Veteran KYW Newsradio sports reporter Jack O'Rourke, 80, dies

Posted: September 17, 2011

Veteran KYW Newsradio sports reporter Jack O'Rourke, 80, died after covering the Phillies-Cardinals game at Citizens Bank Park Friday night.

The station reported that O'Rourke collapsed, but it gave no apparent cause of death.

He was the second KYW reporter to die in less than a week. On Tuesday, Karin Phillips, 53, the station's community-affairs reporter, died after a brief illness.

O'Rourke was noted for "his grin and the twinkle in his eye," KYW newscaster John Ostakovich said on-air Saturday morning.

"He was always in a good mood," KYW sport reporter Tom Maloney said in an interview. "You wouldn't know if anything was wrong.. . .Obviously, he loved what he does, or what he did."

There was no indication that anything was wrong with O'Rourke, said KYW colleague Ron Corbin.

"I talked to him from the Phillies game [Friday], not only on the air but before the game, too," Corbin said. "He was talking about covering the rest of the weekend and a couple of games during the coming week."

"O'Rourke, who was completing his 15th year covering the Phillies for the station, followed the team to Florida for spring training. He reported on all home and away games through the season.

During his KYW career, he covered the Sixers and the Flyers as well, his colleagues recalled.

O'Rourke, who lived in Secane, grew up in the Boston area, and graduated from Emerson College in Boston. He later was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to study at Duke University.

O'Rourke worked for KYW twice during his long broadcasting career. From 1966 to 1969, he was an anchor and City Hall bureau chief.

In 1969, he went to work for NBC Radio in New York, remaining with the network for 20 years.

At NBC, he was either reporter or producer for several Olympic Games during the 1970s and 1980s as well as Super Bowls XIII through XXII, and the controversial 1976 Ali-Norton fight at Yankee Stadium.

He was the radio network's executive sports producer from 1983 to 1989, and won a George Foster Peabody award for his work.

"A nice guy finishing first," Ostakovich said in his tribute.

Returning to Philadelphia in 1989, he briefly worked part-time for all-sports WIP-AM, returning to KYW Radio and the sports beat later that year.

His colleagues said that O'Rourke had no intention of retiring.

"I used to joke with him all the time about that," Corbin said. Then when he'd go to spring training every year, I'd say, 'Jack, I don't know why you still want to go, because we're going to want an awful lot of stuff from you. Don't even take your golf clubs with you, you won't need him.'"

"He loved going to spring training," Corbin said. "I think he was thinking about doing that again next year. He really like his baseball, there's no question about it."

O'Rourke is survived by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the radio station reported.


Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com. Inquirer sports reporter Joe Juliano contributed to this article.

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