Ramon R. 'Ray' Baier, Sun wire room chief

November 20, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Ramon R. "Ray" Baier, retired chief of the Baltimore Sun's communications room who earned a reputation during a nearly 50-year career for being an unflappable newsroom presence, died Tuesday at Franklin Square Hospital Center after he was stricken with a heart attack at his Essex home. He was 72.

Mr. Baier was born in Baltimore and raised in Essex, where he spent the remainder of his life. He attended Kenwood High School until he broke his neck, which left him paralyzed for some time.

Forced to drop out of school, Mr. Baier later earned his General Educational Development certificate.

Mr. Baier began his career as a copy boy in 1953. He was later promoted to communications clerk in what was then called the newspaper's wire room.

In 1973, he was promoted to chief of the communications room, a position he held until he retired in 1999.

In a 1983 interview with Between Editions, an employees' newspaper, Mr. Baier recalled when telegraphers still worked in the old fifth-floor communications room in the 1950s. Bulky teletype machines that transmitted national and foreign news began to displace them.

"The old wire room had 78 teletype machines just before the computers came in the 1970s, and they were piled atop one another," Mr. Baier said in the interview.

Mr. Baier and his communications room staffers were required to master the computers that eventually replaced the teletype machines.

Mr. Baier enjoyed pointing out that though the newspaper paid for thousands of dollars' worth of rooftop satellite discs, they still had to be swept clean of snow and were kept in operation only with help from a $5 straw broom that he stowed in a corner of his office.

"Ray was at his best when major stories were breaking. He was unassailing cool during times of great stress," John H. Plunkett, a former Sun managing editor, said yesterday. "And when the teletype machines would ring with important bulletins, he never made a big show of it like some did."

For years, Mr. Baier worked during the day and after work enjoyed sharing a beer or two with friends or colleagues.

Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Sun reporter who was The Evening Sun's last managing editor, was a longtime friend.

"Ray was part newshound, part dreamer/vagabond, part riverboat gambler, part Essex humorist, part armchair outdoorsman and part pre-dawn optimist who helped make newspapering fun when the morning sun came up in The Evening Sun newsroom," said Mr. Imhoff.

One day, just as Mr. Baier called his wife to say he had to work late, a rousing Dixieland band entered the newsroom.

"My wife asked me where I was calling from, and I told her. It was the first time I told the truth, and she didn't believe me," he told The Sun in a 1993 article on newsroom antics.

Mr. Baier also enjoyed participating in a biannual hunting, fishing and camping trip to the Eastern Shore with several Evening Sun newsroom colleagues.

"It was more of a party than a hunting and fishing trip. Ray couldn't kill anything and just went along to have fun," said his wife of 44 years, the former Joyce Johns, a retired secretary.

A viewing for Mr. Baier will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, with services at 7:30 p.m., at the Connelly Funeral Home, 300 Mace Ave., Essex.

Also surviving are two sisters, Dorothy King of Eastpoint and Vicky Dotterweich of Essex; and many nieces and nephews.

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