E. Baltimore legend Surock just kick from Hall of Fame

May 06, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Over in East Baltimore, people line up to tell stories about how great a soccer player Larry Surock was.

"He was on this level," said former Patterson High soccer coach Joe Taymans as he raised his hand high above his head. "And everybody else was down here [lowering hand a few feet]."

The people in East Baltimore must not be the only ones who think so. Surock, 61, is a nominee for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

UMBC soccer coach Pete Caringi, who grew up in Surock's neighborhood, said: "Everybody I ever talked to told me Larry Surock was the best ever to come out of Baltimore. My father took me to see him play when I was 12, and he was fantastic, even though he was 36 years old and not in his prime."

Tony Pennacchia, who comes from a long line of soccer players in East Baltimore, said Surock was such an outstanding athlete that "he could have made it big in any sport. Anything he touched in sports turned to gold."

Surock seems a bit embarrassed by the testimonies to his soccer ability.

"You guys are even making me feel a little uneasy," said Surock, whose gray hair and expanding waistline are the only things that appear to separate him from his days of soccer excellence.

"He can still hit a softball over the fence at the lot [John Booth Rec Center]," Caringi said of the man who was invited to spring training as an outfielder-pitcher with the New York Giants in 1949.

In his prime, there was nothing Surock couldn't do on the soccer field. He was big, strong, fast and scored goals in bunches.

He once scored nine goals in one game for Patterson High School against Park School.

Surock, 6 feet 1, 185 pounds in his glory days, scored 17 goals in 10 games for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland. The entire team had 30 goals.

The youngster from Claremont Street was one of 15 players to make the 1952 U.S. Olympic team out of 5,000 who had an opportunity to try out.

Later in 1952, Navy soccer coach Glenn Warner even made a demonstration film of Surock trapping the soccer ball, and showed it to his players and any other teams that were interested.

Surock will find out if he has made the soccer Hall, located in Oneonta, N.Y., in the middle of May. Inductions are in June.

Gene Ringsdorf, chairman of the Maryland State Soccer Association, which nominated Surock, said: "I think Larry's chances are excellent. His qualifications are super. They look for international and national accomplishments as a player, and Larry's done it in both areas. He played in the Olympics and had all those good 20 years for Pompeii [an amateur powerhouse from East Baltimore]."

Surock would be the second person from Maryland to enter the National Hall of Fame as a player in the Hall's 42 years.

Baltimore's Millard Lang, who played for the Canton Soccer Club and Johns Hopkins University in the 1940s, was inducted in 1955.

"To me this [making Hall] would be by far the greatest honor of my career," said Surock. "It culminates all that I've accomplished. Of course, there can be no bigger thrill than representing your country in the Olympics. That was my proudest moment on the field."

At Patterson High, Surock became the first player to make the All-Metro team four years, and he went on to be a two-time All-American at the University of Baltimore. After the 1952 Olympics, Surock was chosen to play for the United States in the 1954 World Cup, but was serving in the Army in the Korean War.

And somehow he was overlooked for the 1956 Olympics.

But Surock said his biggest disappointment was not missing out on the 1954 World Cup or the 1956 Olympics. Instead, he said he was hurt the most in 1958, when his Pompeii team lost, 2-1, in double overtime to the Los Angeles Kickers in a duel for the U.S. Open Cup amateur championship at Kirk Field before 7,500 fans.

"We would have won the national championship in regulation play," said Surock. "If only Johnny Paccicco hadn't tried to head a shot from midfield by Al Massaroni with about eight minutes left. We had taken out the goalkeeper for L.A., and the net was wide open when Massaroni hit a bullet from midfield, but Paccicco didn't realize it, and tried to head the ball into the net. The ball went over the top of the goal and we never had a chance to score again."

There have been other disappointments for Surock, who has worked for the Baltimore recreation department for the past 25 years after retiring from soccer at 36.

His Olympic clothing and equipment were stolen during two break-ins at his home in 1983 and 1985, and he never was asked to be involved with either the outdoor Baltimore Bays when they came to town in 1967 or the indoor Baltimore Blast, which arrived in 1980.

"The resentment is still there," said Surock. "I think I could have done something for the Bays because of my knowledge of the game. I don't know that much about indoor soccer, but I do have some ideas about how they could do more to get the top players from this city and the U.S. involved."

Four Baltimoreans are in the National Soccer Hall of Fame as administrators and coaches. They are Ringsdorf, who was president of the U.S. Soccer Federation from 1961-63, Vernon Reese, the late Alfreda Iglehart, and Granny Kraft.

Former longtime Towson State soccer coach Doc Minnegan has been nominated to the Hall for the third time, and his name will go to a special veterans committee if he is not elected this year.

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