Giant Loss - Lynch Will be Missed

Bob Papa was thinking about his good friend and longtime partner, Dick Lynch, before the Giants played the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 14. So hours before the game, Papa found a quiet spot near the bench area in the Edward Jones Dome and called Lynch, who was preparing to watch the game in his Long Island home.

"I called him before the game to see how he was doing and let him know that we were leaving a seat open for him," Papa said. "I was hoping he was feeling stronger and we could get him back for at least a game or two. He said he would try."

Sadly, that seat will remain empty forever. Lynch passed away today after a long illness. He was 72.

"Dick was such an important part of our organization for so many years that we really considered him part of the family," said Giants20President John Mara. "He was a true Giant as a player, a broadcaster and as a man. We will miss him dearly and our thoughts and prayers go out to Roz and the entire Lynch family."

"I'm very sorry we lost Dick," said Pro Football Hall of Famer Sam Huff, Lynch's teammate on the Giants from 1959-63 and a longtime analyst for the Washington Redskins. "He was a great friend and a great family man. When the Giants played the Redskins, we always visited before the game. Those two teams competed, but Dick and I never competed. We were always on the same team – always on the same page. He never changed his personality. I'm going to miss him."

Giants Coach Tom Coughlin informed the team of Lynch's passing after practice today.

"I was really saddened this morning (to hear of Lynch's death),"Coughlin said. "He was) a great Giant. When I was a player in high school Dick Lynch came to Seneca Falls, N.Y. and spoke at an SMS banquet. I was invited to come from a neighboring town. I got a chance to meet Dick Lynch. And of course he was a great player. And it was truly a highlight for me. And then all of these years when I was here as an assistant and when I came as a head coach, there isn't a nicer guy in my opinion, more popular guy, a more popular Giant than Dick Lynch was. We are all saddened, really saddened by the loss.

"Quite frankly, I didn't know that Dick was ill. … I should have known because he wasn't around as much as he normally is. But we are very saddened by the loss of Dick; just a wonderful human being and a great guy. He was always so positive, always good with the players, always encouraging them. It is very hard to believe that he is gone."

Papa, the voice of the Giants since 1995, sat next to Lynch for the last 13 of his 40 years as the team 's analyst. Lynch's last broadcast was the Giants' stirring victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

"I think he took tremendous satisfaction in this last championship because of the way they did it," Papa said. "The team came together. (Tom) Coughlin had been under so much fire and I think Dick always talked about team ball and his team and team, team, team. I think he saw this team as a team he played on. To see them win it made him feel really proud."

In addition to providing insightful analysis to fans tuning into the radio broadcast, Lynch was a one-man social club, wishing his grandchildren happy birthday, talking about a neighbor's barbeque or revealing where in the stadium his close friends were sitting.

"He really knew his football," Papa said. "He knew things and he saw things - I learned a lot from him. He had his own style. He could be critical. I remember near the end of the previous regime he was pretty critical about what was going on with the defense. Even a couple of years ago, once Tom came here. But he had a way of doing it that was disarming, never malicious."

Lynch almost didn't become a successful NFL player and beloved radio announcer. He was ready to end his playing career after his first NFL season in 1958 with the Washington Redskins. He didn't much like playing for the Redskins. And after Coach Joe Kuharick left the team to take the job at Notre Dame, Lynch certainly wasn't interested in playing for his replacement, Mike Nixon.

Besides, Lynch had an alternative career. He was going to work for Encyclopedia Brittanica, selling the books door-to-door. Those who knew Lynch figured he would have been either the best or worst encyclopedia salesman on the planet. As affable and sincere as any man you'd ever meet, Lynch would certainly have been welcome in many homes. But he likely would have become so engrossed20in conversation, he would have forgotten to actually sell encyclopedias.

Fortunately, Lynch didn't have to pursue that career. The Redskins traded him to the Giants for a fourth-round draft choice prior to the 1959 season and he remained with the franchise until his death. In 2005, Lynch was honored for his many years of service and for his tireless work for charitable causes as the Giants Alumni Man of the Year at the team's annual kickoff luncheon at the New York Hilton.

"It's been a great experience for many, many years, because once you're a Giant you can't go anywhere without somebody saying, ‘He played for the Giants,'" Lynch said. "They just identify you, and we are out there a lot, they know us. It's always been a great experience."

It was a great ride for those who were privileged enough to=2 0accompany Lynch.

