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Morton C. Tadder, the Orioles’ team photographer for 44 years, dies

Morton C. Tadder photographed every president of the United States from Truman to Carter.
Morton C. Tadder photographed every president of the United States from Truman to Carter. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Morton C. Tadder, a veteran Baltimore professional photographer who was the Orioles' team photographer for 44 years and was among the first photographers in the United States to take pictures of the Beatles when they performed at the Civic Center in 1964, died Oct. 23 of Alzheimer’s disease at Silverado Memory Care in Encinitas, California. The former Mount Washington and Cross Keys resident was 92.

“Mort was really something, and I don’t think he got a lot of recognition during his lifetime,” said Jim Burger, a Baltimore photographer and writer who lives in Remington. “He was well-respected by photographers, and I was always impressed with him.”

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Morton Clifford Tadder, son of Clifford Tadder, a merchant mariner, and his wife, Eleanor Tadder, a bookkeeper, was born in Baltimore and raised on Cold Spring Lane in Northwest Baltimore.

“He was a curious redheaded boy who found summers at the YMCA Camp Conoy in Lusby on the Chesapeake Bay were the best,” said a son, Jeffrey Tadder of San Diego. “There he began his love of photography using a small camera.”

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Because “he was a bad boy in Baltimore public schools,” his son said, Mr. Tadder was sent to Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. After returning to Baltimore, he worked as a lab assistant for Leon A. Perskie, a portrait photographer and artist, until spending 18 months in the Army at the end of World War II. He was assigned to Fort Holabird in Dundalk after graduating from Army Photography School.

After being discharged in 1945, he was attending the Johns Hopkins University when Mr. Perskie, the official photographer for the Democratic National Committee, who took portraits of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and later John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, begged him to drop out of college and work for him again.

When Mr. Perskie hurt his back and was unable to photograph President Truman in 1947, he handed off the assignment to Mr. Tadder, who was to meet the president at 6 a.m. in the White House.

“This I won’t forget,” he told The Sun’s Carl Schoettler in a 2004 interview. "The door opens. There’s Harry Truman, gray glen plaid suit, blue shirt, tie. ‘All right Mort, I’m ready if you are. How do you want to do it?'

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" ‘Well, I think behind your desk. But I want to take those papers off there.’ He says, ‘That’s the budget. Just throw it under the desk. I’ll get to it.' ”

Because of his age at the time, Mr. Tadder was called “The Kid.” He recalled for family members that one of the most pleasant jobs he had was playing horseshoes with Vice President Alben W. Barkley as President Truman took his daily constitutional near the White House.

When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Washington in 1957, Mr. Tadder followed the royals in an open car taking pictures that were used by the British press. He photographed Fidel Castro in 1959 and through the years carloads of movie stars, including a camera-shy and somewhat aged Cary Grant.

“He didn’t like having his picture taken,” he told Mr. Burger, who wrote a 2014 profile of him for the City Paper. “I guaranteed he would like mine. When I showed him the finished print, all he could say was, ‘You’re right.' ”

Mr. Tadder went on to photograph every president of the United States through Jimmy Carter, and when he was photographing then-candidate John F. Kennedy with his Speed Graphic during the 1960 campaign at the old Emerson Hotel at Baltimore and North Calvert streets, a phone call interrupted the session.

“He goes over and he says, ‘OK, OK, yeah, yeah, about midnight, little later, OK, bye.’ He comes back and someone helps him put on his coat and he says, ‘You’re not going to believe this. I’m running for president of the United States and she wants me to make sure I bring home a loaf of bread and a quart of milk for breakfast in the morning.' True story," Mr. Tadder explained in the 2004 Sun profile.

Perhaps one of the greatest photo assignments of his career came Sept. 13, 1964, when he went into the Civic Center, set up shop with a 4-foot ladder in a center aisle while surrounded by an ocean of screaming fans and prepared to take pictures of the Beatles to be used by Lord Beaverbrook’s London Express News and Feature Service.

At first, he had no idea that the band he was photographing was not the Beatles but rather a warm-up band. “I had no idea,” he told Mr. Schoettler. “Once you got past Frank Sinatra, I was lost.”

By the time the Beatles had performed two shows, Mr. Tadder had shot 10 rolls of film with his Nikon, including a news conference, which allowed him to make candid studies of the Fab Four.

“They were young people at that particular time‚” he said in the 2004 interview. “I don’t think a lot of people got the opportunity to do that. They sort of relaxed.”

He was also the official photographer for the Baltimore Playboy Club, and his assignment was to shoot all of its bunnies. Rather than take the pictures in the Light Street club, he had them come to his studio, Tadder & Associates, in the Standard Oil Building on St. Paul Place. The bunnies would put raincoats over their bunny costumes and walk up in groups of five, according to the City Paper profile.

“But, unbeknownst to Tadder, as the women were walking out of the building, they were flashing men in the lobby,” reported the City Paper. “By the end of the day the lobby was filled with men,” Mr. Tadder said.

When the legendary and somewhat mercurial Sunday Sun Magazine photo legend A. Aubrey Bodine needed a portrait, he rang Mr. Tadder.

“Tadder, I need a photo,” said Mr. Tadder recalling the conversation for the City Paper.

“Of what?”

“Of me, stupid.”

In 1974, a robber forced his way into Mr. Tadder’s home on Ken Oak Road in Mount Washington, which resulted in his being shot in the left eye. “He lost the sight in that eye, and at the time, a lot of his clients were worried, but he was able to keep on working,” his son said.

Mr. Tadder, who began photographing the Orioles in 1954, continued taking team photos until 2004, when he retired and was given a team jersey with his name on the back and the number 44. “That’s how many team pictures I had done,” he told the City Paper.

Mr. Tadder donated most of his photography collection to the Maryland Historical Society, now the Maryland Center for History and Culture, and his sports work can be found in the collections of the Orioles and Indianapolis Colts.

Because of the pandemic, plans for a celebration-of-life gathering in Baltimore are incomplete.

In addition to his son, Mr. Tadder is survived by two other sons, Tim Tadder of San Diego and Mark “Rusty” Tadder of Reno, Nevada, and six grandchildren. His marriage to the former Jody Hoover ended in divorce.

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