BARELY HAD THE worlds of sports and journalism mourned the loss of Red Smith when word arrived late Monday night that Bob Addie-- our own friend and colleague, sports columnist, reporter, storyteller and unabashed bon vivant, had died in Bethesda at the age of 71. It was Bob (who ever called him Robert?) who had respectfully described Red Smith as "never an old-timer"--which, if you knew Bob as so many Washingtonians did through his daily reports over the decades--was just as true of himself. Raconteur, yes, but old-timer, never; whenever and wherever he worked--or immersed himself, really--Bob was young at heart, in physique and impish charm.
The Addie in our midst didn't just "cover" sports --he reveled in sports. For 37-plus years in this town alone, from the Washington Times-Herald and on into its merger with The Washington Post, he sang the praises (he did sing, too, or at least that's what many a captive audience was led to believe) of sports figures in general and local sports figures in loving particular.
Talk baseball, and you talked with a keen observer, analyst and writer who never missed a day with the Washington Senators for 20 years. Talk golf, nationally or locally, and you talked with a man on course all over the country, whose coverage was complete from the first to the 19th holes with the action as well as the anecdotes--the joy, the tragedy and the human aspects of heroes, goats and supporting actors.
The awards came, and the recipient would shrug and move on to the next story or column. As colleague Thomas Boswell noted about Bob on his formal if not complete retirement from this newspaper in 1977, Bob's "ingrained newspaperman's training that 'nobody is too good to talk to as an equal' brought him not only exclusive stories and unique experiences but eventually led him to his wife," Pauline Betz, four times U.S. champion in the pre-open tennis days, Wimbledon champion and reigning world professional champion. He asked her for a press-box date at a Redskins-Giants game; soon after, he got a call from Miss Betz, when she was here for a few hours between trains.
"In that case," said Bob, "I suggest we have a drink." The reply: "I don't drink," to which Bob recalled to reporter Boswell 27 married years later, "Well, I was never much for lunch, but that day I ate it."
In his last regular column then, Bob wound up in typical style with hilarious anecdotes, a tug at heartstrings and the kind of inside information that had won him national acclaim, noting that "the pot of memories keeps stirring for a sportswriter."
And because of this sportswriter, our own pot of memories is filled with the same respect and affection that he always had for what he did: "I wrote like a fan because I always was one." And all of us who shared Bob's adventures in print and personally, were proud to be counted among his fans.