writings of Finney, the dean and role model of Louisiana sportswriters. Gleaned from the estimated 15,000 turned out in his fabled 68 years at the keyboard, 75 memorable columns are revived in The Best of Peter Finney: Legendary New Orleans Sportswriter. Culled by his son, Peter Finney Jr., and published by LSU Press, these columns are a delightful trip down memory lane for those who love sports, well-reasoned opinions, and, most of all, exquisite writing, done at the scene and in real time.
We’re transported to the birth of the Saints, their Super Bowl triumph 44 years later, the exploits of the New Orleans Jazz, interviews with Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Namath, Jack Nicklaus, Woody Hayes, and wrestling’s Gorgeous George. We’re at Super Bowl III when Joe Namath altered the trajectory of pro football; at Roberto Duran’s “No Mas” surrender to Sugar Ray Leonard; at Secretariat’s record-setting Triple Crown victory at the Preakness.
There’s more. Much more.
Mr. Finney’s wife of 61 years, Doris “Deedy” Young Finney, died in 2013.
Survivors include three sons, Peter P. Finney Jr. and Dr. Timothy Finney, both of New Orleans, and Michael Finney of Louisville, Ky.; three daughters, Barbara F. Weilbaecher of Kenner, Jane F. Haas of Metairie and Elizabeth F. Donze of New Orleans; a brother, Thomas Michael Finney of New Orleans; a sister, Patricia Finney Daniels of New Orleans; 20 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A Mass will be celebrated Saturday (Aug. 20) at 11 a.m. at St. Rita Catholic Church, 2729 Lowerline St. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Burial will be private. Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.