Friday, August 13, 2010

Bye George!

Make no question, George Cantor was as Detroit as they come.

He didn't write about the city, he squeezed his heart about it onto the page.

Cantor's Detroit glass was always half-full. At times he may have appeared as a fish out of water, because he was a golly-gee-whiz guy in a f*** you town.

Cantor, the former Detroit Free Press and News reporter and columnist, died today at age 69. Cause of death wasn't revealed in a story that appeared in the News.

I first grew to know Cantor as him having been a 27-year-old reporter who covered the Tigers for The News during the World Series year of 1968. That was also the year of a newspaper strike in Detroit. I found it very cool that someone of Cantor's age could be in the middle of such a glorious sports story, even if for many weeks, no newspapers rolled off the presses.

Cantor also wrote several books, more than one about the Tigers.

Cantor was a Detroiter from head to toe, having grown up in town and attending Wayne State University. He began his journalism career at the tender age of 22, reporting for the Free Press starting in 1963.



Wire to Wire, one of Cantor's several books about the Tigers, told the story of the 1984 World Series team


I also enjoyed catching Cantor on TV, where he'd provide occasional commentary, whether on sports or on social issues. His demeanor was laid back, bordering on goofy. His voice was like the actor Jerry Mathers', who still has a touch of The Beaver in him to this day.

Cantor was disarming but he was no less outspoken. He wrote a Saturday column for The News where he weighed in on local issues.

"He was a high-class reporter. Whatever he did, he did a good job at," said Pete Waldmeir, a former News columnist and longtime friend. "He was a very talented writer. He could handle any assignment you gave him. He was very low on ego. He was just an all-around good guy."

Cantor also experienced deep personal tragedy; his daughter Courtney died from a fall out of a window at the University of Michigan.

Even in that time of personal grief, Cantor never fully took off his journalism hat.

When photos appeared in the paper of his daughter's funeral---taken with a telephoto lens from across the street, Cantor's reaction wasn't that he felt intruded upon.

"When I saw those pictures in the paper, my first reaction was those are great shots," he said.

Cantor retired from daily journalism in 2003. Afterward, he taught sports writing at Oakland University and began writing a series of Michigan travel books.

George Cantor was a button-downed version of the late Bob Talbert, who was another who wore the city (and the Tigers) on his sleeve.

"(Cantor) was a great font of Detroit lore," said Jeff Hadden, a News editorial writer.

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