Abe Chanin, a longtime Arizona Daily Star sports editor, UA professor, author and historian, died Saturday morning. He was 92.
Chanin was a powerhouse reporter and editor at the Star from 1940 until 1976. In 1947, he helped found the Arizona Daily Star Sportsmen’s Fund, one of the oldest charities in Southern Arizona. Since then, the fund has paid to send 35,869 children to camp.
Chanin’s chronicling of University of Arizona athletics was unparalleled at the time. As the Star’s sports editor, he covered Pop McKale and Ernie McCray, eight football coaches, three basketball coaches, one “Cactus Comet” and two Fred Enkes.
His 1979 book, “They Fought Like Wildcats,” remains of the most complete and authoritative annals of UA sports. Chanin also ran Collegiate Baseball newspaper, which he — along with his wife, Mildred — published until 1970. The couple also co-published The Arizona Jewish Post from 1956 to 1965.
“He was fortunate to be there, in Tucson, at a time when things were really developing,” Beth Rudolph, Chanin’s daughter, said Saturday. “He had come out there as the youngest child in a family of three boys when his father was very ill. When it could have been a disaster, he really found a niche. He loved it there.”
Chanin was most proud of his role as a teacher, whether it was as a newspaper editor or college professor. Chanin taught at the UA from 1976 until 1988, when he was named director of the Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives. He stayed there until 1994.
Don Carson, a former Star reporter who went on to become the head of the UA’s journalism department, credits Chanin for his start in the business.
Chanin was an old-school newspaperman, from the way he clacked out play-by-play from UA football games so readers could relive each down on Sundays to the way he scoffed at corporate sponsorship of sporting events. Chanin refused to run the name of one national golf tournament, Carson said, because it was sponsored by a car dealer.
If the company wants advertising, Chanin told co-workers, they can buy it.
But he was also a fair editor and patient mentor, Carson said.
“He had a lot of compassion and he had a brilliant intellect. I think he probably had read more books than anybody in all of Tucson, and it was all up in his head, too …” Carson said. “He had heart, he had soul, and he had a great intelligence.”
He also had a soft spot for children. While stationed in France during World War II, Chanin and his fellow soldiers put on a Christmas party for youngsters. Chanin returned to Tucson after the war but remembered the looks on the children’s faces. While at the Star, Chanin teamed with ad manager Ricki Rarick and the Tucson YMCA to deliver a similar experience locally.
The Sportsmen’s Fund was born. Over the years, the charity exposed underprivileged kids to the outdoors and sponsored many big-time sporting events. Celebrities ranging from Bing Crosby and Randolph Scott to Olga Korbut and the Harlem Globetrotters all visited Tucson because of Chanin’s work.
The Chanins relocated to Albuquerque 10 years ago to be closer to their daughter and her family. Mildred Chanin, Abe’s wife of 67 years, died in 2012.
“He had some good days” after that, their daughter said, “but he really missed her.”
Abe Chanin, a graduate of Tucson High School and the UA, is a member of the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame and Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame. The UA’s award for best student sportswriting bears his name.