Ode to John F. Steadman

by Bill Hughes
       John F. Steadman was a popular sports writer in Baltimore for nearly 50 years. He died at the age of 73, on Jan. 1, 2001.

       Steadman started his career as a journalist with the old Baltimore News-Post and ended it with the Baltimore Sun. I personally thought he was a very good writer in that genre, but not a great one. He was too much of a “homer” to be a great writer.

       Politically, Steadman came off as a reactionary to me. For example, I remember him marching in a union-sponsored parade, back in the ’70s, in down town Baltimore, to support the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s hawkish and blood-stained policies. The sinister Kissinger, unfortunately, for our country, is America’s Iago. I was appalled to see Steadman in that pro-war demonstration.

       Steadman also had an annoying habit of criticizing, in print, with little or no probative evidence to support it, the cause of Irish freedom. That kind of pro-Tory editorializing would quickly cause my temperature to rise about 100 degrees in 5 seconds flat.

       Yet, at his funeral mass, a Celtic cross was proudly displaced on the front of the church funeral mass program, along with an Irish saying on its back. Go figure!

       Steadman also hurt himself with me, and others, too, by his blind “hatred” for Bob Irsay (see, the Boston Globe’s Will McDonough’s comments on Steadman in the Baltimore Sun, 01/27/01). I think history has given the late Irsay, a former owner of the Baltimore Colts, who took the team to Indianapolis, a bum rap. And, Steadman, more than anyone else in Baltimore, was responsible for driving him out of town and for demonizing the persona of that poor devil.

       I think Steadman, over time, had crossed the line as a journalist and he simply over identified with the Colts.

       Here’s a question for all of the Bob Irsay haters out there in Charm City: “What is the difference between what Irsay did to Baltimore and Art Modell did to Cleveland?” If there is a difference, I would like to know exactly what it is.

       Saying all of that, however, Steadman still deserves sincere recognition for being a very good sportswriter and a decent and honest fellow. He was a member, too, of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, no small accomplishment. And, from all accounts, he was a good Catholic man.

       His funeral mass was held at St. Jude’s Shrine on Paca St. in Baltimore, on Jan. 5, 2001, and it was attended by many sports figures, local politicos, and loyal friends of the deceased—although Gregory Kane of the Sun did point out in his column (01/28/01), by way of comparison, that the late Augie Waibel’s funeral (he was a popular coach for many years at Poly), who died on Jan. 6, 2001, had a much bigger turnout, than did attend Steadman’s.

       The beloved sports scribe was buried at New Cathedral Cemetery, out on Frederick Road, where tradition says many of the good Baltimore Irish are finally laid to rest. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Steadman’s many virtues, I’m confident, far outweighed his few, but minor, faults.

Bill Hughes, a Guilford resident, is an attorney, professional actor, and Irish activist.

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This story was published on April 4, 2001.