Rosemary S. Lord, 76, who covered major sports and political events during her 51 years as a Western Union telegraph operator, died of pneumonia Friday at Doctors' Hospital of Prince George's County. She lived in Bowie.
Mrs. Lord, the granddaughter and daughter of Western Union supervisors, began working for the company when she was 14 years old.
Her grandfather, the late James L. Saffell, was supervisor of sports for Western Union when he retired after 52 years with the company. Her father, Frank Saffell, who succeeded his father as sports supervisor, worked for the company for 37 years.
In the early 1950s, Mrs. Lord became the first woman to officially step into a press box at old Griffith Stadium here.
A longstanding rule against women in the press box, enforced by baseball leagues and sportswriters, conflicted with a Western Union labor contract clause stipulating that important assignments, such as coverage of sporting events, be handled on a seniority basis.
The resulting deadlock, brought about because Mrs. Lord had the seniority but was not allowed in the press box, was resolved after she enlisted the help of Clark Griffith, the Washington baseball club owner, and Bob Addie, then a Washington Post sports columnist and an official of the Baseball Writers Association.
In a subsequent column about Mrs. Lord's triumph, Bob Addie wrote of the "curious trick of fate" involving her late father, who once was in charge of the press box and was, according to Addie, "an unyielding Horatius at the masculine bridge -- refusing access to the ivory tower to any scheming female."
He further wrote, "It wasn't too long ago that the Baseball Writers Association met in solemn conclave . . . to tackle the most momentous problem since one of our boys went on the wagon.
"There was much debate about suffragists, states' rights, the Constitution, motherhood, women in the armed forces and Clare Luce. It was, undoubtedly, the first time a group of men had ever discussed women without a gleam in their eye.
"With the air of a martyr, the president of the association bowed to the inevitable. He was sobbing as the procession slowly moved out of the room. Another bastion had fallen."
Mrs. Lord went on to cover not only regular-season baseball, but World Series and all-star games, golf tournaments, basketball and other sports events.
It was said that her letter-perfect copy could be immediately recognized as it came over the teletype machine.
Besides sports, Mrs. Lord covered the political conventions that nominated presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. She also was assigned to the Kennedy inauguration and to the hospitalizations of presidents Eisenhower and Johnson.
She covered national spelling bees for 18 consecutive years before retiring in 1969.
Her husband, Harry B. Lord, also a Western Union telegrapher, died in the mid-1940s.
Survivors include a daughter, June Zier of Bowie; two sisters, Alice V. Ardeeser of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and Doris L. Stone of Deltona, Fla.; a brother, Robert J. Saffell of Arlington, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.