• Oldest living letterman and superfan Thornton Sterling passes at 95

    Thornton SterlingThornton Sterling — Baylor’s oldest living letterwinner and as big a fan of the Bears as anyone you’ll ever find — passed away Saturday night in Waco.

    I had the privilege of getting to know Mr. Sterling about a decade ago when I worked in athletic media relations here at Baylor. I spent several years as media contact for the baseball team, and Mr. Sterling — a 1934-36 baseball letterman — would often call me or drop by my office. Usually he came to let me know of a small factual error he had discovered in the media guide, a fact that he knew was wrong just from memory. (Later research almost always proved Mr. Sterling correct.)

    I also spent more than one bus ride sitting next to Mr. Sterling. An avid fan of the Bears but not one for air travel or long drives, he generally took the Greyhound bus from Waco to wherever the football, baseball or track teams were competing. It didn’t matter if it was College Station or California; he would travel the distance by bus. Between 1976 and 2003, he attended every home and away Baylor football game — an unbelievable streak. In later years, he would occasionally ride with a team for part or all of the trip, and during those rides he would share stories from Baylor’s past with his seatmates — including me.

    The Waco Tribune-Herald, the Lariat, BaylorBears.com, head baseball coach Steve Smith and baseball media contact Larry Little each wrote of Mr. Sterling’s passing this week, and each story gives a different glimpse into his life — from his college days to his time in the military, from his travels after retirement to the scholarship fund he and his brother endowed in 2003. The baseball team’s annual Player of the Year award was named the Thornton Sterling Award several years ago, and I can think of no better honor for Baylor’s biggest fan.

    Sic ’em, Mr. Sterling; we will miss you.