The list of people who have edited SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, written dozens of stories for SI and The New Yorker, published two well-regarded novels, elicited praise from an illustrious contemporary (his stories are "ruthlessly exact and amazingly surreal and utterly convincing," said John Updike) and been hailed by one eminent subject ("World's greatest spoatswritah!" said Muhammad Ali) is a short one. It's one name deep.
Gil Rogin, who died last week at 87, started at SI as a copy boy in 1955 and was managing editor from '79 to '84. He retired in '93 as corporate editor of Time Inc., having also edited DISCOVER and launched Vibe, with Quincy Jones.
In 2010, upon the reissue of Rogin's novels, What Happens Next? and Preparations for the Ascent, longtime SI scribe Franz Lidz wrote, "He has been called wry, introspective, visionary, meddlesome, persnickety, generous, crazy, curious, capricious, restless, passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and perpetually bewildered—in short, an editor."
A man of many words, Rogin needed only one to strike fear in writers: "Ugh!" scribbled in red pencil in the margin of their copy. Mentor to many writers, tormentor to a few, Rogin was both to most.
A bird-watcher and swimmer (a mile every single day), he was open to stories about any sport. As an editor, he would travel to the city hosting the Super Bowl but watch the game on his hotel-room television because that was how readers viewed the event. As a writer he connected with boxing best. His profiles of Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson and Sugar Ray Robinson are masterpieces.
"I've had a pretty good life," said Rogin a few years ago. "In many ways, an extraordinary life."