Former Sports Editor Batzold dies at age 56

Jul. 8, 2009

Former Democrat and Chronicle and Times-Union Sports Editor Tom Batzold died this morning as a result of complications from a stroke he suffered June 8.

Batzold, 56, of Irondequoit, was a 30-year employee of Gannett Rochester Newspapers.

Mr. Batzold "Batz" to his colleagues and friends worked at Gannett Rochester Newspapers for 30 years, was a native Rochesterian and brought a hometown feel to the newspapers when he became sports editor. He was a huge fan of high school sports, Syracuse University basketball and the New York Yankees. His family's pets were named after sports people, including dogs Mickey (Mantle) and Casey (Stengel), and a cat Yogi (Berra).

"Tom was a walking local sports encyclopedia," Democrat and Chronicle Editor and Vice President/News Karen Magnuson said today. "He loved everything about this town and made sure that came across in his sports section.

"He had a big heart for every member of our staff and every athlete and every parent of every athlete we covered. He was an excellent journalist and a better human being. He had a profound effect on the lives of others who work here. He often gave a collective bear hug and a touch of levity in tough times. Our hearts go out to his family in this difficult time."

"Tom was an incredibly hard worker and devoted to his job," longtime friend and colleague Bob Matthews said today. "He had a commitment to local sports that some of his imported predecessors lacked. He really cared about the people we covered, particularly the high school athletes. He was a workaholic and set a great example for all of us."

Said Democrat and Chronicle Sports Editor Steve Bradley, "Tom was a tremendous mentor and friend. He took me under his wing when I joined the Democrat and Chronicle in 1999. He taught me a lot and will continue to be an inspiration in my work."

Mr. Batzold began his sports writing career as a stringer for Syracuse newspapers while he was attending Syracuse University. He began his career at the Syracuse Post-Standard.

One of the favorite incidents of his career was when he was the "middleman" in recovering Ernie Davis' stolen Heisman Trophy.

"I met the guy in an alley near the newspaper and he gave me the trophy wrapped in a brown bag," recalled Mr. Batzold. He appeared in a large Page One photo the next day, handing the Heisman Trophy to the police chief.

Mr. Batzold joined the Rochester Times-Union in 1976. His first beat was high school sports.

Frank Cardon, a former sports and news editor for the Times-Union, said, "Tom started out as a sharp reporter and became an outstanding sports editor. He knew the area well and what his readers were interested in. He often suggested important stories for other sections of the newspaper. He had a wonderful way with young writers and helped turn them into storytellers."

Mr. Batzold became assistant sports editor of the Times-Union and eventually sports editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in January 1997. He left the newspaper in May 2007. Mr. Batzold won the Rochester Press-Radio Club's George Beahon award for sportswriting excellence in 1999 and was elected to the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in 2004.

He was a prominent sports memorabilia dealer and enjoyed coaching the eighth-grade basketball team at West Irondequoit last season.

He is survived by his wife, Pam, five children and one grandson.

Funeral services are pending.