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Hal Lebovitz, 89, sports columnist

CLEVELAND -- Hal Lebovitz, a longtime sports writer and award-winning columnist who was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame, died yesterday of cancer. He was 89.

Mr. Lebovitz was a fixture on Cleveland's sports scene for more than 60 years. Since 1984, he was the featured sports columnist for The News-Herald and The Morning Journal of Lorain. Lebovitz wrote the ''Ask Hal" column in which he answered reader questions about sports rules.

''Hal was a legend," said Steve Roszczyk, publisher of The News-Herald. ''Most of our readers know him as one of if not the greatest columnist in Cleveland sports history."

In his final column two weeks ago, Mr. Lebovitz applauded the standing ovation Cleveland fans gave the Indians after the team collapsed in the final week of the season and missed the playoffs.

''There was a robustness about Hal, a bounce in his step," broadcaster Bob Costas told the News-Herald. ''He was a straight shooter, not a potshot artist. He was the kind of guy who got respect not just for his versatility and knowledge, but for his integrity."

Mr. Lebovitz's career began in 1938 when, as a high school teacher and coach, he wrote notes columns on area baseball teams for the Cleveland News. He worked at the paper until it went out of business in 1960, serving as the Indians' beat writer for several years.

The day after the News folded, he was hired by the Plain Dealer and was named the paper's sports editor in 1964, holding that job for 20 years. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

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