Jimmy Pantos was a star
Quarterback for Central
High School in the 1940s and
played safety at the
By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 23, 2006
James L. Pantos, 74, considered the finest all-around
athlete in the history of the old Central High School and
the first high school athlete to be inducted into the venerable
Touchdown Club in Washington, died of an aortic aneurysm
Dec. 29 at his home in Temple Hills.
Mr. Pantos, known as Jimmy, was a natural athlete.
He was fast, slippery and shrewd on the football field and
quick, skillful and prolific on the basketball court. He
excelled in the 100-yard dash and high jump for the school's
track team, and he was described as one of the smoothest
fielders in the city for his baseball prowess.
As a freshman in the mid-1940s at Central High
School, he scored 17 points in his first basketball game. In his first football game,
he threw two touchdown passes. By the start of his senior year, as a forward on
the basketball team, he had scored 568 points. He was named an All-Metropolitan
player for three years in
basketball, baseball and football.
In 1949, a Washington Post reporter wrote that Central High's star quarterback
exerted the same winning leadership characteristics on the basketball court as he
did on the football field. But, in addition to calling the plays, he set 'em up and
usually did the scoring too the story said. It wasn't that he was hoggish. He was
the best player on the team, and without him, Central wouldn't have come close
winning two straight Interhigh court championships.
Although he was only 5 feet 10 inches tall, Mr. Pantos made up for any height
deficiency in basketball with split-second reflexes and deception, The Post report
said. He's fast, can stop, start and fake, dribble, guard, and he can certainly shoot.
Hotly pursued by colleges, Mr. Pantos decided to accept a scholarship to play
football at the University of Maryland over numerous offers. Some wondered how
he would do as a college player because of his size. He weighed 145 pounds. The
concern was short-lived. Mr. Pantos was named Southern Conference freshman
of the year. His coach, Jim Tatum, said Mr. Pantos was the best safety he had
In his sophomore year, however, he suffered a back injury that ended his playing
career. Charlie Brotman, a leading authority on local athletes, was quoted as
saying that Mr. Pantos was one of the top five athletes to come out of Washington
in a half-century. Even now, old-time local sports fans still banter about Mr.
Pantos's controversial punt return for a touchdown on a delayed whistle in 1949
against Gonzaga College High School in the city football championship game at old
Mr. Pantos served in the Army in 1951 and in later years worked at a number of
automotive dealerships throughout the area. He was a general manager at
Marten's Mazda before working for 16 years as purchasing director at Marlo's
furniture store. He continued to work there until recently.
His marriage to Ann Jeffries ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Lorraine Pantos of Temple Hills; two sons from his
second marriage, Jim Pantos of Knoxville, Md., and Michael Pantos of Brighton,
Colo.a sister, Catherine Pantos of Annapolis; a brother, Angelo Duke; Pantos of
Ocean City; and five grandchildren.
Fifty years later, when you mention the name Jimmy Pantos, his brother said,
senior Washingtonians will reply, 'He was one hell of a ballplayer".