"He was a great, great person," Papa said. "I'll never forget when I got the job full time (replacing the popular Jim Gordon in 1995). I had done a couple of games before I got the job. I think my first game was in'93 and he opened his arms up and he was just so welcoming. He said, ‘Kid, anything you need, just ask' and he was always so encouraging. He'd say, ‘Kid, you're doing great' and 'Bobby, you're doing wonderful, I love watching you.' He had to be one of the more positive guys I've ever been around."

Football has always been a big part of Lynch's life. He was an offensive back at Notre Dame from 1955-57. As a senior, he led the Fighting Irish with just 13 receptions. That season, he also led Notre Dame with a 31.8-yard kickoff return average (five returns for 159 yards). Lynch bled Giants blue for almost half a century, but Notre Dame green never left his veins.

When the Redskins tabbed Lynch on the sixth round of the 1958 draft, he became the nation's most surprised young man. "I never gave pro football a thought," he said. "When I was at Notre Dame, that was the last thing on my mind."

He played 12 games and intercepted two passes as a rookie. But he didn't want to be in Washington, particularly when Kuharick left. During that first pro offseason, Lynch served a six-month hitch in the Army at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. Naturally, there's a story behind that.

"We had excellent grades in the ROTC (at Notre Dame), and they thought I was officer material," Lynch said. So when he got his orders to go into the Army, it was for two years instead of six months, as he expected. When he played in the College All-Star Game following his senior season, he was asked about his plans in a sideline interview. "'They've been drastically altered. I'm going to be stuck in the Army for two years.' Some Colonel heard the remark and notified Notre Dame that he was going to save a spot for me to get out, and that's what happened. I got a six month recommendation from some Colonel, and I grabbed it."

While there, he was traded to the Giants for a 1960 fourth-round draft choice, which became guard Vince Promuto.

Lynch always insisted he would have knocked on doors to sell encyclopedias had he not been dealt to the Giants.

"That was my job and my boss wanted me back," Lynch said.

The trade set him on a new course. "I couldn't have been happier," Lynch said. E2They had a heck of a ballclub, and I was born and raised in New York. Up to the sixth grade I went to St. Mary's in Manhattan. Then we moved to New Jersey."

Lynch played for the Giants from 1959-66, a period in which the team played in four NFL Championship Games. Lynch played in 97 regular season games for the Giants (109 in his career) and intercepted 35 passes. In both 1961 and 1963, he led the NFL with nine interceptions. In '63, he also led the league with 251 return yards and three touchdowns. Lynch scored seven career touchdowns, four on interception returns and three on fumble returns.

"Dick wasn't the fastest guy in the world, but he was one of the best man-to-man cover guys this league has ever had," Huff said. "He was hand-picked by Tom Landry when Tom Landry was the defensive coach of the New York Giants. He wanted Dick Lynch to come play for him, because he always used man-to-man coverage. Landry's belief was always, ‘They have pros, you're a pro, you have to cover them.' Dick lived20up to those rules. Every defensive back gets beat once in a while, but Dick Lynch made plays more than anybody I've ever seen."

"I had a great career," Lynch said. "I played with the best group of men you could play with, offensively and defensively. We hung together. In those days you went out there with 11 people. You didn't go out there by yourself. It wasn't just Sam Huff and 10 other guys. It was the defense."

Lynch remained close with many of his former teammates from that era, including Frank Gifford, Andy Robustelli ("I speak to him every week" he said recently), Cliff Livingston, Harland Svare, Bob Schnelker and Huff. "We all looked out for each other," Lynch said.

"We were teammates," Huff said. "I'm closer to teammates than I am to my own family. When I p layed with the Giants, we were family."

Lynch retired after the 1966 season. He was selling government bonds when he was approached about joining the team's broadcast crew. Lynch was always a little fuzzy on the details about how and when he got into broadcasting. During his first few years, he was heard around the country on the Giants' radio network, but not in the New York area. Then he was asked to join the No. 1 team and the fans in the metropolitan area could finally hear him.

For 40 years, Lynch treated fans with his strategic insight, his sharp knowledge of football and his information about the Giants. He did it with a conversational style that suggested a man sitting in his living room with a group of friends watching the game. "It's been a blessing for me and my family," Lynch said of his long broadcasting career.

Lynch's radio work was best known for three separate and distinct trademarks. The first is rooting for the Giants. He didn't jump up and scream when the Giants scored a touchdown. But there's no question which way he leaned. "I do like to see the Giants on the winning side," Lynch said. "But in every game we know we have to earn it. You have to earn the victory."

