Baltimore's best in sports

John Steadman: Hall of Fame sports writer reflected what was good in local athletics.

January 03, 2001

HE WAS A gentle man and a gentleman. Writer John Steadman entertained sports fans with his upbeat newspaper columns for more than half a century. He covered the Baltimore athletic scene with a tenderness and appreciation of the human spirit that few have rivaled.

Mr. Steadman died Monday at 73 after a long struggle with cancer. How ironic that he waited to take his final bow until Baltimore once again had a winning football playoff team to applaud.

He wrote about the human side of sports, the unsung heroes and the untold stories, the adversities athletes overcame. But he took special pleasure in covering football in Baltimore. He knew more about the history of football in this town than anyone. No one ever has written more sympathetically about local athletes, either.

That stemmed from his sunny disposition. Mr. Steadman could be spotted in a crowd by his trademark bushy eyebrows and the fact that he was always striking up a conversation with someone. He had an insatiable curiosity and a genuine love of humanity.

There was nothing phony about him. He identified with the underdog, the little guy. He'd get personally involved in stories, trying to make a difference for a needy individual or a cause. He became a pioneer, for instance, in writing about racial injustice in baseball.

His columns struck some as sugary in their adoration of athletes, overwrought in their prose. But that's the way John Steadman ran his life. He wore his heart on his sleeve. Indeed, he was so polite that he apologized to his dentist during surgical procedures.

His passion for sports matched this city's devotion to its teams. He could be a relentless "homer" in boosting local players; it's what folks wanted to read.

We will miss John Steadman. He may have been writing about sports, but it turned into a chronicle of Baltimore, of its heroes and goats, all-stars and also-rans, winners and losers. He loved them all.

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