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The 15: Current Sports Media Personalities With Baltimore Ties

May 15, 2015

Throughout the years, the city of Baltimore has been a breeding ground for some of the finest current sports journalists and media personalities around the country. Whether it's been in the print, digital or broadcast mediums, there have been a plethora of talented sports reporters, columnists and talk-show hosts who have made the most of their time in Charm City. Here's a look at the top 15 sports media personalities with Baltimore ties, listed in order, to make the jump to the national stage.

1. Frank Deford

Dubbed "the world's greatest sportswriter" by GQ, Deford, 76, has become one of the most renowned and revered sports voices in print media since beginning his career as a researcher at Sports Illustrated in 1962. He is one of only two journalists with multiple features in "The Best American Sports Writing of the Century," a selection of the 50 best pieces of sports writing of the 20th century. The Baltimore native and Gilman graduate is a six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year winner and garnered enshrinement into the National Association of Sportscaster and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1998. Deford has also won both an Emmy and Peabody Award for his broadcast work on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" and NPR's "Morning Edition," respectively.

2. Ken Rosenthal

Before serving as the lead field reporter for "MLB on Fox" and senior baseball writer for, Rosenthal made his mark at The Baltimore Sun as a baseball writer and columnist from 1987-2000. During his time at The Sun, Rosenthal, a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, won Maryland Sportswriter of the Year five times. Rosenthal broke onto the national scene after joining The Sporting News as a senior baseball reporter in 2000. He worked in that role for five years before joining Fox in 2005. In addition to his current duties at Fox, Rosenthal has served as an insider and studio analyst at MLB Network since its inception in 2009.

Issue 209: Tim Kurkjian
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

3. Tim Kurkjian

Baltimore was one of many stops for Kurkjian before he became known on ESPN's national stage. He worked briefly at the now-defunct Baltimore News-American in 1981 before returning to Charm City to cover the Orioles for The Sun in 1986 after a four-year stint at The Dallas Morning News. The University of Maryland alumnus left the O's beat and The Sun in 1989, when he joined Sports Illustrated as a senior baseball writer. Kurkjian's extensive background covering baseball has served him well during the last 17 years at ESPN, where his work regularly appears on, ESPN The Magazine, "SportsCenter" and "Baseball Tonight."

4. Buster Olney

Robert Olney III, better known as Buster Olney, used a two-year run as the Orioles beat writer for The Sun from 1995-96 as a springboard to a national position. He spent six years at The New York Times, covering three consecutive World Series-winning New York Yankees teams from 1998-2000, before joining ESPN following the 2001 season. Olney, like Kurkjian, has become a fixture on ESPN's digital and print platforms since joining the network. The Washington, D.C., native also authored "The Last Night of The Yankee Dynasty," a 2004 New York Times best seller chronicling the Paul O'Neil and Tino Martinez Yankees' dynasty of 1996-2001.

5. Kevin Van Valkenburg

Now a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine, Van Valkenburg arrived in Baltimore after graduating from the University of Montana in 2000 to join The Sun. In 11 years at The Sun, Van Valkenburg demonstrated his versatility as a wordsmith, resulting in numerous awards for the Missoula, Mont., native, including four honors from the Associated Press Sports Editors. A two-part profile Van Valkenburg penned, "Rayna's Second Season," about former Virginia Tech women's basketball player Ryna DuBose's bout with meningococcal meningitis was honored in the 2005 edition of "The Best American Sportswriting."

6. Franz Lidz

Having written the "Insect Jazz" column for Baltimore City Paper in the late 1970s, Lidz's journey to Sports Illustrated seemed unlikely. The New York City native had never read the magazine and covered one sporting event -- a pigeon race -- prior to his arrival to the publication in 1980. But that hasn't stopped Lidz from becoming one of the top feature sportswriters. In 2013, Lidz co-wrote an unprecedented Sports Illustrated cover story on NBA player Jason Collins, the first active male in one of the four major sports to announce he was gay.

7. Richard Justice

These days, you can find Justice roaming around ballparks on MLB Network and his byline at as an executive correspondent. Justice, who has covered MLB for more than three decades, was lured away from one of his first jobs at The Sun to become The Washington Post's national baseball writer. The University of Texas graduate left The Post in 2004 after 14 years and returned to Texas to become a columnist for The Houston Chronicle.

