`Doc' Bartlinski, youth mentor, coach, Colts trainer, dead at 76

Much of life was dedicated to helping young athletes

September 03, 2002|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Joseph "Doc" Bartlinski, former coach, Baltimore Colts trainer and humanitarian, died yesterday afternoon of a pulmonary embolism at Harbor Hospital in Cherry Hill.

Bartlinski, a longtime Linthicum resident, would have been 77 on Oct. 23.

The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner, Bartlinski enlisted in the Army in World War II, right after his family moved to the Brooklyn area of Baltimore in 1942.

"He came home from the war with shrapnel in his right knee, which led to a knee replacement, eventual complications and his right leg being amputated two years ago," said Joe Bartlinski Jr.

After the war, Bartlinski started the Brooklyn Homes Boys Club in 1948, with 250 youths participating in football, softball and boxing.

Inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, he was introduced as "a man who did so much for so many for so little."

He spent more than 40 years coaching and treating for no charge thousands of young athletes of all races and denominations who came with injuries to the Brooklyn chiropractic office that he opened in 1951.

"Back when I started, nobody had insurance for kids playing ball and somebody had to take care of them," Bartlinski said in a 1992 interview.

The first football team he coached was the Pop Warner Brooklyn Blue Devils, for which legendary Arundel High baseball coach Bernie Walter played.

He coached the Blue Devils until 1955, when he became an assistant trainer with the Colts under the revered Eddie Block and treated such NFL Hall of Famers as Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan, Buddy Young, Lenny Moore, Gino Marchetti and Don Shula.

After two years as a Colts trainer, Bartlinski started the Baltimore Broncos semipro team, which became the Colts' unofficial farm team. Pete Pompey, the Edmondson football coach, who is closing in on 200 wins, was one of his star players for several years.

He also coached his four sons, grandchildren and relatives in youth football for the Anne Arundel Optimists and Andover Apaches, was an assistant at Mount St. Joseph High and started the football program at Archbishop Spalding in 1984.

That was a year after he lost his 25-year old son, Johnny, to an auto crash. The loss did not make Bartlinski bitter, but rather fueled his desire to help youths and their parents.

In addition to Joe Jr., Bartlinski is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons James and Edward; daughter Nancy Bush; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

There will be a viewing today at Gonce's Funeral Home in Brooklyn Park from 3-5 and 7-9 p.m, with a 9 a.m. mass and service tomorrow at St. Philip Neri in Linthicum.

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