Long before there were fan-related sports websites such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, Rant Sports and Fansided, there was PressBox. For more than 31 years Baltimore sports fans have known and loved Stan “The Fan” Charles, a true Charm City icon. Charles was a local radio personality who also penned a weekly sports column for City Paper, but it was his decision in 2007 to create the PressBox brand that has spawned a mini sports-media empire in Baltimore.
Since 2007, Charm City sports fans have been reading PressBox’s signature monthly print magazine; they follow the daily happenings on its website, pressboxonline.com, and they watch its weekly television show that airs every Sunday morning on WMAR-TV at 10:30.
The success of PressBox is based on a simple premise: Give local readers every possible storyline about their high schools and colleges. Baltimore is a big city that has a passion for high school sports, and Baltimore is home to more than a dozen sports-playing colleges and universities. PressBox makes sure fans have a place to read about their favorite teams.
Of course, no Baltimore-area sports publication would be complete without extensive coverage of the Orioles and Ravens. Charles and his dedicated staff produce sports content that is fresh, current and compelling 24/7.
While many publications such as the Baltimore Sun have downsized and charge a fee for their online content, Charles and his team has ramped up coverage, making sure that PressBox deliverers more fresh content than any other area website. And it’s free.
JT: Where did you grow up? In Baltimore?
Stan Charles: Actually, I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1952, and in 1958, my father passed away. My mother wanted to be near her family, and that meant moving to Baltimore. Mom was one of a family of 10, so I had plenty of loving aunts, uncles and cousins to help me learn everything about Baltimore. We lived near Pimlico Race Course and the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue, where I had my bar mitzvah. My passion for sports and for Baltimore grew from that amazingly loving community, around the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue.
Growing up in the old neighborhood, attending Arlington Elementary, Pimlico Junior High and Northwestern gave me a wonderful foundation, and it taught me a great life lesson on how important family and a supportive Jewish community are. Also, how relationships you develop as a kid can — if you are lucky — last you a lifetime. Throughout my career, the Jewish community of Baltimore has supported me, and it continues to do so, well over 30 years after I began my work in sports.
When did you become a sports fan?
As with most kids growing up in Baltimore in the 1960s, I listened to all the Orioles and Colts games on my transistor radio. It was the golden age of Baltimore sports with Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti among the many great Colts players. Then you had the Orioles with Frank and Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, along with the outstanding pitching of Jim Palmer, Mike Flannigan and Dave McNally. There are really too many outstanding players on both teams to name, but we loved following both teams every game. Most of the time it was listening on the radio or watching on TV. But things were always the best on those special days when my brother, cousins and uncle would go to Memorial Stadium. Those are the memories that will stay with me forever, and that is what makes sports so special.
When did you know you wanted to be involved in sports as a profession?
I remembered listening to Benny the Fan, who used to have a radio sports show in the 1960s. He knew his stuff and was very entertaining, and it was Benny and another Baltimore radio personality, Charley Eckman, who really got me interested in sports broadcasting. I got my start on radio in 1981 at WFBR, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. There is something about the interaction with the fans, the players and the people in power that seems to always make for a great story. At the same time I was honing my craft learning everything I could as a broadcaster. I also wrote a weekly column for City Paper called “A Fan’s Notes,” So my career as a sports broadcaster and as a columnist began to take shape and flourish.
What is next for PressBox?
We continue to grow and expand the brand as best we can. We are now an affiliate of Monumental Networks, and we launched our new PressBoxDC.com website this year. We not only cover Baltimore, but we have also taken on covering sports in the nation’s capital. We have a Washington-based staff for the new website. My partner, John Coulson, and I both feel very strongly that the way we cover events and the people involved in sports in Baltimore will translate well in Washington. At a time when newspapers are reducing staff or going to an online pay service, we want to keep our sports content fresh, up to date, local and free. It has been a recipe that has served us well for the past seven years, so we will stay true to our brand, as we grow in this ever-changing media world.
Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.