It's regrettable that more people couldn't have been there Tuesday night at Michael's Eighth Avenue in G1en Burnie, but for those who attended it was an unforgettable evening.
The Four Rivers District Boy Scouts of America honored Charley Eckman with its Good Scout Award. He was joined by his wife, Wilma, and their children, Barry, Linda, Gail, Janet and other family members along with a group of Boy Scouts.
Eckman was honored for his humanitarian and community deeds over the last 45 years as a Glen Burnie resident, and a cavalcade of sports and media personalities joined in the tribute.
The banquet originally was scheduled for December, but conflicts and Eckman's health forced a change to the January date. Program chairmen David Timmons and Joanne Murphy didn't get the word out on the change as well as they would have liked.
What a shame because Timmons and Murphy assembled an impressive group of speakers.
Among the speakers were WJZ-TV's Richard Sher and Marty Bass, Baltimore Sun columnists Michael Olesker and John Steadman, WQSR and Home Team Sports broadcaster Tom Davis, General Manager Roland Hemond and coach Al Bumbry of the Baltimore Orioles, former Blast and Spirit indoor soccer coach Kenny Cooper, and Monsignor Martin Schwalenberg.
Each had a Charley Eckman story, but as Olesker said, "Most of the Eckman stories are not repeatable in public."
The outpouring of respect and genuine love for Eckman was evident as each speaker took the podium. It left quite an impression on the young scouts in attendance not to mention the Eckman family.
Many of the scouts were too young to have heard Eckman in his hey day as the "tell it like it is" voice of WFBR-radio in Baltimore, but it didn't take them long to realize they were watching and listening to something special.
Slide shows can be a total bore, but not the one that Murphy and the Eckman family put together. Everyone really enjoyed looking at shots of Charley as a young college and NBA referee, NBA bTC coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons as well as family photos.
There was even a slide of the green street sign near Saw Mill Creek Park that reads: Charley Eckman Lane. Also, a photo of the thoroughbred once named after Charley was shown and Steadman later joked that "Charley put a lot of money into that horse," referring to Eckman's penchant for wagering on the ponies.
Cooper, who recently took a soccer coaching position in Tampa Bay, was in Virginia earlier in the day and made a trip to Glen Burnie to be with Charley. The former Blast coach talked about what Eckman means to him as a friend and what Eckman has done to promote soccer over the years.
Eckman had the last at-bat and as usual he hit a homer. His ability to spin hilarious yarns at a rapid-fire pace is best suited for mature audiences, but was masterfully adjusted to the part-PG13 crowd on hand.
Charley was Charley without some of his best color. Sher had called him "the greatest curser" he had ever heard, but Eckman did a marvelous job restraining himself and still captivated the audience with several funny stories.
Nobody can tell sports stories with the same recall, enthusiasm and hilarity as Charley Eckman.
His unique style and life drew a personal post-banquet thank you from young Michael Novitzge of Troop 672. Michael thanked Charley for all his contributions of time and money to youth and community groups.
Eckman, who has been battling cancer for three years, even talked about not fearing the inevitable.
"With this cancer, I could go today or tomorrow, but I'm not afraid to die," said Eckman. "I have a wonderful wife and family and I've done it all in my 73 years."
McMullen moves on
Former Broadneck boys soccer coach Kevin McMullen, whose teams won three county and three region titles, has been named athletic director at a new high school on the Montgomery and Frederick county line. He had transferred to Thomas Johnson High in Frederick a couple years ago.
McMullen will get the chance to start a program from the ground floor as his older brother Tim did at Broadneck in 1982 when Urbana High opens its doors next year.