Bill Tanton, former Evening Sun sports columnist and editor who later wrote for US Lacrosse, dies

After 40 years with The Evening Sun, Bill Tanton worked for US Lacrosse from 1996 to 2017.

Bill Tanton, the popular Baltimore Evening Sun sports columnist and editor known for his affection for lacrosse, died of a benign brain tumor Sunday at his North Baltimore home. He was 90.

Mr. Tanton, who retired in 2017 from US Lacrosse, spent nearly 40 years writing his Evening Sun sports column and as sports editor, hiring its staff.


“Bill understood he was local and his game might not have translated into other markets,” said Dan Shaughnessy a Boston Globe sports columnist. “He could take anything and spin it into a nice column. He was secure in his greatness.”

Born George William Tanton Jr. in Baltimore, he was the son of George “Lank” Tanton, a college athlete who later played first base for the old International League Orioles and his wife, Mary Henry. His father also ran a York Road tavern, The Patch, frequented by a sports crowd.


Mr. Tanton attended St. Paul’s School for Boys, where he developed his love of lacrosse, and earned a bachelor’s degree at the Johns Hopkins University, where he was sports editor of the campus paper. He was a 1956 graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

Tanton and longtime Evening Sun outdoors writer Bill Burton hold one of the seven marlin they caught during a day of deep-sea fishing off Ocean City.

He joined The Evening Sun in 1956 when he was 24. Readers soon appreciated his knowledge of local schools and the athletes they produced.

Recalled as being a natty dresser who cultivated a collegiate image, played squash and drove a BMW, he wrote in a casual, informed conversational style.

He also assembled the sports staff on the paper.

“He rescued me as a 23-year-old,” said Mr. Shaughnessy, the author of numerous books. “It was April 1977. He told me he never hired anyone without meeting them first.”

After their first meeting the young reporter got the job. Mr. Tanton drove him to a bank and secured an American Express card for him.

“I didn’t know anything,” Mr. Shaughnessy said. “He was like my dad. He invited me to his home for Thanksgiving that year.”

Tanton, pictured in April 1969, joined The Evening Sun in 1956.

Larry Harris, Mr. Tanton’s longtime Evening Sun associate, said, “Bill was dyed-in-the-wool Baltimore and a backer of talent in the area.”


He described his workday.

“He arrived early in the morning and went over the layout and the assignments. He usually had a lunch with a local sports figure and then came back in the afternoon,” Mr. Harris said. “He was a good boss and had a real knack for picking people.”

His readers appreciated his depth of knowledge about the Baltimore sports scene.

“Bill developed personal relationships with sports figures and everyone he came in contact with in his life. He had a compassion and an ability to listen,” friend and reader Wally Pinkard said. “He dealt with the human side of sports figures, and that’s what made him so special.”

Mr. Tanton once had as tennis partners Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer and Gene Shue, an NBA player and coach.

Tanton, right, talks to Colts quarterback Earl Morrall in December 1968.

“I don’t think I ever saw Bill without a smile on his face,” said Mr. Palmer, now a broadcaster. “Baltimore was a smaller town. It wasn’t all digital then. Baltimore was fortunate to have sports editors like him, along with John Steadman and Bob Maisel.”


Over the years, he covered the Orioles and observed “the best owner they’ve ever had, Jerry Hoffberger.”

He recalled the winning Orioles teams of the 1960s and 1970s: “Now I was cooking. Now I felt like a real sportswriter, flying to L.A., New York, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to cover our Birds in the Series. Brooks and Frank and Boog and Jim Palmer were the stars.

“Even then, the big excitement in this town was the Colts. This was the era of Johnny U., Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, Artie Donovan and Gino Marchetti, all members of the Hall of Fame now.

“I remember flying back into BWI, which was then called Friendship, after the Orioles had dropped their fourth straight World Series game to the Mets in 1969,” he wrote. “The players were embarrassed. ‘Gentlemen,’ the pilot said over the intercom as the team plane approached Baltimore, ‘the tower tells me there are 20,000 fans at the airport.’”

Catherine Ann Glose, left, and Tanton pose for a picture in 2001 before they were inducted into the Greater Baltimore Lacrosse Foundation Hall of Fame.

“The Baltimore Colts must be having a practice,” Brooks Robinson said. Brooks believed the captain, of course, but by then he had already been in Baltimore for a decade. He knew this was a Colts town,” Mr. Tanton said.

Not all of what he covered was local.


“The most exciting moment I’ve ever spent in a press box came at the 1980 Olympics, when the U.S. shocked the world by beating the Soviet Union in ice hockey at Lake Placid,” he said.

He left the paper in 1996 and joined US Lacrosse as a staff writer for its publications. He wrote a column and feature stories.

The Morning Sun


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“He brought a talent to our organization and contributed a positive culture to our staff,” said Steve Stenersen, US Lacrosse retired CEO. “He brought maturity but a youthful enthusiasm. He could be mischievous and everyone learned from him through his informal, unassuming and gracious manners.”

Mr. Stenersen also recalled Mr. Tanton’s prodigious memory for sports facts and his recall of games played decades ago.

Mr. Tanton was a member of a social group, the York Road Lunch Bunch, made up largely of lacrosse friends. They gathered at Jerry’s Belvedere Tavern.

“As a writer, he was lucid and concise. He played the sports he wrote about — football, basketball and lacrosse at St. Paul’s and at Hopkins. He played on some fine teams,” said Thomas Peace, a friend. “As a boy, my brother and I fought over Bill’s columns. We would see who got the paper first.”


“Bill not only wrote about the players, he wrote about the coaches and managers. He provided generations with sports history. As a writer, along with John Steadman and Vince Bagli, he raised a bunch of us kids.”

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Linda Levy, an attorney; two daughters, Pamela Anne Tanton of Mount Washington and Deirdre Elizabeth Tanton of Annapolis; two sons, Carter William Tanton of Baltimore and Alexander “Alex” Tanton of Houston; a brother, Thomas Carter Tanton of Richmond, Virginia; and three grandchildren. A daughter, Lindsay Tanton, died in 2019.

The family will receive friends from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home at 6500 York Road.