Morris Siegel, 78, a sports writer and columnist for four Washington newspapers whose sense of humor and quick wit also made him a popular speaker and master of ceremonies, died of cancer yesterday at George Washington University Hospital.
Most recently a sports columnist for the Washington Times, he also worked at several Washington television and radio stations during a career in the nation's capital dating from 1946.
Known as Morrie or Mo, Mr. Siegel was a raconteur who could keep friends and acquaintances entertained long into the night. He once said that he was fairly unfamiliar with breakfast. "I ate it if I got in late enough," he said. His zest for life made him an inspiration to colleagues when he continued to work tenaciously after a heart attack in 1985 and after being diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago.
Despite declining health in the last two years, Mr. Siegel continued to travel on assignments, although he frequently had to receive chemotherapy treatments at out-of-town hospitals. He covered the Michael Moorer-Evander Holyfield heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas on April 22. His last column for the Washington Times, a piece on the Orioles, appeared May 18. A column on one of his favorite subjects, gamblers and bookmakers, appears in the current issue of Regardie's magazine, for which he began writing in 1983.
Wesley Pruden, editor-in-chief of the Washington Times, said: "Mo Siegel had worked on nearly every newspaper in Washington, and outlived some of them. He out-reported and out-wrote the rest. He was an old-fashioned newspaperman, a sportswriter from the days when the sports pages reflected the pain and glory of sport, and he was a part of it. We were fortunate to have had him at the Times."
"He's a legend," said Bobby Beathard, former general manager of the Washington Redskins and now general manager of the San Diego Chargers. "There's too many people in the world who take themselves too seriously. Morrie never changed. He was one of the funniest guys I've ever known -- and at the same time, one of the most loving persons."
Bill Regardie, the magazine publisher, called Mr. Siegel a man "with a million stories and almost as many friends." A favorite Siegel subject was the late Victor "Man o' War" Friedman, a waiter at Duke Zeibert's restaurant who drew his nickname from the racehorse.
"The day he couldn't bet, he didn't want to live," Mr. Siegel wrote in a Regardie's column in December. "In Duke's restaurant one night, somebody hollered, 'Danny Kaye just came in!' Man o' War looked up and asked, 'Vat did he pay?' "
A saddened Zeibert yesterday wore a lapel button with a Siegel photo. "We've lost our buddy," the restaurateur said.
At the Palm, which Mr. Siegel also frequented, Tommy Jacomo, the general manager, said, "When he walked in, it was like he was walking into home -- everybody knew him, the busboys, the waiters, and everybody had something special for him, like a special kind of bread, because he was special."
"He was the consummate newspaper guy, always looking for a story when he wasn't telling one," said George Solomon, assistant managing editor/sports for The Washington Post. "He beat us on stories more than we liked because he was always working, he knew a news story and people trusted him. No one fought an ailment harder than Mo, who kept writing when others would have called it quits."
Mr. Siegel was born in Atlanta on Oct. 13, 1915. He attended Emory University for about three years, at the same time beginning his newspaper career as a copy boy. He was hired in the late 1930s by the Atlanta Constitution and worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch before and after serving in the Navy during World War II. He arrived in Washington in September 1946 and was hired as a sportswriter by The Washington Post.
His entertaining style was apparent from the outset. Martie Zad, a longtime friend and fellow Post reporter, recalled that one of Mr. Siegel's early assignments was to cover hydroplane racing. "He did it from a boat," Zad recalled, "and datelined his story, 'Somewhere on the Potomac.' Of course he was just off Hains Point."
Mr. Siegel later worked as a sports columnist at the Washington Daily News and the Washington Star. When the Star folded in 1981, he wrote, "The party's over at The Star. ... Mainly, it was a blast. I'll cherish every second of all the good times, and even the few bad experiences of the last 19 years here," and he promised readers, "We'll see each other around for a spell."
True to his word, he did television and radio sports commentary in the 1980s as he had done in his earlier days in Washington. In the mid-1980s, he worked as consultant to the Washington Baseball Commission, which attempted to secure a major league expansion franchise for the city. In October 1986, he joined the Washington Times.
Mr. Siegel's marriage to writer Myra MacPherson in 1964 ended in divorce in 1985. In addition to their two children, he also is survived by two brothers, Harold and Louis Siegel, both of Atlanta.
RONALD JAMES SIGGERS
Ronald James Siggers, 43, a microphotographic technician and former art teacher who had worked at the Library of Congress since 1989, died May 26 at a hospice in Baltimore. He had AIDS.
Mr. Siggers was a lifelong resident of Severn, Md. He was a graduate of Morgan State University and attended George Washington University and the Maryland Institute of Art.
He taught art and computer graphics between 1976 and 1986 at Old Mill Middle School, Brooklyn Park High School and Van Bocklyn Elementary School, all in Anne Arundel County. He also worked as a computer systems developer for Digital Equipment Corp. and as a data control clerk at George Washington University.
Mr. Siggers was a painter, illustrator and gardener.
Survivors include his mother, Celestine Siggers of Severn; seven sisters, Brenda Manning of Glen Burnie, Md., Dephine Williams of Huntingtown, Md., Samoa Green of Annapolis and Ruby Hall, Florence Siggers, Lynda Siggers and Teena Siggers, all of Severn; and five brothers, Arnold and Timothy Siggers, both of Baltimore, David Siggers of Goulds, Fla., Michael Siggers of Smithfield, Va., and Phillip Siggers of San Diego.
DOROTHY D. GORDON
Dorothy D. Gordon, 91, a Washington native who became active in civic organizations and the Republican Party in Scarsdale, N.Y., died of pneumonia May 27 at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J.
Mrs. Gordon graduated from Wellesley College in 1923. She married Robert S. Gordon the following year. She lived in Scarsdale for 47 years until 1982, when she moved to Chevy Chase. She was active in the National Audubon Society in the Washington area.
In 1992, Mrs. Gordon moved to Holmdel, N.J.
Her husband died in 1978, and a son, Dr. Robert S. Gordon Jr., died in 1985.
Survivors include a son, James P. Gordon of Rumson, N.J.; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.