Remembering Bob Frisk

  • Legendary former Daily Herald sports editor Bob Frisk passed away Saturday at age 83. He worked for the paper for over 50 years.

    Legendary former Daily Herald sports editor Bob Frisk passed away Saturday at age 83. He worked for the paper for over 50 years. Daily Herald File photo

 
 
Updated 5/16/2020 7:35 PM

To say Bob Frisk was a legend would be understating what he meant to the newspaper business and to high school sports.

For over 50 years, Bob carved the proper way to report on high school athletes, and he mentored countless journalists to report positively on high school sports.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bob passed away Saturday morning at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights. He was 83.

As a reporter and sports editor, Bob never shied from the negative, but one of his greatest niches was to turn those negatives to positives.

A humble man, he earned ultimate respect from everyone he touched through his writing and his presence. His legacy will live forever.

Following are some thoughts on Bob from people who knew him well.

Former Prospect girls athletic director Jean Walker

Bob made a tremendous difference in high school sports. But I think especially in girls sports because they were new and they needed publicity and in many cases they did not get it. Bob picked up on that and made a big difference. Because of that the Daily Herald was the leader in Illinois as far as getting the word out and publicizing women's sports and girls sports.

Bob was always positive and supportive of the changes that were being made to improve girls sports.

Former Daily Herald prep sports editor Aaron Gabriel

What stands out to me was the seriousness with which Bob approached the importance of young people playing games. He was always, first and foremost, an advocate for the kids and their teams -- their unsung champion.

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People frequently asked me about hypothetical cases: 'Do you mention the player's name if he or she makes a huge mistake that costs the team a game?'

I would half-jokingly reply that I'd be sure to check our policy on that, when in fact there was, and is, no written policy. Rather, Bob's leadership made it clear that high school reporting was an opportunity to record the achievements of our young adults.

The Bob Frisk unwritten rule goes something like this: Mistakes happen all the time in prep sports. It's fine to mention the sequence that decides an outcome, but blame is never to be directly pinned on an individual.

Likewise, a missed call, an obnoxious parent, an overbearing coach, substandard facilities ... all are beside the point.

Talk to the athletes, Bob urged. He was right, of course. Theirs are the stories that make high school sports so compelling and unique.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As a writer, Bob had a commanding voice that he'd earned through so many years of honing. His columns had a ring of authenticity and artistry to them -- a prose version of what might happen if you combined the talents of Norman Rockwell, Paul McCartney and Steven Spielberg.

Elk Grove softball coach Ken Grams

I first met Bob when I got involved in high school athletics as a coach and he would be covering occasional games. We started talking and I found out I had a lot in common with him. We were from the same area, went to the same high school (Arlington) and both had a great interest in high school athletics. We just developed a lifetime friendship. He was genuine, no doubt about it. He had his column where he talked about high school sports. That was real. It was his passion and his life. I'm not saying he turned his head away from the professional sports but he just definitely liked the reality and honesty of the high school sports scene.

Former Wheeling softball coach Pat Ritchie

Bob was always excited about the softball season. He attended a state softball tournament with me and he was always positive with everything the kids did. I was just amazed at how much he knew about all the players. I am really going to miss that guy. He was one of the best.

Former Buffalo Grove boys basketball coach Doug Millstone

I remember his gentleness. Everyone seemed to like him. He was the prep sports advocate. He never had a negative word to say about anyone. I knew him since I started coaching in 1991. I knew him as the prep master then but we really became friends when he retired in 2008.

He and Ken Grams were sages of past IHSA games and tournaments. If one didn't know the answer, the other did. Bob loved high school sports, college basketball and football. I don't know how to describe it -- those things were a long chapter of his life.

Prospect boys basketball coach John Camardella

When I first started going to Hersey games as a kid, Bob Frisk of the Daily Herald was a big deal and still is. You immediately knew who Bob Frisk was in the sports world. When I had the opportunity to play at Hersey and when I came back to the area and started at Prospect, for me, Bob has been the mainstay of suburban Chicago sports. Anytime anyone says 'Daily Herald' or says 'high school sports', I think Bob Frisk is synonymous with that. For me personally, he was an absolute fixture at our games at Prospect. You could always seeing him sitting behind the scorer's table at Jean Walker Field House. He'd always send me an email and I would 'cc' him on emails of our teams' stats for the last decade and half and I know he appreciated that. Often times he'd comment on when our team was doing well and when it wasn't doing well. We developed a really close relationship over my coaching career. He's an absolute testament to a man of integrity and character. I'm still trying to process what it means and what the suburbs would look like without Bob Frisk present. It's really hard to process.

IHSA assistant executive director Matt Troha

Bob was the genuine article. His wonderful personality endeared him to all the athletes and coaches he covered throughout his distinguished career, and his talent was evident in every story he wrote. His passion for high school sports was second to none, and we were so lucky to have him sharing stories about high school sports for as long as he did.

Northern Illinois SID Emeritus Mike Korcek

Personally and professionally, Bob Frisk was a treasure. In my retirement when I came home, it was a privilege to walk the football sidelines or sit with him at basketball games. After all these years, he still loved prep sports the most. We'd talk media, commiserate, reminisce, and often be politely interrupted by a coach, administrator, or former area student-athlete who Bob touched years ago with one of his many Daily Herald stories.

He was one of my earliest journalism mentors. By my senior year at Prospect and with the success of the state-ranked Knights in the Tom Lundstedt era, I knew I wanted to get into sportswriting or some related field. To get there, my 18-year-old mind thought I'd better emulate Bob in college where he was a J-major and sports editor of the Daily Illini at U of I.

Fortunately, I did that at Northern Illinois. Every Thursday, I devoured Bob's "Kicking It Around" Herald sports column and clipped out many of them. His sports pages in the 1960s were the epitome of community journalism and the blueprint for suburban high school sports print coverage.

So meticulous, Bob ran line scores of Little League Baseball games in the summer.

While we've swapped emails, I haven't seen him since my visit to the Lutheran Home in November. I'm sure Bob would've loved to be at the Prospect sectional boys basketball games in March.

Years after I was inducted into the media wing of the IBCA Hall of Fame, I discovered my two sponsors were Bob Frisk and Bud Nangle. Two prep sports media legends and beloved mentors. That made my month. Heck, it still does.

We're all going to miss him. Going to the games without Bob will not be the same.

• Daily Herald staff writer John Leusch contributed to this collection.

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