Phil Ranallo

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Courier-Express Sports Writer

As television encroached on the domain of sportswriters in the 1950s, scribes found that readers demanded not only scores, but analysis and commentary as well. During his long career, Phil Ranallo fed that need for Buffalo sports fans in a way that few writers have before or since. A graduate of Annunciation High School on Buffalo’s West Side, and Canisius College, Ranallo began his newspaper career as a copy boy with the Courier-Express in 1941. Following three years of service with the Marine Corps in World War II, Phil returned to Buffalo to cover high-school sports in 1945.

During his career at the Courier-Express, Phil covered a wide variety of sports. He chronicled nearly every major sports event in Buffalo, from the Bills’ American Football League Championships to the Sabres’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975. A versatile and perceptive writer, Phil delivered memorable copy for sports on the national stage, from World Series thrillers to Super Bowl blowouts. Phil’s signature was his daily column, “What’s New Harry,” which focused primarily on his forte (Erie), horse racing. The column featured horseplayer Honest Harry and his long-suffering wife, Ruby, and was a staple at breakfast tables across Western New York for over 20 years.

Ranallo’s love of the ponies dated to his boyhood, and his expertise was widely acknowledged. In 1964, Phil was alone among 90 writers covering the Kentucky Derby in correctly predicting the first three finishers, in order. In 1974, he was honored by colleagues with the annual Eclipse Award, emblematic of excellence in racetrack journalism.

Ranallo’s career effectively ended in 1982 with the demise of the Courier-Express. However, his contributions to local sports journalism have not been forgotten. Current sportswriters will certainly acknowledge Phil’s influence on their own careers. At his death in 1986, Ranallo was eulogized in print by one of the members of this generation, Larry Felser of the Buffalo News, who recalled Phil’s “immense bond” with his readers. A strongly principled professional, Ranallo seldom shied away from controversy, and his often strongly-opinionated columns not only enhanced the enjoyment of reading about significant athletic events, but always seemed to touch a chord with readers and their own passions.

As you finish reading this biography, bear in mind the contributions of this subject to the evolved art of sports writing, and the pioneers such as Phil Ranallo who first brought to life the accomplishments of many of the members of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.