Years later, team suffers unimaginable loss

November 30, 2008|By RICK MAESE | RICK MAESE,rick.maese@baltsun.com

As the years had passed, they had all scattered to some degree. They owned restaurants, they ran companies and small businesses, they sold products, marketed products, produced products, and one in particular - whom Calvert Hall's class of 1992 will never forget - served as a paramedic for the state police.

But there they were, drawn together by unexpected phone calls, jarring e-mails and news reports that just didn't make sense.

Did you hear?

They were coming home from vacations. Enjoying the weekend. Watching football.

Turn on your TV. A helicopter crashed. You'll never believe.

They would later say it wasn't really sadness that initially swept over them. It was shock, disbelief, numbness. Who could imagine?

Mickey's dead.

One of their teammates was gone.

No one was surprised Mickey Lippy became a paramedic. As a child, he would bandage his stuffed animals and move them from room to room with a gurney he fashioned out of an old TV stand. And it was also no surprise that he joined the fire department and later the state police. Mickey was always the consummate team player. Growing up around sports, it was tough for him not to be.

Bruce Lippy taught physical education for 40 years in Baltimore County schools. He remembers coming home and spotting his son - named after Mickey Mantle - waiting on the porch.

"He'd have a basketball or lacrosse stick or whatever," Lippy says. "He was just waiting for me to get home to practice or play with him."

Mickey was a year-round athlete, rotating among baseball, football, basketball and lacrosse. His father remembers Mickey's first year playing Little League. Mickey hit a home run to win the game. The bleachers were filled with cheering parents, and all their attention was suddenly focused on the small boy with the bat.

"He didn't want to run around the bases," Lippy says. "He was not one that needed the limelight. He was a team guy all the way. That's why he was so well-liked."

That became quickly apparent when Mickey transferred as a sophomore to Calvert Hall from Loch Raven High in 1989.

If there was any doubt that Mickey was embraced as part the Cardinals team, it disappeared quickly. Just two weeks into the school year, Mickey's grandmother died. Mickey walked in the locker room one afternoon before practice and saw his teammates already seated. He thought he was late. He was certain he would be forced to run after practice.

But Mickey was given a flower arrangement and a card signed by the entire team. Then they walked in a line, one by one shaking the new kid's hand and expressing condolences.

Theirs was a team in every sense of the word.

Making a name for himself

The first thing many of his new teammates noticed about Mickey was the scar on his arm. When Mickey was just 3, he stuck his arm through a glass door. He underwent surgery and made several hospital visits. He fell in love with the medical field.

As a teenager, though, his efforts were focused on sports, particularly football and lacrosse.

"It just was his life," his father says. "If we walked into a room and there was a beauty queen on one side of the room and a football on the other, he'd have went to the football."

Mickey started on varsity as a sophomore, and by the time he was a junior, most opposing coaches and players were familiar with No. 51. He played center and linebacker, which meant he seemed to touch the football on every play of the game. In the Turkey Bowl his junior year - Calvert Hall's annual Thanksgiving matchup with Loyola - the announcer called out each tackle. "Yep, it's Lippy again, folks," he said.

"On the field, he was just an animal," says Joe Antonelli, who was captain and played defensive tackle during Mickey's senior year. "I played in front of him, and I always felt so much better when Mickey had my back."

Mickey's senior season - 1991 - was one of the best Calvert Hall has enjoyed. In its fourth game, against Cardinal Gibbons, Calvert Hall held a 10-3 lead in the third quarter. Gibbons drove to within sniffing distance of the goal line, and on second-and-goal, Mickey snared an interception at the 5-yard line. The Cardinals scored on their ensuing possession.

He was always like that, drawn to the ball. He was the defensive captain for a unit that held seven of its 11 opponents to six points or fewer.

For all three years, Bruce Lippy watched practice every day. Not because he wanted to nitpick the coaching; just because he liked watching his son. After practice, he would try to prod his son into being meaner. But that just wasn't Mickey.

"When he walked across the line, he was all football. And then he stepped back across and he was a gentleman again," said Bill Mackley, Calvert Hall's coach from 1988 to 1993. "He was the kind of kid who would knock the heck out of somebody but then immediately help them back up."

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