Funeral held for cartoonist Bill Gallo

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn't know late New York Daily News cartoonist and columnist Bill Gallo very well.

That didn't matter.

Cashman felt obligated to pay homage -- as well as his respects -- to a man referred to by many as "a New York institution."

"He's irreplaceable. I was thinking about that driving in today. He was simply a landmark, a true legend and he will be irreplaceable," said Cashman, who was one of more than 500 people to attend Gallo's funeral Mass Friday morning at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. "He carved out a niche that you cannot replace. People really looked forward to seeing how he would capture something in the New York area of sports. And it was an honor to have him capture your image."

Gallo, who worked at the Daily News for a staggering 70 years, died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia. He was 88 years old.

"If you grew up in New York over the past 40 years or so, he was just a part of New York life," said former New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who was also in attendance. "You woke up in the morning, opened the Daily News sports page, and at some point in time you would go to Bill Gallo.

"From [his caricature of diehard Mets fan Basement] Bertha to Casey Stengel to Muhammad Ali, he's a part of New York. We lost a part of New York."

Cashman said he'll never forget Gallo's caricature of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whom Gallo referred to as "General Von Steingraber" due to his uncanny ability to make headlines in the tabloids.

"I don't know if there's anything better than his caricatures of George," Cashman said. "They were spectacular. Talk about a picture that really says it all."

Other luminaries in attendance at Gallo's funeral included former Yankees great Gene "Stick" Michael and New York Giants owner John Mara. Several of Gallo's former Daily News colleagues, as well as other distinguished members of the journalism community, also came to say their emotional goodbyes to the man they called a dear friend.

Police commissioner Raymond Kelly forged a friendship with Gallo years ago when the two -- both former Marines -- met at a Golden Gloves boxing event.

"Bill Gallo was my hero," Kelly said during his eulogy. "It was a privilege to know him and call him my friend."

Kelly likened Gallo to all of the fighters Gallo used to cover as a Daily News boxing columnist for his resilient, never-say-die attitude, one that served Gallo well throughout his life.

"As a newsman, as a Marine, as a man of conscience, Bill Gallo left an indelible mark on his city and his country," Kelly continued. "New York City will go on without Bill Gallo. So will America. But right now, I just don't see how."

Gallo was born on Dec. 28, 1922, in Manhattan. His father, Frank, a Spanish immigrant and former journalist with La Presa, died of pneumonia at the age of 36 when Bill was just 11 years old.

Gallo became a copy boy with the Daily News when he was 18.

Gallo was also a World War II veteran, having served in the Pacific, including landing in a foxhole on Iwo Jima where 6,820 of his Marine comrades died. About a dozen Marine Corps reserve unit members attended the Mass. His wooden casket was covered with an American flag.

He graduated from Columbia University and eventually distinguished himself as a legendary sports cartoonist and columnist at the Daily News. In a city aglow with personalities, he became close friends with the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio.

"I suspect that his father would have wept with joy if he could've witnessed even a part of the long presence of Bill Gallo in the newspaper that for many years owned New York," Gallo's former Daily News colleague Peter Hamill said.

Gallo's last cartoon appeared April 19 in the Daily News. He fought pneumonia from a hospital bed in White Plains, bringing paper and paint brushes with him.

Gallo would send his work via FedEx, or have it picked up and delivered to the Daily News' office.

Art was his gift, and he loved to create it.

"I'm more in the sports business, so I can tell you that I'm not someone that truly appreciates art," Cashman said. "But Bill Gallo, they probably ought to house all of his work in a really special place, because it was that popular. He was truly one of New York's most famous artists of all time, and that's truly amazing in itself."

Before the funeral procession was over, Gallo's son, Greg, a former sports editor at the New York Post, delivered a touching eulogy of his own, describing how he and Bill, a former semi-pro ballplayer with the Astoria Pirates, who was nicknamed "Scoop" for his ability to snap rockets at third base, used to play catch every Father's Day.

They last threw the ball in June 2010. No words were said, but their game of catch lasted only five minutes because Gallo was having trouble with his lungs.

"So go ahead, Dad," said Gallo, who was wearing his father's old baseball glove at the altar. "Put on that glove. Play ball."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.