When Andre Laguerre became managing editor of SI in 1960 and began the changes that spurred the floundering six-year-old magazine toward editorial excellence and profitability, one of his first moves was to lure Richard Gangel from LIFE and hire him as SI's art director. By the time Gangel retired, in 1981, no one, except Laguerre, had been more influential in the magazine's success.
Gangel, who died last week in Weston, Conn., at the age of 83, was an artistic genius but a practical one who understood the needs of business. His layouts showed his intuitive feel for the new, the surprising, the significant. Gangel persuaded topflight artists, such as Arnold Roth and Bernie Fuchs, to focus on sports. "Art provides a counterpoint," Gangel said in 1973, "a more personal side. It enables us to look at old friends in a fresh way, the old friends being baseball, football and the rest."
A decorated World War II fighter pilot, Gangel was a man of restless energy who was renowned for his own paintings and sculptures. In the '80s Gangel designed stamps for the U.S. Postal Service that honored famous athletes—Babe Ruth and Jim Thorpe among them—while also turning out works of remarkable originality that were exhibited in galleries in New York, Connecticut and elsewhere. In SI's hall of fame Dick Gangel occupies a special place.