Osceola Smith, 85, coached youth baseball

November 23, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Osceola Smith, a longtime baseball organizer and coach in Turners Station who taught the game to former National Football League great Calvin Hill and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, died Wednesday of heart failure at Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown.

Mr. Smith, 85, known as "Mr. Smitty," coached hundreds of youths in and around Turners Station for more than 40 years, telling friends and relatives that being involved with the youngsters was his "ministry."

Mr. Mfume said Mr. Smith "never got the headlines, but he taught us all how to act like men."

Mr. Smith's son, Meredith, who is a coach at Baltimore's Southern High School, said his father "stressed many of the attitudes that are used on the field into how [youths he coached] could live their lives."

A solidly built man, Mr. Smith spent most summer evenings in Turners Station in southeast Baltimore County on the baseball diamond coaching youngsters from ages 2 to 17.

Others he coached included attorney A. Dwight Pettit and former heavyweight boxer Larry Middleton.

"He became much more than a coach, but a father figure," Mr. Mfume said. "He really taught all of us how to play the game to win and how to walk across the diamond after you lose and shake hands and hold your head up."

Beginning in 1951, Mr. Smith was the unofficial commissioner of youth baseball in Turners Station.

"When you start doing something in a community and you see the need for that to continue, then you have to help," Mr. Smith said in a 1982 interview with The Sun. "We need this [recreation program]. It's a diversion from the other things the kids can get into."

In addition to coaching, Mr. Smith often maintained the fields and frequently used his money to buy equipment and uniforms.

"He demanded the best effort out of the kids and wanted the kids to play and look their best," his son said.

Mr. Smith especially enjoyed coaching Mr. Hill, who later played for the Dallas Cowboys, was a Rhodes scholar and a vice president of the Baltimore Orioles.

"He was so big and threw so hard that my father had to literally carry his [Mr. Hill's] birth certificate to the games to prove he was the right age," Meredith Smith said.

A native of McGregor, Texas, the elder Mr. Smith attended Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, and Texas College in Tyler, Texas. He moved to Turners Station in 1941 and played semipro baseball for the Edgewater Giants of the old Negro League.

As a catcher, outfielder and infielder, he competed against Negro League greats such as Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. He was not paid for playing baseball and worked at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point from 1941 to 1976.

"He just had a love for the kids," said his daughter, Mary Livingston of Randallstown. "He wanted to stress upon the kids discipline, leadership, self-respect and sportsmanship."

Services are scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 651 Mount Olive Road in Turners Station.

In addition to his son and daughter, he is survived by his wife, the former Consuella Evans, whom he married in 1942; four other sons, Lewis Carter of Los Angeles, and James Smith, Reginald )) Smith and Carlton Smith, all of Baltimore; another daughter, Alexis Smith of Aberdeen; 16 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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