Peter Finney – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Jesuit High School/Loyola University
New Orleans States-Item/Times-Picayune
After graduating from Jesuit High school at the age of 17, Peter Finney began a legendary sports journalism career that last nearly seven decades with The States-Item and The Times-Picayune. It is estimated that Finney churned out more than 15,000 columns and 12 million words touching on every aspect of sports in New Orleans. While he was know for his coverage of local sports, he was also well-known and well-respected on the national circuit.
“All I do is write. I never felt like I’ve had to work a day in my life,” Finney said at one of his many Hall of Fame inductions.
During the course of his career, Finney chronicled the history of the New Orleans Saints. The November 1966 edition of the paper trumpeted the arrival of the franchise: “N.O. Goes Pro!” The byline was Finney’s. He also covered the Saints Super Bowl title in 2010.
In addition, he gave fans of New Orleans sports an on-going perspective of LSU football, including the national championships in 1958, 2004, and 2007.
Finney interviewed numerous legendary athletes, including Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Mohammed Ali.
During his tenure, Finney served as the Sports Editor at the Times-Picayune and for many years, but his regular columns in the newspaper were must-read fare for New Orleanians.
“I had talked to a lot of writers when I was in college, but you always remembered Pete because of the accent and the line of questions,” Said Archie Manning. “We always had a great friendship. He was fair and patient. And you always knew you could trust him. I thought so much of him.”
Finney received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. He has also been inducted into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame (2013), the LSU Manship School of Communications Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Writer’s Hall of Fame, the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and the United States Basketball Writers Hall of Fame. He was named the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Columnist of the Year four times and in 1989 he received the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism. He was also named Sportswriter of the Year for Louisiana from the National Sportscasters and Sports Writers Association 17 times. In 1971, he was named the Jesuit High School Alumnus of the Year.
As a student-athlete at Loyola University New Orleans, Finney was a starter on the basketball team as a junior and senior year for the Wolf Pack. After graduating as a two-year letter winner, Finney took the helm as head coach of the “Wolfpups,” Loyola’s freshmen basketball team. He led the squad to be the New Orleans SAAU Champions.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Finney served as the Sports Information Director for the Wolf Pack, providing game results and stats to local media outlets.
Born October 17, 1927, in New Orleans, Finney lived there his entire life with the exception of his time in the Louisiana Air National Guard in the early 1950s. He died August 13, 2016, in New Orleans at the age of 88.
The following is Peter Finney’s obituary from the New Orleans Advocate on August 13, 2016. Written by Ted Lewis, a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.
Peter Finney, a New Orleans sportswriting institution for almost seven decades, died August 13 at his home in the same city where he was born. He was 88.
Finney began his career with the New Orleans States in the summer of 1945, covering American Legion baseball shortly after graduating from Jesuit High School.
His final column — on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos’ loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII — appeared in The Times-Picayune on Feb. 3, 2014, just shy of a year following the death of his wife of 61 years, Deedy, whom Finney called “my best friend.”
Declining health may have ended Finney’s active career, but, according to his oldest son, Peter Jr., almost until the end he would insist that he was supposed to be out covering an event.
“My dad was in the business with essentially the same company and doing the same job for 68 years,” Peter Jr. said. “But it never got boring to him. I think that’s why even though his memory was fading, his mind kept telling him it was time to get up and go. Dad always felt like he needed to be the provider.”
What Finney provided to his readers was a sustained level of excellence at his craft, marked by clarity, simplicity and first and foremost asking the questions he felt the public wanted – and needed – to know.
“It was the Finney style,” said Angus Lind, a newspaper colleague from 1970 to 2009. “Peter had this way of asking questions that was unique and then putting his own God-given spin on things, even if he was the worst typist I ever knew.
“Peter was always great reading – so insightful. New Orleans was blessed to have the quality of Peter’s work for so long. I just loved the guy.”
Archie Manning, whose exploits first at Ole Miss and then with the Saints Finney chronicled before later writing about his sons, called Finney “a pretty special person.”
Manning recalled the instant rapport he felt with Finney when the writer showed up in Oxford, Mississippi, shortly after the Saints had chosen Manning in the 1971 draft.
“I had talked to a lot of writers when I was in college, but you always remembered Pete because of the accent and the line of questions,” Manning said. “We always had a great friendship.
“He was fair and patient. And you always knew you could trust him. I thought so much of him.”
Peter Paul Finney was born Oct. 17, 1927, in New Orleans and lived there his entire life with the exception of his time in the Louisiana Air National Guard in the early 1950s.
Between his graduation from Jesuit, where he was editor of the Blue Jay, and his freshman year at Loyola, he embarked on his sportswriting career with the New Orleans States.
The States became The States-Item in 1958 and in 1980 was merged with The Times-Picayune.
Working as the lead columnist for all three publications, Finney turned out an estimated 15,000 columns and 12 million words touching on local, national and world events and personalities.
Although he had numerous opportunities to leave New Orleans for more lucrative opportunities, he never did, a decision longtime Newark Star-Ledger columnist and close friend Jerry Izenberg said was both the right one and fortunate for his home town.
“If it was divine intervention at Pete’s birth, the Lord said, ‘I’m gonna make this guy a newspaperman where he will be appreciated,’ ” Izenberg said. “Peter was the journalistic soul of New Orleans. He was the journalistic voice of New Orleans.
“And he loved New Orleans. That covers it all.”
Known for his affability, Finney rarely took negative positions that were personal.
But in 2005, when Saints owner Tom Benson reportedly was maneuvering to move the team to San Antonio permanently following Hurricane Katrina, Finney wrote a column addressed directly to Benson, asking him to have “faith in New Orleans.”
He wrote: “We don’t know if a billion-dollar business will be able to flourish again in a city of the dead. But in our post-Katrina world, faith is a message which should be embraced by Tom Benson immediately, not next week, not next month and definitely not next year.
“He should tell us as a resident of the city which gave him life and prosperity he has FAITH in the future of that city. Faith that New Orleans will recover and become a living symbol of what faith can accomplish.”
Over the years, Finney received a host of honors, including being named Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year 17 times. He was voted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and the Saints Hall of Fame.
He received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the A.J. Liebling Award for outstanding boxing writer and the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award from the Saints Hall of Fame.
He was elected to the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication Hall of Fame and the Loyola New Orleans School of Mass Communication Den of Distinction.
At the ceremony for that award, Finney said, “All I do is write. I never felt like I’ve had to work a day in my life.”
Finney also was named the Jesuit Alumnus of the Year in 1974.
Along with his newspaper writing, Finney authored “The Fighting Tigers, 1893-1993: One Hundred Years of LSU Football,” “Pistol Pete: The Story of College Basketball’s Greatest Star” and “The Best of Peter Finney, Legendary New Orleans Sportswriter,” a compilation of 75 of his best columns assembled with the assistance of Peter Jr.
Along with Peter Jr., survivors include two other sons, Timothy and Michael Finney; three daughters, Barbara Weilbaecher, Jane Haas and Elizabeth Donze; a brother, Thomas Michael Finney; a sister, Patricia Finney Daniels; 20 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.