Harry C. Feldner, 87, sports writer and editor

December 24, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Harry C. Feldner, a retired sports writer and editor who worked for 58 years at the old Baltimore News American and its predecessor newspapers, died Monday after collapsing at his Essex home. He was 87.

By time he retired in 1978, Mr. Feldner had done every type of job in the newspaper's sports department -- from errand boy at the age of 14, to supervising the pages as they were put together in the composing room.

As a boy, in the era preceding radio baseball broadcasting, he stood on a wooden platform downtown helping to operate a giant play-by-play scoreboard giving an account of the World Series. Young Harry rang a bell for every hit -- four times for a home run.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Feldner had only an eighth-grade formal education when he went to work for what was then the Baltimore News -- preceding even William Randolph Hearst Sr., who bought out owner Frank Munsey in 1923.

Mr. Feldner found his way into the sports department, where, among other duties he performed during his nearly six decades there, he covered professional football, including the early days of the Washington Redskins in the 1930s, and handicapped races at Maryland thoroughbred tracks.

Football had been Mr. Feldner's sport, as a lineman on the old semipro Essex Bulldogs in the 1920s. "He would say, 'They can run around me, but they'll never run through me,' " said Mr. Feldner's son, Karl H. Feldner, a sports copy editor for the Wilmington News Journal.

Mr. Feldner ended his playing days after his children were born, concerned about the threat of injury interfering with his livelihood.

His handicapping abilities gained national attention in 1936, when he was one of the few oracles correctly picking Bold Venture at 20-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby. In 1967, he called the Preakness finish 1-2-3, with Damascus the winner.

Having seen most of the 20th century unfold from the front-row vantage point of a newspaper office, Mr. Feldner maintained that the Lindbergh landing in Paris completing the first solo trans-Atlantic flight was the single biggest news event in his lifetime.

In his later years, Mr. Feldner's chief duty was overseeing the page layouts and getting them in on deadline.

Sports Editor John Steadman, writing in the News American about Mr. Feldner's retirement, described him as a "little round man with as much love for his job as he holds for his fellow men."

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mr. Feldner never drank or smoked -- though he would make an occasional wager on the horses. And "there was never an occasion," Mr. Steadman wrote, "when Harry didn't think of others before considering himself."

Even so, there were times he had to act tough to get the job done.

"He would scream about the flow of copy to the composing room and shake his fist at the printer to get the edition in on time," the Steadman tribute said, "but the end result was always to do what was best for the newspaper he loved as if it was his own family."

On his last day at the News, Mr. Feldner's son called to ask how it went. The answer, he recalled, was: "Got my pages off the floor on time."

After his retirement, Mr. Feldner took an active role at the Essex Senior Center, and served as its treasurer.

He also kept up with sports on television.

"One of the last things he said to me," his son said, "was what I thought about the Harold Reynolds deal and if the Orioles got anyone else. He maintained his interest to the end."

Services were to be held today at noon at the Bruzdzinski Funeral Home, 1407 Old Eastern Ave., Essex.

Surviving are his wife of 62 years, the former Clara Milke; a daughter, Mary Lee Frazer of Troy, N.Y.; his son, Karl, of Elkton; a sister, Catherine Kegerries of Harrisburg, Pa; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial donations to St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Essex, 518 Franklin Ave., Essex 21221.

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