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The 15: Baltimore's Best Sportswriters

By Joe Platania

Sports-loving Baltimore fans have been blessed through the years, for they have been able to hear about their favorite teams from a veritable plethora of talented sports broadcasters.

Football and baseball play-by-play voices such as Ernie Harwell, Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell, as well as local anchormen such as Vince Bagli, Nick Charles and Jack Dawson, have brought the action home in the down-to-earth, no-frills way that local fans seem to like.

But what of the print journalists, those purveyors of a medium many think is dying?

Many legendary wordsmiths of our time and previous eras (listed here in no particular order) have made the games come alive for generations of local fans and have become part of the family along the way. Not only that, they have inspired many -- including this reporter -- to become part of the family business.

1. Frank Deford
This Baltimore native and Gilman School graduate has written 10 novels and has won six National Sportswriter of the Year awards. He is also a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, and is currently a correspondent on HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel."

2. John Steadman
The man that was Baltimore's veritable columnist of record, Steadman was a multi-media legend with his clean prose and resonant speaking voice. Writing for both the Sun and News American, he wasn't afraid to go out on a limb, advocating the demolition of the B&O Warehouse and admonishing Orioles fans to stop calling the team the "Birds."

3. Bob Maisel
Sunday mornings weren't the same once Maisel's Sunday Sun columns, a comfortable weekend harbinger, stopped running. He often complained when the Orioles weren't shown on the Saturday "Game Of The Week," and frequently reminisced about his father, "the little round man," Fritz Maisel.

4. Phil Jackman
The well-known "TV Repairman," Jackman wrote Evening Sun columns that were ahead of their time, dishing out cutting bromides in short slices, which often poked fun at the pretensions shown by local fans and media personalities alike. His work continues today in PressBox and at PressBoxOnline.com.

5. Jim Henneman
One of the most knowledgeable baseball journalists to work in any city, Henneman. who also appears on PressBox platforms. manned the Orioles beat for several decades before becoming one of the team's official press box scorers, a duty he still frequently performs. His thorough knowledge of the rule book has served him well in both capacities.

6. Bill Tanton
If any local high school or college had any legendary coach or player come through its doors, chances are Tanton wrote about him or her. With his mother lode of contacts and his long tenure, Tanton is as well-versed on the local sporting landscape as anyone that has ever wielded a notepad or tape recorder in Baltimore.

7. Cameron Snyder
The Baltimore Colts provided plenty of memorable moments for news-starved fans here, and it was Snyder's byline that appeared over most of them. His writing style captured the idealism and romanticism of a time when the games were all that really mattered.

8. Tim Kurkjian
Baltimore was one of Kurkjian's many stops before he became known on ESPN's national stage. A former News American baseball beat writer, Kurkjian has a photographic memory that serves him well when recounting some of the game's greatest moments.

9. Ken Murray
In sports journalism, those referred to as "GAs" (general assignment reporters) had amazing versatility, as Murray did during his years at the Sun and News American. But football was his main beat, on both local and national levels. He was on the Ravens beat when they won Super Bowl XXXV, and the team presented him with a game ball upon his 2011 retirement.

10. Bernie Miklasz
The former News American columnist often broke major headline stories in his work, such as the scoop during the 1980s that Dunbar's Reggie Williams would be attending Georgetown instead of Maryland, prompting an angry phone call to the office from Lefty Driesell, which didn't change matters.

11. John Eisenberg
Author of seven books and a constant presence on many national television shows about phenomena such as the American Football League and the Dallas Cowboys, Eisenberg, a Texas native and former Sun columnist, has proven more than adept at covering any and every sport that exists.

12. Ken Rosenthal
These days, you see him standing next to dugouts during Fox's national baseball coverage, but while with the Sun, he was a call-it-as-he-sees-it columnist, who didn't care how many feathers he ruffled or which sacred cow got sacrificed on his personal altar.

13. Peter Pascarelli
The News American's baseball beat writer during the early '80s -- in fact, he preceded Kurkjian. displayed an encyclopedic statistical knowledge of the game that was ahead of his time before he went off to do television work.

14. Mike Preston
If you looked up "stirring the pot" in the dictionary, this Baltimore native's picture would be there. The Kenwood High and Towson State graduate can often blunt the athlete's tired argument that the media "never played the game." Preston did, and well, as an offensive lineman, and his writing style has even more punch.

15. Bill Burton
Maryland is called "America In Miniature" because it offers some of the most beautiful wilderness found anywhere. Burton was an absolute master at guiding anglers and hunters throughout the state and making sure the rules governing all hunting and fishing were preserved as diligently as the scenery itself.

Issue 172: April 2012