updated 01/14/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/14/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST
Known for his quick wit and graceful writing style, Schaap will be most remembered for the passion he brought to his work. Born in Brooklyn, he was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune before branching out to television in 1971 to report for NBC and later ABC. His poignant, intimate stories, such as one on AIDS-stricken decathlete Tom Waddell, were landmark features, and he would go on to win six Emmys. But Schaap also took on politics and pop culture, writing more than 30 books, including the seminal 1968 sports confessional Instant Replay with Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer. "He was the smartest, funniest, quickest guy in the room," says Mike Lupica, his friendly sparring partner for the last 12 years on ESPN's The Sports Reporters. "You couldn't top him."
Yet the outgoing Schaap, who was married three times and fathered six children, took as much pride in his legion of friends as in his work. In his last days-, though, only flashes of his lively, generous spirit remained. When Lupica came by the hospital, Schaap, by then unable to speak, slowly lifted his IV-strapped hand. "He gave me the finger," says Lupica with a laugh. "It was like he was saying, I'm not in great shape, but I'm still me. It was pure Schaap."