Pioneer Baseball Writer Larry Whiteside Dies

By Off The BASN Sports Wire
Updated: June 17, 2007

BOSTON — Larry Whiteside, a baseball writer in Boston, Kansas City and Milwaukee for almost half a century who was a pioneer for blacks in journalism and a mentor for reporters regardless of their race, died Friday after a long illness. He was 69.

Whiteside had worked for The Boston Globe from 1973 until he was sidelined by Parkinson’s disease in the past decade. The paper reported his death on its Web site.

“I am truly saddened by the news of his passing, as he was an extraordinary person,” said baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who was the Milwaukee Brewers’ owner when Whiteside covered their first four seasons. “He was one of the finest journalists and finest friends that I have ever encountered. I will certainly miss him.”

Whiteside, known to friends as “Sides,” was a member of the expert panel that selected baseball’s all-century team. He was the three-time chairman of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which awarded him its Dave O’Hara Award for long and meritorious service and nominated him this year for the Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

Whiteside covered the Boston Red Sox in the 1975 and 1986 World Series and memorably left in the middle of Roger Clemens’ record-setting 20-strikeout game in ’86 to cover a Celtics playoff game. Whiteside was present when Clemens matched the feat in Detroit in 1996.

“I remember him telling that story,” Clemens said at Yankee Stadium after being informed of Whiteside’s death. “That’s kind of shocking. I’m sad to hear that. They’re good people there, guys that followed me when I was young in my career. … Larry, he was always good to me.”

The Red Sox asked fans to observe a moment of silence before Friday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants in his memory.

“For more than 30 years, Mr. Whiteside covered baseball and the Red Sox for The Boston Globe with integrity, professionalism, and excellence,” the team said in a statement. “He was held in high regard and greatly respected by front office executives, managers, coaches, and players alike.”

Whiteside began his career with Kansas City Kansan in 1959 and worked at The Milwaukee Journal from 1963-1973, where he covered the Braves of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. He was also recruited to cover the civil rights movement.

After the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and became the Brewers, Selig offered him a public relations job with the team. Whiteside turned it down to continue covering the sport.

“Larry Whiteside and I literally started in baseball together,” Selig said Friday.

In 1971, Whiteside created “The Black List” to aid sports editors in helping hire qualified black journalists. There were only nine names on the list when he started, but by 1983 it had expanded to more than 90.

When he was hired by the Globe in 1973, Whiteside was the only black reporter in America covering major league baseball on a daily basis for a major newspaper. An expert on the Negro Leagues, he also was among the first to pay close attention to baseball in Japan and Australia.

“He deserves to be honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work as a writer but also for his efforts to create opportunities for other African-American writers,” Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan said. “He was a true trailblazer for African-American sports journalists.”

Whiteside was honored in 1999 by the National Association of Black Journalists for his work in advancing the careers of black sports writers. He was the recipient in 1987 of the Stanford University John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship, where he studied international affairs and labor law.

He is survived by wife Elaine and son Tony.

NOTE: AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.