Harvey Frommer, Historian of Sports and New York, Dies at 83

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Harvey Frommer was born on Oct. 10, 1935, in Brooklyn and grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood. His father, Max, drove a cab; his mother, Fannie (Wechsler) Frommer, was a homemaker. Though living in Brooklyn, young Harvey was not a fan of the Dodgers; he followed the St. Louis Cardinals because of their star slugger, Stan Musial.

Still, it was Red Barber, the Dodgers’ famously literate radio announcer, who inspired Mr. Frommer. He said that hearing Mr. Barber call play-by-play and tell stories “got me interested in speech, in literature and also baseball,” he told The New York Times in 1980.

Mr. Frommer graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and then earned a master’s in English before becoming an English teacher, first at New York City high schools and then at what is now called New York City College of Technology, a part of the City University of New York.

He went on to study for a doctorate at N.Y.U. in the 1970s, writing his dissertation on the intersection of sports and television. It whetted his appetite for writing, and his first book, “A Baseball Century: The First 100 Years of the National League,” was published in 1976.

By 1989, after publishing more than a dozen more sports books, he and his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer, had begun their oral history collaborations with “It Happened in the Catskills” (1991). They had planned the book as a conventional history of the summer resorts and bungalow colonies known as the Borscht Belt, but realized that the stories told by the owners, guests, tummlers and waiters would be better told in oral history form.

“We became captivated by the people we spoke to, so distinctive in voice, so specific in recollection of detail, so accurate in description and evocation of time and place,” the Frommers wrote. They followed the book with “It Happened in” oral histories of Brooklyn, Broadway, Manhattan and Miami.


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