The McCann Time Capsule: Bert Sugar
In the Time Capsule’s continuing “they passed through McCann” series, let’s not forget the famous fedora-wearing, cigar-smoking Bert Sugar. Recognized as the boxing world’s No. 1 journalist and historian, he purchased Boxing Illustrated magazine in 1969 and then became the legendary editor of The Ring magazine in the early 1980s.
Sugar, who died in 2012, was widely hailed at that time as a real loss not only to boxing history, but that of sports in general. But it’s a 1995 New York Times feature on him that seems to capture his personality best—though it’s also a description that makes it hard to see him working at an ad agency.
“Mr. Sugar is, as you may have guessed, a raconteur. After that he is editor, publisher and most of the staff of the influential Boxing Illustrated magazine. He is also a lawyer and a former advertising man. He is a Civil War buff and a Gilbert and Sullivan devotee.
“He is a throwback to a more colorful era in New York and has been described, probably by himself, as a lineal descendant of Damon Runyon.
“But most of all he is a living, breathing storehouse of sports history, sports trivia and sports memorabilia, which he collects with abandon. Stuff like Lou Gehrig's uniform and thousands of seats from Yankee Stadium. He also collects nonsports stuff, like a top hat once worn by W. C. Fields, John Wayne's saddle and Ben Hecht's typewriter.
“Oh, and he writes books -- almost as many as his years. He's 57. Meeting him on the street a few years back, the press agent and wit Irving Rudd said, "Gee, Bert, I haven't seen you since two or three books ago." Sugar titles include "Great Baseball Players of the Past," "100 Years of Boxing," "The Baseball Trivia Book," "Who Was Harry Steinfeldt and Other Trivia Questions" and "The Baseball Trivia Book to End All Baseball Trivia Books. Promise!"
Earlier in the 1960s, he had worked as a copywriter on McCann New York’s Nestlé chocolate account. Several obits claim that he was involved with the famous Nestlé’s Quik jingle, “N–E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best. . . .chocolate.” But the timing doesn’t seem to connect: McCann New York first won Nestlé’s chocolate products in 1954 and the jingle dates to the mid-1950s.
Regardless, there’s no question that Sugar deserves being recognized as the stuff of legend, no matter what the field.