No Lynch broadcast was complete without several greetings and salutations. He said hello to friends and family members, wish happy birthday to legions of people or simply mention folks he knows or has come across. "That's because we've been out here so long," he said. "I've been out here (40) years. I like to get the birthday signs out, especially for my family. It's good to do that kind of stuff because it just lets people know we are all Giant fans and we are all listening."

"Let's face it, for Giants fans he was their Phil Rizzuto (the Baseball Hall of Famer and legendary Yankees announcer who was known for mean dering away from the action on the field)," Papa said. "You got to hear about his golf coach, Roz (his wife), the sweater he picked out, his dog, his kids, and which granddaughter's birthday it was and where they are sitting and who he visited in the parking lot before he came into the stadium and old stories about sharing lockers with the Yankees in Yankee Stadium and being around those great teams, teammates, and coaches. He was a Giants historian on the air for the fans."

Lynch was also fondly recognized for mispronouncing names and other malapropisms. There was the night he kept calling the Carolina Panthers the "Cougars." In 2002, the Giants played the Texans in Houston. Lynch spent most of the game calling the home team the "Houston Astros" or the "Dallas Texans." In Super Bowl XXXV, he continually identified Baltimore quarterback Trent Dilfer as "Kent." He never did get Brad Daluiso's last name correct – Da-loo-see-oh was the most common pronunciation – and Michael Strahan's last name sounded differently every time it flew out of his mouth. And opposing players with complicated names were Papa's to pronounce.

"I usually leave the names to Bob Papa and let him figure it out," Lynch said. "But yeah, I have trouble with the pronunciation of names. Sometimes I get them, sometimes I don't. I don't mean anything by it if I mispronounce a name."

Not surprisingly, Lynch even had a good story about his wedding. He and Roz were married three days before the Giants played the Packers in Green Bay in the 1961 NFL Championship Game. Lynch took Thursday off, returned to the team on Friday, and was on the field when the Giants lost the title game on Dec. 31. Roz was in Green Bay for the game. They returned to New York, then flew to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Dick and Roz Lynch were married 46 years in December.

"I could never have done any of this without her," Lynch said. "There is no doubt, she is the Rock of Gibraltar. Everyone tells me, ‘Thank God you met Roz.' They all understand that the re is only one gal like that. She was tough, but I tried like heck to listen to her all the time."

The Lynches have six children and nine grandchildren. They were slammed by tragedy on 9/11, when their son, Richard, was killed in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. Somehow, Lynch found the courage to broadcast the game when the Giants returned to action in Kansas City just 12 days later.

"It was the toughest thing I ever had to do," Lynch said.

"I don't think Dick ever got over that," Huff said.

At Arrowhead Stadium, he commiserated with Newsday Columnist Shaun Powell, whose brother was killed at the Pentagon on209/11.

"Thank God they gave the week off because I wouldn't have shown up," Lynch said. "I did meet Shaun Powell, who had lost his brother. He and I met and we cried together. It was horrible, it was a tough experience and I really felt like I was on fire. We will never be beaten by terrorists, and I just wanted to let him know and my family know that we were going to move on and do it in their honor. You have to go ahead, you have to take that step forward. You can't stay back. If I had stayed back, maybe I'd be in a closet. I couldn't do it and I felt like I owed it to everyone to be there."

In his son's honor, Lynch founded the Richard and Olivia Lynch Trust, which benefits Richard's daughter, and Dick's granddaughter Olivia, now 4 years old. Money is raised for the fund at the Richard D. Lynch II Memorial Golf Tournament.

Lynch was involved in good causes long before his son's death. He was, after all, one of the nicest, most genuine and most generous people you will ever meet, and he had long been devoted to helping others. The list of charities he worked with included the Association of Retarded Citizens, Connecticut; Staten Island March of Dimes; Stottlemyer Myeloma Foundation; NFL Alumni Fund- Caring for Kids; National Football 911 Charity Fund; Tuesdays Children Scholarship Fund; St. Vincent's Hospital; Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation; Frank Nistico Memorial Scholarship Fund; American Cancer Golf Tournament; and the Wall Street Charity Fund.

"I go to church a lot and when you hear the Bible, all Jesus is saying is, ‘Help others. Give! Help! Don't turn your back,'" Lynch said. "The Giants organization instilled that in me. The Maras and the Tisches are so involved around here, it's unbelievable. I think that what I do now is going to help me when I show up in front of the pearly gates. They will look at me and say, ‘Dick, you didn't turn your back on anybody. Good job.'"

He's going to show up there now. And no doubt, that's what they would have said had Lynch spent the last 48 years selling encyclopedias.

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