There are a few special people who form the fiber of a sports community. They do everything -- play, coach, officiate, administer programs -- and they do it for a long, long time.
In Baltimore, Herb Armstrong, Johnny Neun and Paul Menton, all deceased now, filled those roles for decades.
Last weekend our town lost the last of that breed when Sterling "Sheriff" Fowble died. He would have been 77 in February.
Sheriff coached amateur baseball here for 46 years. His Gordon Stores and Harbor Federal teams were tops.
Fowble helped develop major leaguers Phil Linz, Ron Swoboda and Al Kaline. He scouted for 22 years for the Mets, 15 for the Reds.
It's funny about people like that. After enough time, it seems as if they've always been here, even that they always will. Congestive heart failure confirmed Fowble's mortality.
I've known Sheriff since he refereed my basketball games in high school. I've been with him at countless Orioles games, at banquets, wherever baseball people gather.
On Nov. 14 he invited me to the Carroll County Oldtimers annual baseball dinner in Taneytown. We had a great time. He was happy to be back in his native Carroll County, happy to be with old baseball friends.
He told me that he and his wife, Virginia, had had a wonderful visit in September to Phil Linz's home in Stamford, Conn. There was no indication the end was near.
At one point in the evening, though, Sheriff leaned over to me, pointed to an elderly man, and said: "See that fellow? He had a curve ball like Tommy Bridges." Bridges was a Tigers pitching star in the '30s. That made me realize ol' Sheriff was up there.
"He died quickly and without pain," says Virginia, who is retired as librarian at City College. "Sheriff was active to the end. He had a great life and I'm going to miss him terribly."
A lot of people will miss him. The Fowbles, with no children of their own, treated Sheriff's players like sons, welcoming them into their home. A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Grace Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St.
* One result of the shabby way the University of Maryland got rid of football coach Joe Krivak, tarring and feathering him when all theyhad to do was fire him, is this:
People are gaining respect for Krivak as a person, and losing it for the man who did the number on Joe, athletic director Andy Geiger. There were boos Saturday at Cole Field House at the West Virginia game when Geiger's name was announced.
You have to wonder if Maryland quarterback Jim Sandwisch understands how bad he makes himself look in all this. When no one was defending Sandwisch, Krivak was. Callers to Krivak's radio show attacked Sandwisch every week, only to be told by the coach: "He's the best guy we have." And then Sandwisch trashes Krivak. Whew!
* The Blast, which probably played its game of the year Saturday in Dallas, will announce the team's MVP of the first quarter of the season at a luncheon tomorrow. My vote goes to Domenic Mobilio, who scored 14 goals in the first 10 games.
* The other day I asked Gary Gait, the Syracuse lacrosse great who's now working in Baltimore, if Orange football coach Dick MacPherson (now head coach of the Patriots) had ever tried to get him out for football. Gait is 6 feet 2, weighs 210 and was, along with his twin, Paul, the fastest on the field.
"Coach Mac told me I'd make a great free safety," Gary said. "I asked him, 'What's a free safety?' Remember, I'm from Western Canada. I don't know anything about football."
* There's going to be a new college football team in the Baltimore area. Explains Charlie Brown, athletic director at UMBC, where a merger with UMAB is in the works:
"If we merge, we'll be a major institution. We'll have 16,000 students -- 10,500 here, 5,500 downtown. We'll have a medical school, a law school, a dental school. We'd gain 1,000 undergraduates from the nursing school.
"Whether we merge or not, we're going to have football. We're waiting on NCAA legislation next month that would create a Division I-AAA with no athletic scholarships. It looks as if that'll pass. And probably three years after that we'll have football here."