Ernie Palladino, Former Giants Beat Writer And WFAN Columnist, Dies

Ryan Chatelain
July 21, 2018 - 7:14 pm
Ernie Palladino
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Ernie Palladino, who covered the New York Giants for 20 years for The Journal News and spent the past seven years as a columnist for WFAN.com, died following a yearslong battle with cancer Saturday morning. He was 63.

Palladino was on the beat for three of the Giants’ Super Bowl runs, including their world titles following the 1990 and 2007 seasons. He also wrote two books: “Lombardi and Landry: How Two of Pro Football's Greatest Coaches Launched Their Legends and Changed the Game Forever” and “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From the New York Giants' Sidelines, Locker Room, and Press Box.”

On WFAN.com, Palladino leaned on his conversational brand of writing as he often took aim at many of New York’s top sports figures.

"Ernie Palladino the writer was unafraid, wise, and witty. As a person he was graceful, genuine, and as reliable as they come," said Chris Colton, former managing editor of WFAN.com. "Ernie was an important voice for New York sports fans across the board. This is a big loss for his readers and those of us who had the pleasure of crossing paths with him."

Other Giants beat reporters described Palladino as someone who wasn't concerned with the cutthroat side of sports journalism and instead took them under his wing early in their careers.

"I would have been absolutely lost in trying to keep up with all that, with all the veteran writers around who knew everybody,” Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant said of covering a star-studded Giants team when he began on the beat in 1992. “I knew nobody. And Ernie reached out and befriended me and made sure that I was in the right places at the right time, was talking to the right people and doing things the right way.

"In what could be a very cold, sink-or-swim, you're-on-your-own kind of business, Ernie was the first one to reach out and be your friend and remain your friend."

Palladino also had personalized greetings for everyone in the Giants’ media room.

Patricia Traina of The Athletic and InsideFootball.com said a dinner organized by Palladino before the Giants’ January 2008 playoff game in Tampa was a breakthrough moment in her feeling comfortable among the reporters on the beat. She initially was reluctant to go, but Palladino insisted she attend and sit next to him.

But beyond his friendliness, colleagues said Palladino, who also taught journalism for 13 years at Long Island University, was simply a teddy bear of a man with a hearty sense of humor -- he was known to go back and forth joking with former Giants coach Dan Reeves. He was also a loving family man who once refused to let go of Tony Bennett’s hand at Giants Stadium while he doted about his son’s musicial accomplishments, Amore said.

"What was great about Ernie, he could always make you laugh,” said Tom Canavan, an Associated Press sports writer in New Jersey whose friendship with Palladino began when they were students at Fordham University. “He had this way about him. He was just friendly."

"No matter how you felt, he just made you feel better,” Traina said. “It could be the worst weather, you could be feeling headache, sick, and he just came into your life, came into the picture and you just felt a sense of calm and happiness, because that's the type of personality he had."

Lawrence Taylor might disagree. In 1995, the Giants great and Palladino had an altercation that generated national headlines. Two years after LT retired, the Giants invited him to practice to give a pep talk to the 0-3 Giants. Reporters were gathered waiting to speak with Taylor, who blew right past them. Long story short: Palladino called LT out, some expletives were exchanged, and before long, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound former linebacker had his right hand wrapped around the 5-5, 170-pound reporter’s neck.

On his blog, Palladino called it the “worst 30 seconds of my career.”

“A smarter guy would have walked away right there,” Palladino wrote. "But smart had gone out the window a long time ago. In fact, I had almost slugged him."

Ernie Palladino poses with a photo of Lawrence Taylor choking him.
Courtesy of Jane McManus

The two apologized to each other later. In saying he was sorry, Taylor tried to give Palladino his All-Madden Team jacket, saying, "You deserve this because you're the only guy I know who's crazier than me." 

But the incident nearly cost Palladino his job.

"The powers that be at his company didn't respect the fact that he stood up for the media,” Canavan said. “I mean, all they saw was Westchester writer gets into tiff with LT, instead of he stood up for the media. He wouldn't let a jerk of a former football player get away with being an idiot."

Added Amore: “To complete the assignment, if he needed quotes from anybody -- whether it was LT or the owners or the coaches or whoever -- he was going to get what he felt he had to have to complete his assignment. And that was really the genesis of why that happened."

In news that obviously hit close to home for Palladino, he recently wrote for WFAN.com about cancer following the revelation that Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is battling the disease.

“As anyone it touches knows, cancer in all its forms is a lousy, scary deal,” he wrote. “Treatment isn’t fun. But judging by the 67-year-old Gettleman’s public comments, he’s ready to meet his tussle with lymphoma head-on, with a positive and feisty attitude. That’s a good thing, considering much of any fight against cancer is waged as much between the ears as with any of the advanced pharmaceuticals he’ll receive.”

Traina was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and bonded with Palladino as they both fought their battles. He made a deal with her, she said: "If you fight this and you kick cancer's ass, you and I are going to have a dance together at the Commissioner's Ball (during Super Bowl week)."

While both were free of cancer at one point, that dance never happened because the Giants haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since and the NFL discontinued the Commissioner’s Ball. But Palladino and Traina did share one brief victory dance in a press box at one point.  

"We just continued to bond,” Traina said. “And I just think the world of him, and I'm just heartsick over his loss."

Palladino is survived by his wife, Diane, and three children -- Andrew, Elizabeth and Kathleen -- and a newborn granddaughter.

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