J. Suter Kegg, sports editor of the Cumberland Evening Times and Cumberland Sunday Times from 1946 until 1981, died Tuesday at Memorial Hospital in Cumberland. He was 85, and had been in failing health in recent years.
Mr. Kegg attended his induction into the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Newspaper Hall of Fame at an awards luncheon in Baltimore March 1. He wrote more than 8,000 columns as sports editor, and continued to contribute weekly columns and feature stories to what is now the Times-News as sports editor emeritus.
"He was what every community daily newspaper needed. He had an incredible knowledge and total commitment to the area for over 50 years," said Michael S. Powell, managing editor of the Frederick News-Post and former president of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. association.
"Suter was such a classic example of the community, of Cumberland, Allegany County and Western Maryland -- this whole culture here in Western Maryland -- and it meant so much to him that he opted not to glorify himself," Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. told the Times-News, "but spend his lifetime glorifying all the wonderful attributes that we stand for here, and he did it through the athletic world."
Mr. Kegg began his career at age 9, selling newspapers in downtown Cumberland. At 11, he was a part-time inserter in the mail room and later became a full-time copyboy and proofreader. He became a full-time member of the sports staff in 1941, and after returning from World War II service in the Army Air Corps, he was promoted to sports editor in 1946.
"He covered everything from Little League to the major leagues," said Steve Luse, a sports writer and editor of the newspaper's monthly sports magazine. "I probably learned more from him about journalism than I ever did in college. He was an absolute perfectionist. He could pull stories out of people that other reporters couldn't get, and put in hours that were unreal.
"He'd cover 60 Orioles games a year as well as the [Pittsburgh] Pirates. He'd cover a night game in Baltimore, drive three hours to Cumberland, and then come to work at 5 a.m. to write his story," he said.
Even though he had retired, Mr. Kegg continued contributing the Looking Back column to the newspaper's monthly sports magazine until 1999.
Mr. Kegg broke the national story in 1956 that Wilt Chamberlain, as a high school junior, played professional basketball in Cumberland against the Cumberland Dukes under the name of George Marcus. Mr. Chamberlain acknowledged in his 1974 autobiography that Mr. Kegg had the story right.
For decades he served as state chairman for Heisman Trophy voters in the state of Maryland, was on the selection committee for the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame, and was a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
One of Mr. Kegg's most treasured friendships and working relationships was the one he shared with Lefty Grove, a Lonaconing native widely regarded as one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at SS. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church in Cumberland.
Mr. Suter's wife, Helene G. Hartung, died in 1997. He is survived by a son, John Suter "Jack" Kegg Jr., and daughter, Susan J. Farrell, both of Cumberland, and three grandchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.