Longtime TU sports editor dies

Longtime Times Union employee was one of the top handicappers at Saratoga

Photo of Tim Wilkin


Tom Cunningham, one of the top handicappers in the Saratoga press box and a Times Union employee for 37 years, died Thursday after a short illness. He was 84.

The Albany native started working at the Times Union in 1954 as a copy boy and gradually moved up to bigger positions. He was a longtime sports editor and columnist and ended his time at the paper in 1991 as the director of marketing and public relations. He retired in 1991, but continued to pick the races at Saratoga Race Course through 2005.

In 2003, he selected 128 winners; the following year he was right 127 times.

"After his children, I would say that was his second love," Karen Millington, one of his four children said. "He was very proud of what he accomplished at the track."

When he was sports editor, Cunningham wrote columns and some were more controversial than others.

His daughter remembers one where her father wrote that if a certain NFL team lost, he would eat his words. Literally.

In the days following, Millington said her dad was getting mail from readers that had his column between two pieces of bread.

"Tom wrote a tremendously popular and controversial column," said colleague Matt Graves, who also picked horses in the Times Union. "He inspired a lot of emotion in people through his columns, which were particularly popular the Monday after an NFL Sunday. He also had a tremendous affection for horse racing. He was always one of the pre-eminent handicappers of the Saratoga Race Course meet."

Cunningham had another daughter, Nancy, and two sons, Tim and Michael. His wife, the former Theresa Mileski, died in 2004. They were married for 52 years.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.