Eckman, A County Treasure, Still Ignored By Hall Of Fame


February 20, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

There is something about an obvious injustice that evolves from those who harbor grudges that infuriates me and maybe you, too.

So, please allow me, sports fans, to get it off my chest before cranking upmy "Q's without A's" machine today.

After looking over the credentials of the four people inducted inthe Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame this week, it really bothers me that year after year Glen Burnie's own Charlie Eckman is overlooked.

Eckman belongs in the hall but because he burned a few bridges along the way, the door is closed to him. It's not fair because, personalities and feelings aside, Eckman has one of the most diverse backgrounds in amateur and professional sports of anyone who's ever hailed from this state.

This week the state hall inducted former Oriole pitcher Tom Phoebus, track hurdler Tammy Davis, powerboat racer George Cusick and former City College of Baltimore standout Hyman "Lefty" Stern.

I'm sure they all deserve to be there with Maryland's all-time greatest, but so does Eckman, whose credentials compare favorably to Stern's. Eckman was also a City College Knight who was a feisty competitor in soccer, basketball and baseball.

Beyond that, Eckman went on to become one of the nation's top collegiate basketball referees. At one time, the 40-year resident of Glen Burnie was considered the most respected and best ref in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

They called him "Charlie Be-Bop" back in those days for his colorful style. He went from the college ranks to blowing the whistle in the National Basketball Association and soon after became head coach ofFort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) and kept that job for three seasons.

He is the only man to ever referee and later coach in an NBA all-star game, no small achievement.

Along the way, he became the voice of Baltimore sports on WFBR radio, where he told it like it was for more than 20 years. At one time, he also worked as a major-league baseball scout.

His contributions to horse racing, bothfinancially and administratively, are immeasurable. Eckman just might hold a state record for lost earnings at the pony track, and he makes no bones about it, but his advice and ideas such as the World Series of Handicapping at Penn National have done much for the sport.

The executive secretary of the Hall of the Fame Committee, D. ChesterO'Sullivan, a grand old Irishman you have to love and respect and I do, says the reason Eckman is kept out is because they don't elect coaches.

Now what kind of hall of fame is this that doesn't honor coaches? Did those named to the hall perform their hall of fame effortswithout coaches and officials?

Is that why many of the inductees made it because they were so good they didn't need coaching and guidance nor referees to police their games and enforce the rules? C'mon, that is an absurd cop-out.

This same hall has inducted skeet shooters such as Joseph George (1960), Harry Wright (1967) and Ed Calhoun (1978); a walker in Phil Jacheski (1967); a pistol shooter in Bill McMillan (1977) and even squash and badminton players.

Now you tell me that what Eckman has done is not as worthy of hall of fame induction as walking or firing a pistol. That's not intended to demean thosewho were inducted, but if the hall can recognize such things as walking, skeet and pistol shooters, squash and badminton players, then why can't it allow Eckman entry?

This no-coach thing is one way to keep out the man who, for nearly three decades, broadcast the feats ofamateur athletes and those who have gone into the hall.

It occursto me that maybe the hall committee needs some new blood to select deserving inductees. If the committee has not seen fit after all theseyears to recognize coaches, then maybe we need people with new ideasto catch this committee up to the times.

I'm afraid that Eckman'sbrash style, which should not be held against him, has kept him out and the no-coach rule will see that he stays out. What worries me is that this committee might one day induct Eckman after he is gone.

Eckman deserves to bask in the glory of what I know would be his biggest moment in sports.

If you agree with me, that Eckman belongs, write a letter to: D. Chester O'Sullivan, Executive Secretary, 501 St.Paul Place, 14th Floor, Baltimore, Md. 21202.

Now let's get to some "Q's without A's." To express your opinion and throw in a "Q" of your own, call my 24-hour Sportsline, 647-2499. Also, if you care to comment on Eckman call the Sportsline. If I get enough calls, I'll submit the tape to the Hall of Fame.

* With baseball season just around the corner, did you 30-and-over guys know you can sign up for the Baltimore-Annapolis Men's Senior Baseball League from noon to 3 p.m.this Saturday at the Severna Park Library?

For those who can't make the sign-up (no bonus contracts, guys) Saturday, you have two options: a workout 1 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Broadneck High in Cape St. Claire or call 280-5923 for more information.

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