March is a month for saints. Well … Saint Patrick, anyway. But the Baltimore sports scene has seen its share of saints throughout the years.
It would be impossible to recognize all of the Baltimore sports figures who have impacted the community by giving their time, spending their money or using their platform to inspire others. But we’ll recognize some who have stood out this month with 15 “Baltimore Sports Saints.”
1. NFL Safety Keion Carpenter (Woodlawn)
When Carpenter died in 2016 after a fall while on vacation, it was difficult to define just how profound a loss it was for the community. Carpenter touched countless lives in his hometown through his nonprofit organization The Carpenter House, which included programs like “For My Kidz” and “The Shutdown Academy.” His commitment to Baltimore’s youth was nearly unmatched.
2. Baltimore Colts Defensive Lineman Joe Ehrmann
An author and in-demand motivational speaker since his playing days ended, Ehrmann has pushed to improve the lives of young men throughout the region and the country. His belief has been that sports should help produce better-rounded individuals instead of toxic, winning-is-everything athletes who have a far more negative impact on the world in general.
3. Loyola Women’s Lacrosse Coach Diane Geppi-Aikens (Parkville)
Geppi-Aikens was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1995 and spent the rest of her life very publicly battling the disease while still coaching her teams and inspiring the entire country. She made numerous national media appearances after being told in late 2002 that she only had months to live. She led the Greyhounds to the Final Four that season just weeks before she passed away.
4. Orioles Pitcher And Bullpen Coach Elrod Hendricks
Perhaps no individual was a better personification of what we wanted to believe “The Oriole Way” was than Hendricks. His affable demeanor came across whether he was tirelessly signing autographs at baseball games or making his many public appearances throughout the community. Perhaps no sports figure’s popularity has further exceeded his accomplishments on the field in our city’s history.
5. Orioles Outfielder Adam Jones
Jones’ overwhelming popularity in our city had something to do with the incredible amount of money he raised for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Baltimore. Or with his willingness to help out kids by holding clinics with the James Mosher Little League and donating money to the Mamie Johnson Little League team in D.C. Or perhaps it was just that in an era when athletes regularly disappear from the city where they make their money, he committed himself to an adopted hometown and endeared himself further on an almost daily basis.
6. Boxing Trainer Mack Lewis
The legendary late “Mr. Mack” helped scores of Baltimore youth avoid what could otherwise have been particularly difficult paths by teaching them the “sweet science.” He was a larger-than-life figure in our city — he even appeared on “The Wire” as himself — who constantly stressed that it was more important for his pupils to be good people than world champions.
7. NFL Linebacker Aaron Maybin (Mount Hebron)
Maybin has already reached sainthood in our eyes at a very young age because of tireless work to better the reality for Baltimore City school kids. Now an artist and a teacher after his playing days came to a disappointing end, Maybin has not only worked as an activist for improving the schools, he has given children hope through art.
8. Ravens Owner Art Modell And Wife Pat Modell
Yes, this one won’t sit well with your friends from Cleveland. But after bringing the NFL back to our city, the Modells strengthened their commitment to Baltimore by becoming heroic champions for various charities and institutions. Modell and his wife Pat donated tens of millions of dollars to the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the House of Ruth, St. Vincent de Paul, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the SEED School and the Lyric Opera House — just to name a few.
9. Colts Running Back Lenny Moore
Just about everyone in Baltimore has their own Lenny Moore story. Much like the late Hendricks, the Hall of Famer has maintained a nearly ubiquitous presence in the area. Moore has been ever gracious with his time, willingly taking pictures with and hugging football fans of all ages. He also established the Leslie Moore Foundation Scholarship in Baltimore City schools to honor his late son.
10. Orioles Third Baseman Brooks Robinson
Those first three sentences we used to describe Moore? Yeah, you can repeat them all here. “Mr. Oriole” has been an effervescent champion for our city, even going as far as to auction off almost all of his baseball memorabilia a few years ago to benefit his Constance & Brooks Robinson Charitable Foundation.
11. Tennis Legend Pam Shriver (McDonogh)
A 22-time grand slam winner as a doubles player, the Baltimore native remained extremely committed to her hometown after her Hall of Fame career. Shriver held 25 years of charity tennis events, many of which were exhibitions featuring the sport’s biggest stars and local athletes at the building now known as Royal Farms Arena. Currently an analyst for ESPN, she raised more than $4 million for local charities like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Baltimore Community Foundation.
12. Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland)
As he pointed out in a recent PressBox interview, when he plays his first game of the 2019 season, Smith will have officially played more games away from Baltimore than he did with the Ravens. Yet Smith’s commitment to the city remains rock solid. (He even says his family will settle down here when his playing days are over.) This year’s eighth annual Torrey Smith Family Fund Charity Basketball Game at Royal Farms Arena is just another example of his undeterred commitment to Baltimore.
13. Ravens Kicker Matt Stover
The two-time All-Pro is so synonymous with philanthropy that it’s actually the center of his post-playing career. He founded the Players’ Philanthropy Fund in 2010 to help other athletes manage their own charitable giving. Stover has remained a highly visible presence at community events.
14. Baltimore Bullets Center Wes Unseld
Unseld’s post-playing days brought him back to Baltimore, where his Hall of Fame career began. For 40 years, Unseld and his family have helped educate and guide generations of the city’s children though Unselds’ School in southwest Baltimore. And as PressBox’s own Jim Henneman once said, “When it comes to character, Wes Unseld’s the closest I’ve ever known to Brooks Robinson.”
15. Dunbar And Maryland Basketball Coach Bob Wade (Morgan State/Dunbar)
His tenure in College Park, Md., did not go the way fans had hoped, but it changes nothing about the legacy of the local coaching icon. Known as a “father figure” for young men during his coaching days, Wade’s impact was evident in ESPN’s “Baltimore Boys” documentary about his incredible Dunbar teams in the 1980s. But even after his coaching days, Wade served as Baltimore City Public School System coordinator of athletics before retiring in 2015. He earned praise for the strides he made in gender equality within the system.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen, Sabina Moran and Mitch Stringer/PressBox
Issue 252: March 2019