Eckman goes out in unique style

SIDELINES

July 09, 1995|By PAT O'MALLEY

Charley Eckman got what he deserved -- a funeral not to be forgotten.

Eckman, who in the words of his son, Barry, "called a cab to heaven at 7:20 a.m." on Monday, July 3, ending a four-year bout with cancer, was laid to rest Thursday.

Music from a Dixieland band played tunes as Charley's casket left the church for internment at Loudon Park Cemetery in southwest Baltimore after the unique ceremony.

The 73-year-old Eckman was eulogized as a one-of-a-kind sports celebrity at the Harundale Presbyterian Church in Glen Burnie, where he and his wife, Wilma, had resided for more than 40 years.

Not one but two clergymen handled the service -- the Rev. Doctor James Kirk and Catholic priest, Msgr. Martin A. Schwalenberg. Only Charley could have pulled that off.

A who's who of Baltimore sports paid homage to the most colorful broadcaster to ever grace our air waves.

Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan, Vince Bagli, John Steadman, Jack Dawson, Stan Charles, Harry Shriver, Rex Barney, Roland Hemond, Jim Sears, Chuck Thompson, Tom Davis, Phil Jackman, Michael Olesker, Joe Gross and Attorney General Joe Curran were among those who took part in the celebration of Eckman's storied life.

Here was a man who truly did it all in his 73 years, and he's not soon to be forgotten. The memories are endless and wonderful.

Eckman, who became so famous that they named a street

(Charley Eckman Lane at Saw Mill Creek Park), a horse and a bottle of scotch after him, grew up on Stricker Street in northeast Baltimore. He played baseball and soccer at Patterson Park and at City College before taking a roller-coaster ride through college and pro sports.

He became one of the most notorious basketball referees in Atlantic Coast Conference history and was known as "Charley Be-Bop" along Tobacco Road. Eckman refereed about 158 games (college and high school) for about 38 years.

Later he would wear his stripes on the courts of the National Basketball Association where he distinguished himself as the only man to referee and later coach an NBA all-star game.

"Coaching in the NBA was like being on vacation, the idea is to match personnel, forget all that who struck John stuff about systems," said Eckman.

Eckman coached the Fort Wayne Pistons in the NBA for several years before being fired. His $17,500 annual salary was tops among NBA coaches, including Boston Celtic great Red Auerbach, who made about $8,500 when Eckman was around.

fTC Along the way, Eckman worked jobs at Westinghouse, Martin Aircraft and Crown Cork and Seal, and even served a stint as an Orphan's Court judge under Gov. Millard Tawes. Tawes reneged on a promise to put Charley on the State Racing Commission and later regretted it when caught in an elevator with the outspoken one.

Over 20 years ago, Eckman started the highly successful World Series of Handicapping at Penn National Park.

A member of three hall of fames, including the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall, Eckman roared his way through Baltimore radio for 26 years. His broadcasting career began at WYRE in Annapolis and he moved to WCBM and really made his mark at WFBR in Baltimore.

Eckman had his own language and it became our language.

Who will ever forget such Eck-isms as: "Call a cab, you can call two cabs. . . . you can go to sleep on them cherries. . . . go on it with it jock. . . . give him the saliva test. . . . ain't no way. . . . it's better than the movies. . . . like Halloween and New Year's Eve on the same night.

"Are you trying to be cute. . . . hey leader (when he couldn't remember your name). . . . a right guy. . . . a piece of cake. . . . Ohhh-rioles and Bawlemore. . . . romping and stomping (describing Lefty Driesell). . . . he's a yo-yo. . . . write home for money. . . . an authority is somebody from out of town. . . . it's a very simple game."

It wasn't English. It was Ecklish and we loved it.

But there was a side of him not everyone knew. His friends and family cherished his caring and loyal manner. Needy families, guys down on their luck, people who needed jobs or kids who needed scholarships or tickets to sporting events sought out Charley.

Behind the scenes, he was always there for those in need whether it be financially or emotionally. He seemed to have time for everyone and seemed to know everyone.

Charley loved people and loved to make them laugh.

Most of all, he loved and was very proud of his family, Wilma, his wife of nearly 55 years, and children, Barry, Linda, Gail and Janet, and their children and grandchildren.

You can call two cabs, or 20 cabs, but it's a very simple game -- there will never be another Charley Eckman and we're going to miss him dearly.

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