Jim Head worked alongside Earl Hersh as a coach, worked for him during Hersh's 25-year tenure as the county's supervisor of athletics and physical education and called him a friend for many decades.

But Head remembers running into Hersh long before any of that, when Head was a star football player at Westminster High and Hersh, a teammate of Hank Aaron's on the Milwaukee Braves, returned to Carroll during baseball's offseason.

"He would run the football and we would try to stop him," Head recalled. "It was quite a challenge. He was tough."

And good at pretty much everything.

Hersh, a charter member of the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame who was voted the county's top athlete of the 20th century, died Monday. He was 80.

Hersh was a multi-sport star athlete at two different high schools in Carroll, he played college football and turned down a chance to play in the NFL and he played professional baseball, earning a call-up to the Braves and, batting cleanup, right behind Aaron, doubled in his first major league at-bat.

He made perhaps his biggest contributions once his playing days were over, however, as a coach and administrator.

"He had an impact on a lot of us," said Bruce Cowan, who played football under Hersh at Westminster High and later succeeded Hersh as county AD.

One of those he impacted most was Head, who said that, in a way, he owes his life to Hersh for rescuing him from a job he hated with a surprise offer to be an assistant football coach at Westminster. Head coached with Hersh for five years, took over the program for 10 and served as the school's AD for 22.

Head said Hersh kept the discipline instilled in both of them by Herb Ruby, Westminster's first football coach, but found a way to make the sport more fun for the players.

"The kids loved Earl. He did things different," Head said. "I tried to do a lot of things Earl had done. He did a lot of good things."

Hersh, who had been living in Hanover, Pa., leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Janet, three children and quite an athletic legacy.

Born in Ebbvale in 1932, Hersh excelled in four sports at Manchester High.

"He had speed, he had size and he really wanted it,'' said former high school teammate Henry Lichtfuss, himself a Carroll Hall of Famer, in 1999.

Hersh transferred to Westminster on the advice of one of the Manchester coaches who thought Hersh was a good enough athlete to play football in college and Westminster had the only high school football team in Carroll.

He helped Westminster go 7-2-1 and, after graduating in 1949, went on to West Chester State College. Years later, Hersh credited that Manchester coach, Tom Hickman, with starting him on a successful life path.

"I was a farm boy," Hersh told the Times in 1999. "I had no aspirations of going to college."

Once there, he excelled. He was named to the Little All-America team and played in the Blue-Gray game, catching a touchdown pass from future Baltimore Colts and Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda.

Hersh said he was offered a professional contract by the Philadelphia Eagles, but turned it down to pursue a baseball career. He signed with the Braves and put up big minor-league numbers for several seasons before making his major league debut on Sept. 4, 1956.

With future Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews injured, Hersh batted fourth that day, in the middle of a pennant race. Hersh led off the second inning by ripping a double.

Matthews soon returned and Hersh finished with three hits in 13 at-bats, for a .231 average and a .462 slugging percentage.

That wound up being his career line because the Braves were young and loaded, making the World Series in 1957 and 1958, and didn't really have a spot for Hersh, who never got back to the majors.

Four decades later, he was anything but bitter.

"I never felt sorry for myself," he said. "I felt I was lucky to get a cup of coffee. Look how many people don't.''

After a few more years in pro ball, and after moving 27 times by his wife's estimation, Hersh and his young family returned to Carroll, where he settled down and began his life in education.

Hersh succeeded Ruby as Westminster's football coach and guided the Owls to a 9-0-1 season in 1963. While he continued coaching at the rec level, he gave up high school coaching to spend a quarter-century as county AD. Girls sports, in particular, flourished on his watch.

"They really took off under him," Cowan said. "As a supervisor, he was excellent. He was very thorough in his approach. He made sure those sports got what they needed."

Hersh was inducted into West Chester's Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and its baseball Hall of Fame in 1992, the year he retired.

In 1994, he became a member of the first class of the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame. His son, Larry Hersh, later joined him in the Hall.

And in 1999, a panel of experts commissioned by the Carroll County Times named Hersh Carroll's Athlete of the Century.

For all his athletic achievements, though, Head and Cowan remembered him as a good friend and family man whose loss will be felt by many.

"It's a sad day," said Cowan, "for a lot of us."

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