DALLAS – Retired longtime Associated Press sports writer Denne H. Freeman, whose 32 years with the AP included covering all five Super Bowl championships won by the Dallas Cowboys and many golf majors, has died after a series of health issues. He was 86.
Freeman’s family said he died Friday night at a Plano hospital, where he was surrounded in his final hours by his wife, Judy, his son Danny and daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and his two great-grandsons.
The Dallas-based Freeman retired from the AP in the summer of 1999, ending a career in which he was also a golf writer who often traveled to the four majors: the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open. After his retirement, it was determined that he had covered about 1,000 MLB games, 500 NBA games and 350 NFL games for the AP.
After joining the AP in 1967, he became the Texas Sports Editor a year later when Harold Ratliff retired. He went to the AP from UPI, where as a news reporter he was involved in the coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.
A 1959 graduate of Texas A&M, Freeman served in the U.S. Army before beginning his full-time journalism career.
The Cowboys were the only pro team in the Dallas-Fort Worth market when Freeman became the Texas Sports Editor, and they hadn't yet won a championship. By time he retired, they had been to eight Super Bowls and the Dallas area had added MLB, NBA and NHL teams.
Freeman covered the Cowboys' championship seasons in 1971 and 1977 with coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach. There were also the three championships in four seasons (1992, 1993 and 1995) after Jerry Jones became their owner.
Freeman won a prestigious Headliner’s Award for his coverage of Landry’s firing by Jones after he bought the team in 1989. Freeman was the first person to interview Landry, then the franchise’s only coach since its 1960 inaugural season.
“The glory of five Super Bowl seasons made covering the Cowboys the plum assignment of any sports writer in the country. They had become `America’s Team,’ and Landry was ‘America’s Coach,’” Freeman wrote in the prologue of the 2001 book, “I Remember Tom Landry.”
Freeman wrote that book with Jaime Aron, who worked with Freeman and succeeded him as the Texas Sports Editor. Freeman also authored “Hook ’Em Horns: A Story of Texas Football,” that came out in the mid-1970s.
Aron was able to visit Freeman on Friday, when the two shared some laughs and memories. That included a discussion on Freeman’s favorite golf courses – among them Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. He smiled when recalling birdies he made on the 18th hole at Augusta and No. 7 at Pebble Beach.
An exclusive interview with famed golfer Ben Hogan in 1971 earned Freeman an AP National Award. He was chosen the Texas Sportswriter of the Year in 1980 and inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame last year.
He reported on Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan’s seventh no-hitter and 5,000th career strikeout, both while with the Texas Rangers, the MLB franchise that moved from Washington, D.C., in 1972.
Freeman was part of the AP coverage of the Olympics in Montreal (1976) and Los Angeles (1984), and covered 31 Cotton Bowls while writing about Southwest Conference football and later the Big 12. He also wrote about horse racing and college basketball.