John Steadman : 1927 - 2001

January 02, 2001

A sampling of John Steadman's columns:

On saving Memorial Stadium

Baltimore, in taking down Memorial Stadium, must not denigrate a facade that is like no other in the world. It has been a message of everlasting public interest and pride, marveled at by viewers from near and far.

It's devoted to all those who served and made uncalculated sacrifices on behalf of fellow citizens, some in their graves and others still not born. In fact, all humanity. It was the severe cost of enjoying the freedom democracy brings.

The stadium in Baltimore will soon fall as so many tumbling bricks. But the epic memorial message itself, written by 10 veterans of World War II, among those who had been in dugouts and foxholes, cannot be ignored, minimized or, God forbid, desecrated.

- Oct. 29, 2000

On Babe Ruth

Almost make believe, except he was authentic, magnetic, entertaining, exploding with vitality and colorfully animated without knowing it. Yes, and susceptible to all the weaknesses of humankind while endowed with overpowering skills that set him apart as baseball's most accomplished player of all time.

His presence had an almost mythical yet mystical impact on America that no other athlete, before or since, has been able to command. A combination of ability, personality and boisterous charm that drew crowds until his dying day and, yes, even beyond, because 6,600 mourners attended his funeral and another 75,000 were standing in the streets under an oppressive summer sky that was dripping rain, while paying silent tribute as the cortege made its way from New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Babe Ruth died 50 years ago today, at 8:01 p.m., age 53, after a consoling visit from a priest and making peace with his maker. He had been a convert to Catholicism while attending Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School. The cause of his death was cancer, but, only weeks before, he looked up at a visitor, the esteemed Connie Mack, and said, "Mr. Mack, I think the termites got me."... No rags-to-riches story born of fiction or fact ever compared to his.

- Aug. 16, 1998

On John Unitas

It was a passive morning at Passing Fancy, the flat expanse of farmland where John Unitas, wife Sandra and their three children live in comfort and a laid-back, kick-off-your-shoes kind of rural leisure.

Their impeccable white-fenced sanctuary is located in the Long Green Valley, affording a grand vista of the Maryland countryside, away from the public glare but, at the same time, not so private that it's a self-imposed isolation.

Sons Joey and Chad are away at college; daughter Paige is a student at St. Paul's School For Girls. And the most famous player in the history of the Baltimore Colts and the consummate quarterback, the best the NFL has ever known, is recovering from surgery to an arm that was once so lethal it shot holes in otherwise airtight defenses, created an effusion of points and caused scoreboards to short-circuit.

Unitas was a talent unto himself. Physically strong, mentally alert, quietly defiant in the face of all challenges and beyond intimidation. Respected by the men on the other side of the scrimmage line, as well as revered by teammates. A guard named Art Spinney, who played to his left, referred to him as the "meal ticket." To halfback Lenny Moore he was simply "Johnny U."

- Oct. 5, 1997

On Tiger Woods

Consider it a fortunate accommodation, one of the true pleasures of life, that you have lived to actually see Tiger Woods strike a golf ball. It's an experience all unto itself. There has never been anything comparable to the length, accuracy and scoreboard results he's achieving.

No need to study film clips, read dispatches from tournament sites, listen to what contemporary players, or golden heroes of the past, are saying about a young man of 24 whose ability has surpassed the intense examinations that golf offers to anyone, adult or adolescent, who picks up a club and takes aim at the flagstick.

- June 25, 2000

On Robert Irsay

Most of those sitting in judgment of Robert Irsay never knew him. The validation of the record, from a spiritual perspective, will be left to a higher power. This is not to imply that those of us who met him along life's troubled highway are guilty of erroneous or prejudicial assessments in measuring his conduct. Diabolical and irrational behavior became a too-frequent characteristic. It was apparent to most Irsay watchers that he had a vast inferiority complex and a drinking problem. He always appeared uncomfortable in a social setting and was entirely out of his element in a football environment. Was he a bad person and rotten to the core? Was he malicious by purpose or intent? Absolutely not. But in a way he was a tragic individual who was an embarrassment to those around him and, too often, even to himself.

- Jan. 15, 1997

On Jackie Robinson

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