SPORTS JUST WON'T SOUND THE SAME

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ted Patterson has hung up the microphone, ending a terrific 45-year career in radio and TV broadcasting that should not go unrecognized.

If you follow sports in this town, you know Patterson. The guy worked just about every sports gig around before retiring last week after 11 years as sports director for WCBM-AM.

He had the same job at WPOC-FM for 16 years as well as at WMAR-TV and WBAL-Radio, where he hosted Baltimore's first regularly scheduled sports talk show.

But those were just his day jobs. He was also the play-by-play man for Navy football for 13 years. He did Navy, Towson State and UMBC hoops, Morgan State football and Blast games. He called Orioles games on Super TV in the early '80s with the great Rex Barney as his color commentator.

In the midst of all that, seeing as how he had not yet dropped dead from exhaustion, he also wrote five books on everything from the Orioles to the history of football in Baltimore to legendary baseball announcers.

But now, at 65, he wants to slow down. He's tired of dragging himself out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to make the nerve-jangling ride to the studio, dodging the 18-wheelers on the Beltway.

Now there'll be more time for another of his passions: playing basketball at Bykota Senior Center in Towson, where he specializes in a jump shot with an arc so high it could draw rain.

(Full disclosure: I played a ton of hoops with this guy years ago. The only way to block that shot is to swat it with a broom.)

What else does he plan to do with his retirement?

"Travel, fix up the house, read," he said. "I have a friend in Hawaii who wants me to visit."

Isn't that what all of us need: more friends in Hawaii? Patterson also plans to devote more time to his sports memorabilia collection. Room after room in his Anneslie home is filled with baseball cards that date back to the 1800s, uniforms that date back to 1926, caps, bats, balls, team yearbooks, signed photos, signs, etc.

But life has been much harder for Ted Patterson away from the broadcast booth.

In 1992, his son Michael, 16, collapsed from a massive brain hemorrhage. He was rushed by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he lapsed into a coma.

Patterson and his wife, Diana, stood vigil in the emergency room.

"The doctor came out and told us to sit down," Patterson recalled. "He said: 'We can't save him. You can say goodbye to him ... the hearing is the last thing to go.' He was down to three breaths a minute."

But Michael didn't die. Instead he was rushed to the neuro-critical-care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Doctors drilled a hole in his head to relieve the pressure. He was given steroids to reduce the swelling.

Five days later, at 3 in the morning, the Pattersons received a phone call.

"Normally, when you get a call at that hour, it's not good," Patterson said. "It was the nurse at the hospital. She said: 'He opened his eyes.' "

What followed was a long period of rehabilitation for Mike Patterson. The boy in the Towson High gifted and talented program now had to learn how to walk, talk, hold a fork, tie his shoes.

Fifteen months later, he was well enough to throw out the first ball before an Orioles game at Camden Yards. He's 33 now, a credit counselor and doing fine.

But 19 months ago, Diana Patterson lost a long and exhausting battle with a series of severe health problems.

It started as skin cancer in the early '80s. Two years later, lymph nodes were removed. By 1988, she developed a brain tumor from the melanoma, which caused slurring of her speech and seizures.

Chemotherapy and radiation beat back the cancer. Life was good for 14 years. But in 2003, having problems with her balance, she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus caused by the radiation treatments.

Two years later, she had a series of strokes. Soon she was incapacitated.

"We had a decision to make," Patterson recalled. "Put her in a home or take care of here at home."

They decided to care for her at home. What followed was a grueling three-year ordeal. Diana Patterson endured one extensive treatment after another.

Clare Patterson, Ted and Diana's daughter and an engineer, moved back home to help. Eventually, they hired around-the-clock care-givers. But for a long time, it was mostly father and daughter who saw to Diana Patterson's needs.

Ted Patterson was still getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go to work at WCBM. But Clare would often wake her father in the middle of the night to hold Diana on her side while Clare changed and cleaned her mother.

"I'd be standing there in a trance," he said. "It was awful."

The strain on everyone was enormous. Without long-term health insurance, the medical bills were overwhelming.

Lou Grasmick, the lumber magnate, started a fundraising drive to help. Soon various other local big-shots, including Peter Angelos, Art Modell and Steve Bisciotti, were writing checks that helped defray some of the costs.

Diana Patterson's condition worsened. The family agonized over what to do. A decision was made to take her off life-support. She died on Feb. 1, 2008 at GBMC.

Now it's just Ted Patterson in the big, two-story colonial, where photos and journals and knick-knacks testify to a happy 37-year marriage.

As I left the house the other day, it was hard to believe we wouldn't be hearing Ted Patterson doing sports reports anymore.

"Well," he said, "I'd welcome any kind of free-lance work. I want to stay busy."

That's the way it is with these guys who have broadcasting in their blood.

You can take the microphone away for a while.

But they often find a way to get it back.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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