Craig Steven Cook, 40, star player on several wheelchair sports teams

January 13, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Craig Steven Cook, who was struck by a train and lost both legs at age 9, and later starred in wheelchair basketball, died Sunday of cancer at home in Northwest Baltimore. He was 40.

A longtime Social Security Administration computer technician, he played for the Maryland Ravens and for the Metro Wheelchair Basketball league run by the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks. He also competed in wheelchair softball and tennis.

"He was one of the best -- if not the best -- point guard here," said Mike Naugle, who heads the therapeutic recreation division of the city's recreation department. "Craig was a gutsy player who had the tenacity of a professional. He lived sports."

Mr. Cook was a person who understood and empathized with athletes with disabilities, Mr. Naugle said.

"As competitive as he was, he had a deep respect for those with disability," Mr. Naugle said.

For the past 20 years, Mr. Cook often traveled with the Maryland Ravens to East Coast cities for games and was well-known within the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

In a 1991 interview in The Sun, Mr. Cook stated his philosophy: "I've always felt that if you work hard at what you do, you can have anything that you want. I always work hard, and I don't give up."

When the basketball season ended, he played softball with a 16-inch leather ball.

"I think you can shine more in this sport because, unlike basketball, you don't have to play as a team. You can make that individual play," he said in the Sun interview.

"As a shortstop, he was Ozzie Smith on wheels," said a friend, Mike Heady of Curtis Bay. "He could do on a chair what Ozzie could do on his feet."

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Cook graduated from William S. Baer School, which caters to special needs students, and Walbrook High School.

He was playing on railroad tracks when he was struck by a train on Monroe Street near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. He was fitted with artificial legs and used a cane to walk three blocks from home to take a bus to work.

When not playing sports, he read newspaper sports pages or watched games on television.

Services will be held at noon tomorrow at March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.

He is survived by a daughter, Katrina Cook of Randallstown; a friend, Janet Jackson of Yale Heights; three brothers, Kevin Cook, Darryl Collins and Harrison Cook; and three sisters, Rosemarie Cook, Bonnie Cook and Darlene Cook, all of Baltimore.

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