ST. LOUIS (AP) Joe Strauss, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who covered baseball for nearly three decades, has died. He was 54.

Post-Dispatch sports editor Roger Hensley told The Associated Press that Strauss's wife called him early Sunday to say Strauss had died that day at a St. Louis hospital from complications related to leukemia.

Strauss, who joined the newspaper in 2002, became a sports columnist in 2012. He previously wrote for the Baltimore Sun and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1Otu7fi ).

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''Joe was certainly capable of writing a column that would pull at your heartstrings, and did so on many occasions,'' Hensley said. ''But when it took a strong voice to deliver something Joe felt the readers and fans of our local teams needed to hear, he pulled no punches. Joe didn't dance around a touchy topic, he hit the hole. When you finished reading a Joe Strauss column, whether you agreed or not, there was no doubt you knew where he stood. And knowing Joe, there's no other way he would have it.

''A beautiful writer, a hard-nosed reporter, an even-handed columnist, and more than all of that, a great friend,'' Hensley added. ''I will miss Joe immensely.''

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Strauss attended the University of Dayton and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983, the same year he joined the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

His first newspaper job was with the Gwinnett Daily News in Georgia, where he was the newspaper's beat writer for the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and the University of Georgia. He later became a national baseball writer and national writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and then joined the Baltimore Sun to cover the Orioles, including the end of Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak of consecutive games played.

Strauss's death comes less than 13 months after Bryan Burwell, another sports columnist for the Post-Dispatch who was on an ESPN show, died in December 2014. The newspaper's film critic, Joe Williams, died in a car accident in July.

''The deaths of Joe Strauss, sports columnist Bryan Burwell and movie critic Joe Williams in a little more than a year have taken an emotional toll on their families and their Post-Dispatch friends,'' Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon said. ''The positive impact of their great careers and their drive to create great work for our readers is how they should be remembered.''

Strauss is survived by his wife, Diana Minardi Strauss, and their daughter, Alexis. Services are pending.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com