Hopkins' win recalls earlier group of stick legends

June 01, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

IT WAS only six days ago that I offered my congratulations to Dr. Miles Harrison Jr. The occasion was the graduation of his son Kyle Harrison from the Johns Hopkins University.

Now, I'll have to offer congratulations a second time: Kyle and his merry crew of Blue Jays captured the National Collegiate Athletic Association lacrosse championship Monday by beating those despicable Blue Devils from Duke University. (Hey, Duke's fans are so obnoxious, it's good to root against them in any sport.)

So for the first time in 18 years, the lacrosse championship belongs to Hopkins, which has won seven others since the NCAA tournament was introduced in 1971. Before then, Hopkins won more than a couple of dozen titles when the championship was determined by a postseason poll.

While all may not be right with the world, all is right with the lacrosse world. As Kyle Harrison so aptly put it, the lacrosse title is back where it should be.

Judging from my brief conversation with Kyle's dad, the younger Harrison's next appearance in a lacrosse uniform might be in a motion picture. Miles Harrison Jr. is one of the legendary "10 bears" - the number actually is greater than 10 - who played on then-Morgan State College's lacrosse teams of the early 1970s. The good doctor co-wrote a book about Morgan lacrosse with Chip Silverman, the coach of those teams, called Ten Bears. It will soon be a motion picture.

I half-jokingly asked Dr. Harrison, a surgeon at Sinai Hospital, if Kyle would play him in the picture. It appears I might be half-right.

"The action scenes," Dr. Harrison replied, adding: "Only someone who's played lacrosse can do the action scenes."

The filmmakers have not made a final decision on his suggestion.

Several actors are being considered for key roles. Some names that have been mentioned are Taye Diggs or Marlon Wayans to play Harrison, and either Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler to play Silverman.

There were other players crucial to the success of Morgan lacrosse who will no doubt be portrayed in the movie. One is the superbly talented Wayne Jackson, who is one of the best players to come out of Edmondson High School. (LL Cool J has been mentioned as one actor who might possibly play Jackson.)

But for the guys who played lacrosse or football or wrestled (or all three) in high school during the years 1965-1969, the burning question is: Who will get to play Stanley Cherry?

Cherry was another Edmondson product, who graduated a year after Jackson. Silverman wrote in Ten Bears that Cherry "inspired awe and dread in other [lacrosse] players." It was no different for wrestlers.

There is a countermove to a takedown in wrestling known as a "crossface," in which a wrestler will whip his forearm across the face of his opponent. For most wrestlers, a crossface is just a crossface. Cherry's went well over the line that separates a legitimate crossface from felony battery.

That reputation for violence dogged Cherry for much of his all-too-brief life. Silverman alluded to it in Ten Bears when he wrote that Cherry "was considered a bully, but in reality he loved to clown around." For others, Cherry might simply have been a bully who loved to clown around.

The late H.B. Johnson, who was an inmate at the Maryland State Penitentiary and a talented writer who also contributed to the op/ed pages of The Sun, grew up with Cherry in West Baltimore. After starring in football and lacrosse at Morgan, Cherry had a pro football career that fizzled before it barely started. He took a job as a corrections officer in 1978. It wasn't long before Cherry ended up at the penitentiary and was reunited with his boyhood chum.

Johnson didn't spare his West Baltimore homey any criticism in an op/ed piece he wrote after Cherry died of a drug overdose in early 1993.

"The prisoners in the Maryland Penitentiary thought him cold, cunning, dishonest and brutal," Johnson said. "Before I was thrown into the place, he already had a reputation for violence. ... Rumor had it that he'd played a part in knocking a prisoner's eye out of its socket, that he'd charged into a cell and helped others beat a prisoner unmercifully."

That's not the Cherry depicted in Ten Bears. Silverman remembers him as a guy whose violence was mostly confined to the football and lacrosse fields and the wrestling mat. And on the occasions it wasn't, Cherry's violence was done to protect someone, not to bully.

Most of the anecdotes in Ten Bears are about Cherry, not Jackson, who was a much better lacrosse player.

Stories about Cherry as a high school athlete and corrections officer have been around for years. Some have taken on the status of urban legends. None of them - or all of them together - makes it any clearer what the real Stanley Cherry was like.

I wish whoever has the task of casting Cherry's part in the Ten Bears movie lots of luck.

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