Walter E. Sibiski, printing executive, dies

Star player on the 1943 City College basketball team was Kendel Ehrlich's father

  • Walter Sibiski
Walter Sibiski
April 16, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Walter E. Sibiski Jr., a retired printing salesman who was high scorer and captain of the 1943 City College basketball team, died of congestive heart failure March 28 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 85 and lived in the Mays Chapel section of Timonium.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Fait Avenue in Canton, he was the son of a longshoreman and maritime union president. Family members said that as a boy he often swam from the old cannery piers along Boston Street across the harbor to Fort McHenry. He also chased balls hit outside the grounds of old Oriole Park on 29th Street in Waverly. One of his friends at the International League ball park was Charlie Eckman, later a professional basketball coach, referee and sportscaster.

Mr. Sibiski attended the old Robert E. Lee Junior High School on Cathedral Street and was a 1943 City College graduate. He was an All-Metro athlete in basketball and baseball and played on a team with Sun and News American sportswriter John F. Steadman.

At 6-foot-4, Mr. Sibiski was a respected basketball competitor. His name often appeared in 1940s newspaper sports articles, and he was captain of the City College basketball team. "Walt Sibiski led City College's basketball team to victory over Poly yesterday in the Engineers' gymnasium in a torrid overtime contest," one article said in 1943. "In a bitter rivalry, Sibiski came through to turn the tide."

James Lacy, who played for Loyola High School and competed against Mr. Sibiski, recalled his friend. "He was City College's strongest player," he said. "For a big man, he was agile and fast. He was a high point- scorer and a strong rebounder. He was good defensively as well."

Mr. Sibiski enlisted in the Army after leaving high school. He took pilot's training but his colorblindness grounded him. He was then assigned to Weisbaden, Germany, to establish recreational centers for military personnel. He also served as a bodyguard to Gen. Omar Bradley.

"My father was outgoing and affable. He would have followed directions and taken pride in doing work well," said his daughter, Kim Mudge of Baltimore. "One day he was on the golf course with both Omar Bradley and General [Dwight] Eisenhower."

After the war, he attended Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and played basketball, baseball and golf. He transferred to Loyola College, where he continued playing sports and earned a degree in business.

"He was extremely proud of his time in the Army and the experiences it afforded him," said his daughter. "He also credited the G.I. Bill with helping him further his education."

Mr. Sibiski started a printing business, Magnetics Inc., in East Baltimore, which used the then-new process of magnetic ink on offset presses to code account numbers on bank checks. He later became a salesman for the O.T. Smith Printing Co. in downtown Baltimore. He retired in 2002 after handling accounts for the banking industry.

Mr. Sibiski remained an athlete. He was an avid skier at Oregon Ridge in the 1960s, where he taught another daughter, former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich, to ski.

"He game me a lost commodity, time. He was always there on the sidelines and not being overbearing," Mrs. Ehrlich said. "He enjoyed watching us grow through sports because we were a sports-oriented family."

His attendance at games also included those of his son, Scott Sibiski, who played baseball for the University of Delaware. Scott Sibiski died in 2000.

Mr. Sibiski was an inaugural member of the Hunt Valley Golf Club and competed in senior tournaments.

Mr. Sibiski represented Mays Chapel Ridge in Towson's Fourth of July parade. He called bingo games and sang in the Ridge Boys group.

Services were private.

In addition to his two daughters, survivors include seven grandchildren. His wife of 52 years, the former Ruth Jane Taylor, died in 2002.

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