Howard F. Griffin, 84 longtime baseball coach

August 13, 1993|By Staff Report

Howard F. Griffin, who coached baseball at Catonsville Senior High School for 44 years and was pitching coach at Catonsville Community College, died Wednesday of complications after surgery at James Lawrence Kernan Hospital in Baltimore.

The 84-year-old Arbutus resident, who was known as "Buck" or "Pops," retired in 1976 after coaching varsity or junior varsity teams at Catonsville High since 1932. He said the principal offered him the position when no one else would take it.

After retiring from the high school, where he also taught mathematics and biology, he was pitching coach at the community college for about 15 years.

His high school teams won 17 Baltimore County championships, 13 of them in his first 13 years, and the 1976 Class A state championship.

At least 10 of his players played in the major leagues, and one, Bob Maisel, was sports editor and columnist for The Sun.

From the mid-1940s until the late 1960s, he and his first wife, the former A. Isabelle Michel, who died in 1982, operated an Ocean City restaurant, the Crab Meet.

Born in Berlin, he was a 1930 graduate of Washington College and was a pitcher on the teams that won state championships that year and in 1929.

He then joined the Boston Red Sox farm system, where he was assigned to a Class A team in Pittsfield, Mass., and, after it folded, to the Hagerstown team that finished first in the Class C Blue Ridge League.

Though he met Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in Boston and the Red Sox were interested in him, he left baseball for teaching and coaching.

"I didn't take to pro ball like I thought I would," he once said. "To play pro ball is more confining than a person would dream. If you have a day off, you practice."

He also noted that the summer of 1930 was especially hot, without air conditioning and with all day games.

He was named to the Washington College Baseball Hall of Fame and to the Hall of Fame of the Oldtimers Baseball Association of Maryland.

Interested in gardening since his youth on a farm, he grew cantaloupes, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables for years at the Ellicott City home where a son now lives. He helped plant this year's crop.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mr. Griffin is to be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore National Pike and St. Agnes Lane in Catonsville.

He is survived by his wife, the former Charlotte Ruff; three sons, H. Frank Griffin Jr. and R. Michel Griffin, both of Ellicott City, and Charles W. Ruff of Catonsville; a sister, Marie Rickards of Ocean City; two granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter.

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