8. Jamison Hensley

Hensley was born and raised in Baltimore, delivering The Sun in Northeast Baltimore during his childhood. He eventually worked his way up the totem pole, starting on the Ravens beat at The Sun during the team's first Super Bowl championship season in 2000. Eleven years later, Hensley, a Maryland graduate, joined and has continued to cover the Ravens for the site ever since. Last year, Hensley completed his first book, "Flying High: Stories of the Ravens," recounting the franchise's first 18 years in Baltimore.

9. Jason La Canfora

A Baltimore native and Towson, Md., resident, La Canfora got his start at The Sun as an intern in 1995, providing him the experience that would soon make him one of the top "NFL Insiders." His first NFL beat writer position came down the road in D.C., where he spent six of his 10 years at The Washington Post reporting on the Redskins. La Canfora then replaced Adam Schefter as an insider for NFL Network and prior to the 2009 season. Since May 2012, La Canfora has worked as an insider for and appears every week during the season on CBS' pregame show, "The NFL Today."

Sage Steele (headshot)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of ESPN

10. Sage Steele

While she has established herself as a star at ESPN, Steele became a stable presence as Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic Ravens beat reporter, starting with the network the day it launched April 4, 2001. Steele, whose brother, Chad, is the Ravens' senior director of public relations, also worked as one of Comcast SportsNet's main anchors during her seven-year tenure with the network. She spent her first five years at ESPN co-hosting "SportsCenter," and now hosts the Friday and Sunday editions of "NBA Countdown," the network's signature pregame show, which airs on both ABC and ESPN. 

11. Kenny Albert

The only sports broadcaster who currently does play-by-play for all major four professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL), Albert embarked on a career calling games that brought him to Baltimore in 1990. Albert went straight from New York University to the American Hockey League, serving as the Baltimore Skipjacks' radio voice on WJFK-AM, 1300, for the team's final two seasons in Charm City. He parlayed that into a three-year run as the Washington Capitals' play-by-play man before becoming both the No. 2 hockey voice at NBC and No. 2 football voice at Fox.  

12. Anita Marks

A controversial sports-radio personality, Marks is now based in New York City and hosts shows on SiriusXM and NBC Sports Radio Network. Marks was a polarizing figure during her time on the air in Baltimore, often stirring the pot as a show host on 105.7 The Fan, WJZ-FM, from 2006-09. The Miami native demonstrated a wealth of football knowledge, having played quarterback for the Miami Fury and Florida Stingrays teams of the Women's Professional Football League. That experience has served Marks in another one her roles as the host of the New York Giants' pre- and postgame shows on CBS sports talker WFAN radio. 

13. Scott Hanson

Best known for his role as the current host of NFL Network's RedZone channel, Hanson descended upon the Baltimore region in 2002, when he joined Comcast SportsNet as lead anchor. For four years, he reported on all the major sports in the area, while also writing, producing and hosting a documentary on the history of baseball in D.C. The Syracuse graduate has been served well by his blue-collar effort that helped him capture Scout Team Player of the Years honors in 1992 as a walk-on for the Orangemen football team.

14. Amber Theoharis

Voted Baltimore Magazine's 2008 best sports personality, Theoharis spent almost a decade on TV in Baltimore before leaving town to co-host "NFL Total Access" on the NFL Network. The Middletown High School and University of Maryland graduate made her Baltimore debut in 2004 at WBFF, Fox 45, where she spent two years as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. But Theoharis, the 2006 Maryland Sportscaster of the Year, made her mark at MASN, where she hosted several shows, including both "O's Xtra" pre- and postgame and "Ravens "Xtra" postgame.

15. Quint Kessenich

The former Johns Hopkins All-American lacrosse goalkeeper, Kessenich has made his mark as one of the most recognizable sports broadcasters in the country. He is one of ESPN's most well-rounded announcers, covering lacrosse, basketball, football, hockey, wrestling and horseracing for the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports." In 2010, Kessenich, who also contributes lacrosse content to The Sun and Inside Lacrosse, launched the ESPNU Lacrosse Podcast, which quickly became a go-to source for lacrosse fans. 


Online Extra:

Mel Kiper Jr.

At a time when most young adults are starting college, Kiper took the advice of then-Baltimore Colts general manager Ernie Accrosi and started publishing his annual NFL "Draft Report" book as a 18-year-old in 1979. That hard work and persistence eventually paid off for the Baltimore native and Calvert Hall alumnus when ESPN hired him in 1984 to work the network's draft coverage for $400. He has continued to grow his superstar persona since then and become one of the most recognizable faces and voices among "draft experts."

Issue 209: May 2015