From USA Today’s Stephen Borelli:

His was a boyish face that defied his age but reflected the giddiness toward sports he never lost from his youth.

His handshakes revealed soft hands, but his keystrokes were even softer. They produced stories that started on the front page and jumped inside the beefy sports section and onto full inside pages during an era when print media dominated, and into an era when it didn’t.

When his byline – “William Gildea” – ran in The Washington Post, it was an event. His former editor, George Solomon, said his stories made the section better. His written words were elegant and styled, yet somehow didn’t contain any pomp. The throws of Johnny Unitas from an arm cocked high above the ear or the silky passes of Italian soccer sensation Roberto Baggio just came alive.

Bill Gildea, mentor to this writer, wrote for The Washington Post from 1965 to 2005 and was known for his historical narratives about sports.

To him, ours was not a profession, but a way of life, a ritual of not only illustrating what was before us with the written word but showing up early at racetracks and staying late in locker rooms to fill out the details of narratives. Yes, the scores were essential, but the stories behind them were far more important.

Bill, as he was known to friends, died last week at 81 of complications from Parkinson’s disease, but his contributions will live on forever in digital archives and print and Kindle books. And they will live in the mind of this writer who was lucky enough to be mentored by him during the formative years of my career.


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