FORMER Newsday assistant sports editor George Baptiste died last Friday, December 17 at his home at Success Village, Laventille.
Baptiste, who was in his late 70s, was the sports editor at the Trinidad Express, where he spent nearly three decades, before joining Newsday in the mid-1990s.
At Newsday, Baptiste served as an assistant sports editor as well as a mentor to many in the department, including the current team of Stephon Nicholas, Yohance Simonette, Jelani Beckles, Jonathan Ramnanansingh and Joel Bailey, as well as Walter Alibey, Kern Ramlochan and Vinode Mamchan.
Newsday sports editor Stephon Nicholas recalled fond memories of working alongside Baptiste, whom he described as a mentor and a friend.
"I met George in 2007 when I began at Newsday as a sports reporter. George was one of the easiest people to work with. He always had something witty to say and could lighten any mood. He always knew when the tension was getting a bit too much in the pursuit of a story or to meet a deadline and would invoke laughter by saying, 'Don't worry, it's just $2 for a paper.'
"Apart from his knowledge about various sports, the way to approach a story, writing headlines and building lasting contacts, George was a very generous man, and a big Lakers fan – like myself.
"When I began working at Newsday there was a man who would call the office always asking for the score of the Lakers game from the previous night. He became known as 'the Lakers man.'
"With just two Lakers fans in the sports department, the call would either go to George or myself. One time, the Lakers man did not call for near a month. When he did, George asked him about his hiatus and found out he did not have money for a phone card. He also realised the man was living in a home for the elderly. George befriended him and began sending phone cards for him. This took place for years until the Lakers man died.
"To me, this epitomises George. He was always willing to help someone. The sports fraternity has lost a legend."
According to Bailey, who was Baptiste’s colleague from September 7, 1998 until February 2018, “George was one of those sports journalists who knew sports and was very passionate about them, especially football, cricket, horse racing, basketball and netball.
“He would also reminisce on his coverage of various sporting events, including the 1989 Strike Squad campaign for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia.
“He was a devout Manchester United fan, and a lover of the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he was staunch in his view that the late Kobe Bryant was the best-ever NBA player, better than Michael Jordan.
“Just like myself, George was one of a dying breed of people who religiously read all the daily newspapers, and he was always au courant with news events, and had strong views on various topics, including politics and culture. And he never hid the fact that he was a close friend to FIFA vice-president Jack Warner; in fact it was felt by many in the sports media at the time that he was a defender of Warner.
“He was a lover of calypso tents, and a diehard Mighty Sparrow fan,” Bailey added. “Almost every day at work, he would sing a few lines from vintage calypsoes. Those were the days.”
Baptiste was married to former Trinidad and Tobago netballer Enid Browne and was an uncle to ex-TT women’s team footballer Janine Francois. One of his brothers, Kenrick Hoyte, is the president of the TT WoLF (TT Women’s League Football).
Baptiste’s funeral is set for December 28 from 10 am at Dennie’s Funeral Home, Belmont.
In May, former Newsday sports editor George Harvey died at 88. And, on December 3, one of Baptiste’s contemporaries, Anthony “Tony” Harford, died at 68.