Fitting Tribute To 'Big Al' Needed At Annapolis High


December 10, 1990|By PAT O'MALLEY

This Jan. 10 will be the two-year anniversary of the death of the great Annapolis High football coach, Big Al Laramore. It seems like only yesterday that Big Al was romping and stomping on the sidelines at Annapolis High. Two football seasons have come and gone without him.

And with the two-year anniversary of his death coming up, a lot of us wonder when the school is going to name something in his honor. Al gave 27 years of his life, 23 as head football coach to Annapolis High school before a heart attack took his life at the age of 52.

The football and track stadium was named several years ago after Richard Ensor, who was the longtime principal. Ensor had died following an automobile accident in 1984. Ensor was a good, caring man who realized the importance of athletics in relation to academics.

It was only fitting that something at the school be named after Ensor.

With all due respect, however, it should not have been the football stadium. That honor should have been reserved for Joseph Alvin "Al" Laramore Jr., the winningest football coach in county history.

Big Al's legacy was more than his game record of 156-67-2. He was a legend, a leader and motivator of young men.

As his best friend and football rival Andy Borland, the Severna Park head football coach, said so well the day Al died, "The kids lost a hell of a friend today."

The public outpouring of respect and love for Big Al was unforgettable that Friday, Jan. 13, 1989 when he was laid to rest at Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Annapolis. Big Al almost always led his Fighting Panthers onto the football field in front of huge crowds, but none as large as his funeral day.

Family, friends, former players, opposing coaches, blacks and whites -- It seemed like everybody in Annapolis and most of Anne Arundel County was there that day. Big Al had made an unforgettable impression with his hard-nosed style that united blacks and whites.

There was no race on an Al Laramore-coached team, and the young men who played for him loved him. This was no ordinary coach. His influence not only gave young men a head start on life and helped build character -- it also produced winners.

Big Al is the only man in Maryland athletic history to win state championships in three sports -- football, basketball and lacrosse.

He left many memories and set standards which need to be perpetuated.

That's why the school needs to do something. Annapolis High needs to name something after the man so that when those of us who remember him are gone, his name will live on.

Big Al did more for Annapolis High School and its community than any man who ever passed through there. So what is the school waiting for?

I might suggest that Ensor's name be left on the track, but Big Al's name be put on the football field. Naming the gym after Al is another possibility. Whatever it is, it has to be sports-related because that's where Big Al made his contributions -- teaching the game of life through athletics.

And no doubt the sport he will best be remembered for is football.

That's why I hope something can be done about putting his name on that football stadium and at the same time not leave out Ensor.

Ensor was a wonderful man, the man behind making the stadium a reality, but he was best known for his administrative ability and leadership in the academic field.

Possibly Ensor's name could be moved to the academic building. That is in no way meant to minimize his immense contributions.

It's my opinion that football stadiums shouldn't be named after principals. They should be named for great coaches. South River named its after Joe Papetti when he was still coaching. Arundel named its after its great athletic director and former coach, Steve Carroll, while Carroll was still alive.

Those were wise choices.

Getting stadiums built and providing related improvements to a school is the job of a principal, who in essence is running a company. A football coach like Al leaves his blood and soul out on the field because he loves to help kids.

The only thing better than putting Big Al's name on the football stadium, would be "Al Laramore High School of Annapolis."

But please, let's do something, and let's do it soon to perpetuate the name of Al Laramore. He was and still is Annapolis High School.


In other county sports news from the weekend, the Navy Ice Hockey Club of Coach Jim Barry scored a big win Friday night in the Northeastern Collegiate Hockey Association. It posted a 3-2 win over West Chester in front of an overflow crowd at Dahlgren Hall on the Academy grounds.

It was West Chester's first loss after 10 straight wins, while Navy improved to 5-0-1.

"Great game, over 2,000 people, the place was packed!" said Barry. "We had 'em 2-0 end of the first period, and the second period was scoreless.

"West Chester came back and made it 2-1, and then we went up 3-1. Within a minute of our third goal, they (West Chester) made it 3-2, and that's the way the game ended."

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