Becca hailed a giant of Jamaican sports journalism

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Tributes flowed for veteran sports journalist Tony Becca who died early yesterday morning at Andrews Memorial Hospital in St Andrew. He was 78 years old.

Opposition Leader and People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips described Becca, who spent many years as sports editor of The Gleaner, as a giant of Jamaican sports journalism.

“We shared a love of cricket and this, over many years, solidified our friendship,” Phillips said. “His passion for and reportage of sport, in particular cricket in Jamaica and the region, elevated many Jamaican and indeed West Indies players unto the world stage. He saw Caribbean sports as a large extension of who we are as a people and he believed that our sports on the world stage was a powerful declaration of nationhood and independence.”

Phillips also said that Becca was not only recognised regionally as the expert in his field, but commanded global respect based on the extent of his knowledge, the reliability of his reports and the range of his experience.

“Becca’s body of work exemplifies his excellent standard of sport journalism. He was always willing and ready to share what he knew. His good nature and engaging disposition will be missed,” the opposition leader said as he offered condolence to his wife Cecelia, family, colleagues, and friends.

The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) expressed sadness at Becca’s passing and described him as a “cricket writer extraordinaire”.

“Becca contributed significantly to a deepening of the relationship between cricket fans and Windies teams, covering the exploits of the Caribbean’s finest since 1974,” PAJ President George Davis said.

According to Davis, Becca was “somewhat of a frustrated cricketer”, who often spoke about his youthful ambition to play the game at a similar standard to two of his heroes — Sir Frank Worrell and Sonny Ramadhin.

“Becca, whose innings ended at 78, was humble to a fault, though those who worked closest with him would testify that his humility was never to be confused with meekness,” Davis added.

He said that in Becca’s long career writing about cricket, he often had to be critical of players venerated, if not worshipped by fans. “But even among those whom he had cause to criticise, many would perhaps say his words carried no malice,” Davis said, adding that in 2005, Becca achieved a milestone when he became only the third West Indian to have reported on 150 Test matches or more from various parts of the world.

“His longevity and the enduring quality of his work are examples for young and aspiring journalists,” the PAJ president said.

Cricket West Indies President Dave Cameron said Becca’s passing has taken from the region “a champion who spent his distinguished career chronicling the ups and downs of the sport he loved so much”.

Noting that Becca has always made an effort to be fair in his writings about West Indies Cricket, Cameron said the late journalist “lived through the glorious years when West Indian bowlers swept all before them and gifted Caribbean batsmen battered the opposing bowlers”.

“Driven by the glory his eyes had seen as the Windies juggernaut tore through world cricket in the 1970s and 1980s, Tony also agonised as our fortunes dipped and he lashed out at administrators and players alike. For over four decades he helped this region understand the game. His body of work is one which will be difficult to replicate. Cricket West Indies, along with other groups across the Caribbean region and in the USA Diaspora, have paid tribute to him because of his work,” Cameron said.

“Tony and I did not see eye-to-eye on everything, but his criticism was always well reasoned, courteous and respectful. He would lay down the odd googly, of course, to keep things interesting, but I always respected his views, drawn from the depth and width of his experience covering the sport. He had a good innings and his mark will long be remembered on the cricket pitches of the West Indies and beyond,” added Cameron.

Becca, who had been ailing for a while, reportedly died from cardiac arrest.

At the time of his passing, he was still writing sports columns for The Gleaner.

Throughout his career he was also sports editor of the now defunct Jamaica Daily News and covered a wide range of sports, including football, boxing, and table tennis of which he was an accomplished player.

In October 2005 he was inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame in Hartford, Connecticut. His fellow inductees that year were Antigua and West Indies fast bowling great Anderson Montgomery, Everton “Andy” Roberts, India’s leg spin wizard Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and the late Alvin “Al” Watson, Hubert Carlyle Miller and Barbara P Lindo for their outstanding contribution to the development of the sport in the United States.

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