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COOK, DANIEL JOHN, JR. [DAN]

Daniel John [Dan] Cook, Jr. (1926–2008).
Legendary sportswriter and sportscaster Dan Cook had a career in sports journalism that spanned more than five decades. One colleague referred to him as "a San Antonio institution." Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

COOK, DANIEL JOHN, JR. [DAN] (1926–2008). Texas sportscaster and journalist Daniel “Dan” John Cook, Jr, was born on August 12, 1926, in Houston, Texas. He was the son of Daniel John Cook, Sr., and Mary (Marmion) Cook. In Houston, he attended St. Thomas High School, where he excelled in sports, and went on to study at the University of Houston for two years. In 1944, when he was seventeen years old, Cook went to work at the Houston Post and earned $25 a week. He stayed there for five years, followed by three years in Beaumont, where he wrote for the Enterprise. In 1950 he met Katherine “Katy” Elliott in Beaumont, and they married on November 24, 1952. They immediately moved to San Antonio, where Cook had accepted a job as a copy editor and writer for the San Antonio Express-News earlier that year.

Dan Cook, in retrospective, commented that he had initially planned to use San Antonio as a stepping stone for his sports journalism career and move on to a bigger market, but soon he grew fond of the Alamo City and thus began his fifty-one-year career writing for the San Antonio Express-News. In 1956 Cook also went to work as a sportscaster for KENS-TV. He became the station’s first primetime sportscaster in 1957 and served as sports anchor until 2000. 

Cook was known for his fearless, no-nonsense style and quickly became, as Express-News sportswriter John Whisler later characterized, “a San Antonio institution” who garnered respect from his peers and readers beyond South Texas to national circles. His debut sports column in the Express-News on November 29, 1956, began a run of more than 10,000 columns that spanned almost six decades. From 1960 to 1975 he served as executive sports editor. At one point Cook turned down a chance to be a syndicated columnist in Chicago in order to stay in his adopted home of San Antonio. He maintained a staggering output and schedule. During the 1970s, for example, while he served as Express-News sports editor, he wrote six columns a week, recorded two daily radio commentaries, anchored television sportscasts at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., served as president of the Texas Sportswriters Association, and also owned a bar called Dan Cook’s Time Out. He had a penchant for poker, practical jokes, and tall stories. His alter ego that he dubbed “Benjamin P. Broadhind” in his columns became a favorite character for readers. But Cook was highly-respected by the national sports media and counted other high-profile writers such as Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News and Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald as friends. 

During his fifty-seven years in sports news, Cook interviewed many sports legends, including Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Muhammad Ali, and Tom Landry. He also often made reference to a memorable interview with pro wrestler Fritz von Erich who demonstrated his “Iron Claw” on the sportscaster. Cook attended some twenty-six Super Bowls, numerous basketball finals, baseball series, major boxing matches, and other national sporting events during his career. 

Cook has also been credited for coining the phrase “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” The phrase came about and was popularized during a 1978 KENS-TV sportscast in reference to the San Antonio Spurs versus Washington Bullets battle in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. Cook was making the point that, while the Spurs had won the game, the series had not yet ended. The saying was later picked up by the Washington coach as well as the Washington Post. Cook stated that he had actually used the phrase in a column two years earlier. Some sources have attributed the origin of the quote to a column in the Dallas Morning News in 1976. Cook’s popularization is credited in sources such as Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

Cook won the Express-News’s Hearst Eagle Award in 1995. In 1996 he was enshrined in the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame. Among his civic activities, in 1996 Cook initiated a campaign to save and restore a community center in downtown San Antonio. He also began an annual golf tournament as a fundraiser. Upon completion of the project in 2004, the facility was renamed the Dan Cook Youth Center. At the end of Cook’s final sportscast on KENS-TV on November 29, 2000, a “Fat Lady” came out on the news set and sang to him. In 2001 his book The Best of Dan Cook: Collected Columns from 1956 to 1990 was published. Cook retired from the Express-News in 2003. His last column appeared on August 3, 2003. That year the Dan Cook Scholarship for Sports Writing was established. The Express-News also initiated the Dan Cook Cup—an all-sports award for San Antonio area high schools.

Dan Cook passed away in San Antonio on July 3, 2008. He was eighty-one years old and was survived by his wife Katy, daughters Marie and Alice, and son Danny. He was buried in Sunset Memorial Park in San Antonio. His colleague and Express-News columnist David Flores called Cook “one of the last great sportswriters of his generation.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. Scott Bailey, “Dan Cook: The fat lady still isn’t ready to sing,” San Antonio Business Journal (March 2002) (http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2002/04/01/story8), accessed October 17, 2016.  Dan Cook, The Best of Dan Cook: Collected Columns from 1956 to 1990 (San Antonio: Corona Publishing Company, 2001). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989, Bartleby.com (http://www.bartleby.com/73/1817.html), accessed May 4, 2017. San Antonio Express-News, July 4, 5, 2008; November 14, 2016. Jennifer Speake, ed., Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (6th ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Laurie E. Jasinski and Amanda Veselka

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Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski and Amanda Veselka, "Cook, Daniel John, Jr. [Dan] ," accessed October 18, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcoff.

Uploaded on May 7, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.