Former Oakland Tribune local Sports Editor Steve Herendeen, a fun-loving, hardworking, teddy bear of a man who mentored scores of writers during his 31-year newspaper career, died Thursday, a victim of cancer.

Known for his deadline prowess at the newspaper, Herendeen met a final goal he set for himself -- living to see one last birthday. He turned 61 on the day he died at his home in San Ramon.

Herendeen was born April 25, 1952, in San Diego and attended Washington High School in Fremont and what was then Cal State Hayward. He was hired in 1977 as a sportswriter at the Tri-Valley Herald, later becoming the local sports editor at the Herald and Tribune.

Former Oakland Tribune Sports Editor, Steve Herendeen. (Nick Lammers/Bay Area News Group Archives)
Former Oakland Tribune Sports Editor, Steve Herendeen. (Nick Lammers/Bay Area News Group Archives)

After leaving the newspaper in 2008, Herendeen worked for three years with the Employment Development Department of California in Oakland.

Herendeen counted Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley and his brother as neighborhood friends while growing up in Fremont.

"Steve was great friends with my brother (Wallace), and I would pal around with them, being a couple of years younger," Eckersley said Friday. "I remember him being a very good athlete, baseball in particular, when we were kids. He was a real gentle guy, a good guy. And he really loved sports."

A compassionate and thoughtful writer, Herendeen was a champion of high school and local sports.

His thoughtfulness perhaps was best illustrated in 1993 when he received a letter from a heartbroken 9-year-old girl from Tracy who thought her world had ended because the Oakland A's had traded Rickey Henderson, her favorite player.

Herendeen decided he needed to write about Erin States' heartache, and his touching story got the attention of Henderson, who visited the girl and her family. States became Henderson's No. 1 fan and maintained a correspondence with him over the years.

When Henderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, he invited States, her husband and children to Cooperstown, N.Y., to share his joy. Henderson even mentioned in his speech how that 9-year-old girl's passion inspired him.

"If it wasn't for Steve caring so much, I don't know if Rickey ever would have known," States said. "He changed my life."

Herendeen is survived by his wife of eight years, whom he met at the newspaper, Lisa Herendeen, of San Ramon; daughter Lynne Herendeen, of Hayward; son Brett Herendeen, of Walnut Creek; stepdaughter Tiffany Johnson, of Vallejo; stepsons Kyle Johnson and Matthew Johnson, of San Ramon; and brother Scott Herendeen, of Union City.

In addition to his love of the San Francisco Giants, Herendeen enjoyed playing the penny slot machines and spending time with his 11-year-old pug, Calvin.

Services will be at 1:30 p.m. May 4 at Alcosta Senior and Community Center, 9300 Alcosta Blvd. in San Ramon. The family encourages people to wear the Giants' orange and black to the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Junior Giants Community Fund, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107.