News your connection to The Boston Globe

Seymour Masin, basis of Roth character

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J. -- Seymour ''Swede" Masin, a star high school athlete in Newark and the inspiration for a character in novelist Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning book ''American Pastoral" died Saturday. He was 85.

Mr. Masin starred in basketball, track, and football at Weequahic High School in the 1930s. He was considered to be one of Newark's greatest athletes.

''For him to dominate in everything was amazing," said Jerry Izenberg, a columnist for The Star-Ledger of Newark. ''He was the guy that the entire city of Newark knew. He was so complete, he had the physical strength to match his talent."

Mr. Masin was captain of the basketball, soccer, and track teams at Panzer College, which is now part of Montclair State University, and led its basketball team on a streak of 44 straight victories.

After serving as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II, Mr. Masin played professional basketball for the Newark Bobcats in the American Basketball League, which was a precursor to the NBA. Mr. Masin later worked as a liquor salesman.

In his novel, Roth -- who attended Weequahic High School about a decade after Mr. Masin -- wrote of a character named ''The Swede," calling him ''a magical name in our Newark neighborhood, even to adults just a generation removed from the city's old Prince Street ghetto and not yet so flawlessly Americanized as to be bowled over by the prowess of a high school athlete."

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Masin leaves three sons and six grandchildren.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives