Achievements stamp Young as a giant in field of football

December 28, 1997|By John Steadman

It was the St. James Parochial School Drum Corps and included in the group that marched all over Baltimore was one George Bernard Young, an all-star fife player who prided himself, with persistent resolve, to never being out of step, and in perfect pitch with the music. Be it "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Beer Barrel Polka" or "Hut Sut Ralston."

George Bernard Young, then regarded as a young hepcat, was destined to do other things with his life than fifing through the streets of his much beloved hometown, looking the part of the "Pied Piper of Preston Street." Young was a brilliant student, an excellent defensive tackle at Calvert Hall, a Little All-America selection at Bucknell who was drafted by the ill-fated Dallas Texans in 1952 -- only to be the last player cut from the 33-man roster when the final squad was selected.

Now it's expected that after 19 years as general manager of the New York Giants, responsible for lifting them out of a woeful morass of misery, where they had reposed for 15 seasons, he may be retiring from the organization that he has put on its feet by dint of football knowledge and astute direction. His likely successor is believed to be Ernie Accorsi, who is a part of the Baltimore connection that has given so much to the success of the Giants. This was a team that had Accorsi and Harry Hulmes, both former general managers of the Baltimore Colts, working under the command of Young, whose record has possible Hall of Fame credentials.

Four times he has been elected NFL Executive of the Year, an unprecedented achievement, and on eight occasions, including this year, his team has qualified for the NFL playoffs. Young brought the Giants back from a 6-10, last-place showing in 1996 to NFC East honors this time around at 10-5-1. If he elects to leave, he'll be going out on his own terms and, at the same time, enabling the franchise to enjoy a return to respectability, which will give owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch additional reason to remember him for his immense contributions.

Young is 67, far from over the hill (even younger than Mara and Tisch) and should have more to do with football if and when he exits the Giants. The NFL office supposedly has something in mind for Young, hoping to use his abilities in the manner of a technical consultant. To this point, no announcement has been made. The man has too much to give than to simply pack it in, but there is a chance he could return to teaching or even hire on with a symphony orchestra for his fifing ability.

Being a sentimental sort, only you'd never get him to admit it, Young has held onto his fife and, on occasion, plays it in a romantic serenade to his wife, the lovely Mary Love Reddington, who grew up in Baltimore's Ednor Gardens and as a child lived closer to Memorial Stadium than any of its neighbors. The Youngs are a standout couple, intellectually attractive but not intimidating and always giving of themselves on behalf of meritorious causes.

To their everlasting credit, they have never forgotten their old friends. They take vacations in Baltimore, even during the most oppressive heat waves of summer. When the New York Giants won two Super Bowls, with George calling signals as general manager, the Youngs played host to private banquets at Baltimore Country Club that included 400 classmates and playmates from their old school days. It was a gathering that included such respected civic and religious individuals as Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Bishop William Newman, various professors, doctors, men who worked construction with pick and shovel and others who tended to blast furnaces at the steel mill.

The beauty of the Youngs is that they don't classify their friends by any so-called status quotient. Even if you're an old oyster shucker, hod-carrier, berry picker or lowly sportswriter, they provide a dignified and uniform welcome to one and all. George, of course, likes to lecture, quoting from Voltaire, Churchill and King David. Even, on occasion, Sleepy Jim Crowley.

Young's resume is replete with all kinds of accomplishments, in and out of academia. There's a degree from Bucknell, master's degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Loyola College, plus an honorary doctorate in human letters from Western Maryland College. The door to pro football opened to him in a rather unusual fashion. While coaching and teaching at City College, he won six football championships and was asked by the Colts' personnel director, Upton Bell, to review game movies relative to evaluating college personnel.

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