Marty Noble, whose capacity to report on baseball and write artful prose about it was surpassed only by his love for the sport, died on Sunday evening in Florida at a ballgame, a family member said.
Noble was a mainstay on New York baseball coverage at Newsday for more than two decades and shaped the way the paper approached his favorite game. He was 70.
Noble grew up in the Bronx and was a college basketball player, but he was best known as a source of information and perspective on the baseball team in Queens. He chronicled the Mets’ rise in the 1980s and their ups and downs in the 1990s. He developed close relationships with players, front office executives and support people. Noble was on either a first-name or nickname basis with an A-list that included Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and David Wright.
The man whom fellow writers considered a wordsmith began his reporting career in New Jersey at the Herald News in 1970 and moved to the Bergen Record in 1972, joining the baseball beat there in 1974.
He arrived at Newsday in 1981. During his early years, the paper had beat writers switch beats during the season, so he went back and forth between the Yankees and Mets. He covered the Mets exclusively from 1990 to 2004 and later worked for MLB.com.
He was widely recognized for decades worth of scoops, from his days with Billy Martin’s Yankees to his seasons with Bobby Valentine’s Mets. When the Mets were flailing in 1999 and replaced their entire coaching staff during a Subway Series against the Yankees, it was Noble who came up with the story a day before the club made its announcement.
He covered the Mets-Braves game in Atlanta on July 4, 1985, that went 19 innings and lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes.
Long before baseball discovered analytics, Noble was a devotee of numbers, and he often used them in his stories and Sunday columns. He was a strong devotee of the Baseball Hall of Fame, usually attending induction weekend festivities even when he was not assigned to cover them.
His ability to dig for stories and find unusual angles became a model for a generation of baseball writers, many of whom wrote for him in his most recent role as editor of the program for the annual New York Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner.
In the most recent edition, Noble expounded for several pages on some of his favorite things in the game. That list was long and eclectic, reflecting his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, especially New York baseball, and his passions for storytelling and the newspaper craft itself.
He maintained his sharp reporting instincts when he later wrote for the major leagues’ digital platform. He covered the Mets for MLB.com and also compiled numerous extremely detailed and engaging obituaries.
He prepared those long before his subjects died, interviewing people who were puzzled by the process. He occasionally spoke about the time he called Ford about a contemporary and explained that the fellow was not yet dead but that his website wanted to have something ready for when the day did arrive. Ford wondered if his own obituary had been prepared yet. Noble told him it had, and Ford offered some additional information.
If there was anything that captured Noble’s heart as much as the sport and his family, it was music. He had encyclopedic knowledge and a passionate devotion to all kinds of music, particularly early rock. His email address was “dw5254,” representing “doo wop” and two of his favorite baseball seasons.