Larry Eldridge, a former Christian Science Monitor sports editor, was as enthusiastic about teaching and playing chess or a whirlwind weekend trip to New York City with his wife to catch the latest musical as he was about writing his next column.
“He had a passion for excellence and appreciated the same quality in others — fellow chess players, performers, and athletes,” said his wife, Joyce. “Larry admired people who were doers and gave it their all.”
He began his four decades as a journalist as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the mid-1950s, continued with the Associated Press in Portland, Maine, and Boston, and ended as the Monitor’s sports editor from 1975 until the late 1980s, when the section was discontinued.
Mr. Eldridge, who also hosted the Monitor Network’s “Eldridge on Sports” program on Channel 68, died June 18 from complications of congestive heart failure. He was 84 and lived in West Newton.
He covered all summer and winter Olympic Games from 1972 to 1980 and was “a wonderful gentleman, always affable and gracious and unperturbed,” said former Globe sportswriter John Powers. “His approach was ideal for the Olympics, which provided Larry with a deep and varied pool of athletes whose backgrounds were particularly intriguing to the Monitor’s followers, whose interests were more global than readers of most other newspapers.”
Ross Atkin, who worked alongside Mr. Eldridge for nearly 20 years, recalled that the Monitor’s sports section was feature-driven, “and that was one of Larry’s strengths. He was a renaissance man, and while there were other interests that enriched his life, he was very serious about being a sports editor.”
A board member of the Massachusetts Chess Association, Mr. Eldridge brought a chess player’s analysis to whatever he did, Atkin said, adding that “he took logical steps in his writing, had an easy to read style, and wanted to reach you intellectually.”
Mr. Eldridge’s eclectic repertoire of stories included an interview with Ted Williams when the Red Sox slugger was an instructor at Boston’s spring training camp; a retrospective of Jesse Owens’s gold medal triumphs at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Berlin; a visit by Muhammad Ali to Harvard University; and a first-person account of learning to waterski at a show in Florida. Of that endeavor he wrote: “It was all great fun — until the next morning, when my forearms, my thighs, and just about every other moving part reminded me that they weren’t quite used to such activity.”
His son Larry Jr. of Portland, Ore., said Mr. Eldridge was “a student of history who liked to tell a story with perspective and a frame of reference. He taught me early in my life about Jackie Robinson and the bigger picture of what Robinson accomplished.”
Larry Jr., who once wrote freelance stories for Mr. Eldridge at the Monitor, said his father was “a fan of big performances and big moments, and a remarkable father who was not only my best friend, but also best man at my wedding.”
Mr. Eldridge, who at one point wrote a poem for a magazine about horse racing in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” also appeared on stage with his son in “The King and I” with the Lyric Theater in Portland, Maine, in the 1960s.
A son of William S. Eldridge, who taught in the Philadelphia school system and at Haverford College, and the former Irene Dougherty, Mr. Eldridge attended Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1958 from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in English.
In 1967, he met Brown University graduate Joyce Leffler while visiting the Associated Press bureau in Portland, Maine, where she was a reporter. “That was the Red Sox Impossible Dream season,” she said, adding that his invitation to a game at Fenway Park marked the beginning of their relationship. They married in 1970 and lived in West Newton for 44 years.
The Eldridges shared several trips for his assignments, including to the World Championship chess match in Reykjavik, Iceland, when Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky during the summer of 1972, and the tragic Munich Olympics right after, when a Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, along with a German police officer.
Mr. Eldridge had talked the Monitor into sending him to Iceland “because he was en route to Munich,” recalled Joyce, who retired last December as director of communications and media relations at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham. “The Reykjavik assignment was a thrill for him, being around the greatest chess players in the world, some of whom he had written about or whose games he had studied.”
Mr. Eldridge, who achieved a Class A rating as a tournament player at the MetroWest and Boylston chess clubs, hired Arthur Bisguier, a former US champion, to write a chess column for the Monitor.
“Larry was a legend, a walking encyclopedia of chess,” said George Mirijanian, a former Massachusetts Chess Association president. “He was a fierce competitor, so intense that he rarely left his board, but he had a calm and steady composure and took losses gracefully.”
Mirijanian added that Mr. Eldridge was generous with his extensive chess library, donating books and magazines to the association for fund-raising auctions.
Mr. Eldridge was also a popular chess coach and instructor whose students posted a long list of victories at the state scholastic team championships and other tournaments. Until recently, he taught afternoon chess classes in most of Newton’s 15 elementary schools. His son Ross, a former state elementary school champ who also lives in Newton, teaches many of the same classes.
A service has been held for Mr. Eldridge, who in addition to his wife and two sons leaves another son, Scott of Phoenixville, Pa.; three daughters, Janis Yost of Wayne, Pa., Nicole Marcus of Miami, and Robin of Cambridge; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
“He was totally devoted to his children and always wanted the best for us,” said Larry Jr., general manager at Comcast SportsNet Northwest. “He did everything to empower us in ways that made sense for us, whether it was sports, ballet, theater, or chess. Most importantly, he instilled in us his own appreciation for the varieties that life had to offer.”
In a eulogy, Nicole said her father “brought such immeasurable joy to our family,” and that he “bestowed on us love unconditionally, and thereby taught us all how to do the same.”
Marvin Pave can be reached at email@example.com.