Fond memories of a local legend

Keith Sutton has been on my mind a lot recently.

The Wayne Independent's late and legendary Sports Editor loved nothing better than covering local baseball games and Wallenpaupack Area's recent run would have thrilled him.

As I sit at my keyboard and type these words, the Buckhorns are coming off yet another electrifying win. They're now one victory away from qualifying for the PIAA Class 5A title tilt.

I can see Keith in my mind's eye. He'd be sitting in the bleachers, hunched over a manila file folder and taking meticulous game notes with a tiny, gnawed off golf pencil.

When my Dad coached the Hornets back in the mid and late '60s, Keith covered them every step of the way as they qualified for three straight District 12 championship games.

I have a hunch that he'd be just as excited about Paupack's success as he was about Honesdale's.

Keith's career touched six decades, beginning just after World War II and ending in the early '90s.

And now, almost a quarter century after his death, I'd like to take a few minutes remembering one of the nicest men who's ever trod Honesdale sidewalks.

Legendary

Keith Sutton was born on April 6, 1909 in Fortenia, just outside Seelyville.

He graduated from Honesdale High School, then attended the Wayne Business School before enlisting in the Army and serving his country during World War II.

Keith spent nearly three years in the 10th Armored Division. For 16 of those months, he was stationed in the European Theater of Operations and took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

When he finally came home from the war, Keith returned to his job at the Wayne Bank. However, he also began contributing stories, photos and articles to The Wayne Independent.

It was a partnership destined to last a lifetime.

Keith eventually became Sports Editor and served in that capacity for more than 50 years. During this time, his soft-spoken nature and gentlemanly demeanor made Keith many things to many people.

He was a beloved local figure, a quiet leader in the community who lent an aura of respectability to every event he covered.

As a youngster, one of the coolest experiences in Wayne County was to see your name written up by Keith Sutton … either in a game report or his weekly column “Sutton on Sports.”

He approached each game equally, whether he was at Yankee Stadium or Clarke Romich Field.

Keith gave the same consideration to pros as well as Little Leaguers.

And, that set him apart.

Lifelong

Keith Sutton was as passionate a baseball fan as I've ever known.

He loved the Giants, while I'm a diehard Mets fan. Despite the difference in our ages, Keith and I had one thing in common: Willie Mays was as our favorite player.

Each of us also fell in love with Cooperstown (NY) and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Keith made the two-hour drive several times a year; once for the annual induction ceremony and then again whenever necessary for his research purposes.

When I took over his desk here in the newsroom, one of the first things I discovered shoved deep in one of the drawers was a photo album. The pictures in it are all from the Hall of Fame and each is worthy of its own story.

There's Ted Williams holding his induction plaque. Ty Cobb trading stories with George Sisler. Jackie Robinson holding court on the steps of the museum building.

There are also myriad action shots from “Hall of Fame” games played each year at Doubleday Field.

It's a treasure trove of baseball history, one I hop to serialize in our current sports pages one day.

Transcendent

Keith's talent for sports writing transcended Wayne County.

In fact, by the time of his death in 1993, he had become a nationally-respected expert on all things related to the MLB.

He was one of the legendary “Original 16” founders of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), a group whose influence looms large over the sport these days.

Keith haunted the Hall of Fame research room and made that yearly pilgrimage on Induction Day. By the mid 1980s, he'd attended a total of 35 and once had a streak of 26 straight.

Keith developed several “areas of specialization” over the years. Among them were one-hitters, hitting streaks, steals of home and inside-the-park homers.

He contributed to Baseball Digest and The Sporting News throughout his professional life and is cited as a source in countless journal pieces.

Keith's Desk

The first contribution I ever made to The Wayne Independent was inspired by Keith's death.

For some reason, the publisher back then was woefully slow in penning any sort of tribute to late great Sports Editor.

I thought that was a travesty, so I took it upon myself to write a letter. Thankfully, my missive landed on the editor's desk and he was kind enough to put it on the front page.

Years later, I included that article in a resume letter to the new publisher, whom I eventually met and who asked me to sit at this very desk: Keith's desk.

I have a framed photo of him looking down at me to this day. He keeps me on the straight and narrow!

Keith Sutton was a kind, decent, caring man who tried in his own small way to make our community a better place. He served our country honorably in times of war, then happily lived out the rest of his days in his hometown.

Keith may be gone; but, as long as I sit at this desk, he'll never be forgotten.