Growing up in Minneapolis, John Wiebusch aspired to be a sportswriter.
Wiebusch realized his goal by working for newspapers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles before going to work for the National Football League as a writer and editor.
During his 33-year career with the NFL, he wrote and/or edited more than 100 books, eventually becoming executive vice president and editor in chief of NFL Properties.
Wiebusch died on Aug. 21 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 74.
“John was a great contributor to the NFL,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail. “He produced outstanding books and other publications that brought the game closer to the fans. At heart he was a writer, and he did that and everything else he produced in high style that served NFL fans with distinction.”
Wiebusch, who was raised in Minneapolis, attended Concordia Academy in St. Paul. After graduating from high school in 1957, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he majored in English.
“He always dreamed of being a sportswriter,” said Joyce French, his sister. “As a child he followed every sport — baseball, basketball, football — and kept statistics. We lived in north Minneapolis and John took the city bus to St. Paul for school. He was a night owl. It was my job to make sure he got up in the morning to catch the bus. ”
Wiebusch, who started working at the Minneapolis Tribune — in the circulation department — while still in high school, joined the sports staff of the Tribune in 1961. In late 1967, he left the Tribune to join the sports staff of the Los Angeles Times.
In 1970 he was hired by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle as a writer/editor for the league’s gameday programs.
“John’s interests were widespread,” said retired Minneapolis journalist Jim Klobuchar. “He knew all sports well. He covered a lot of baseball for the Tribune and the Times. He was a thorough professional. He was fair. He believed in good journalism and he believed in responsible journalism. That’s a good combination. I never saw a piece that he wrote that was bad.”
Klobuchar pointed out that Wiebusch’s “entry into the NFL coincided with the league’s rise in popularity. Rozelle put together a great team, and John brought the NFL a lot of attention. Even though he worked for the NFL, he was aware of the league’s growing pains. He was thoughtful and well-regarded. He was an excellent editor.”
After retiring from the NFL in 2003, he continued to write as a columnist for AOL for several years.
“John retired earlier than he probably wanted because of health reasons,” said Klobuchar.
“John had two health issues,” said French. “He had Kennedy’s Disease, which runs in families. It’s a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. Our brother Gary, who died seven years ago, had it. And, John had Parkinson’s. It got to the point where he couldn’t type anymore. It was extremely frustrating for him. But up until the very end, he was positive and had a great sense of humor.”
In addition to his sister, Wiebusch is survived by Susan, his wife of 45 years, of Topanga, Calif.
“I miss him,” said Klobuchar. “We corresponded and we’d get together when he visited the Twin Cities. But travel got tougher for him.”
A celebration of Wiebusch’s life will be held in Brentwood, Calif., on Oct. 12.