L. Edward “Lefty” Elliott, a retired college and high school basketball and track coach, died of vascular dementia March 20 at Stella Maris Hospice. The Towson resident was 98.
Born in Baltimore and raised on South Charles Street, he was the son of L. Edward Elliott Sr., an electrical contractor, and his wife, Mildred.
He was a 1937 graduate of Southern High School, where he ran track and cross country. He later obtained degrees in social studies and physical education, and a master’s at then-Western Maryland College in Westminster, now McDaniel College.
While in his early teens, he competed in sports at Carroll, Swann and Riverside parks and acquired the name “Lefty.” He played basketball six nights a week at the old Cross Street Market’s hall at Charles and Cross streets. In a 1984 Baltimore Sun interview, he said he learned basketball through his South Baltimore-based coaches, Bill Schuerholz and Ernie Rau.
According to a family biography, Mr. Elliott was working for a bank at the time of the attack at Pearl Harbor. He was due to enter the military but his Selective Service classification was changed after his father was hospitalized. He became the family breadwinner for a time, working in a military-related shipyard job.
As his father recovered, he entered the Navy. He became a gun loader on a merchant ship that served in the South Pacific and carried supplies to Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Eniwetok and Kwajalein.
After the war he completed his studies and became a coach and teacher at Kenwood High School. He coached basketball, cross country and track and field. His record included eight Baltimore County championships and a trip to Cole Field House in College Park when his squad competed in the 1956 state basketball tournament.
He then coached at the University of Baltimore and later coached basketball and running sports at Edmondson High School.
In 1965 he became Washington College’s basketball and baseball coach, then in 1970 became track and field and cross country coach at then-Essex Community College. He was named 1973 coach of the year for indoor track and took the honor again in 1974 for outdoor track and field.
Mr. Elliott moved to Hollywood, Fla., in the mid-1970s and became headmaster at a private school. He returned to Baltimore in 1983 and resumed coaching, at then-Dundalk Community College and a year later at Loch Raven High School.
By then, he was at retirement age. The 1984 Sun article said, “He has learned that life is not sitting under a palm tree, basking in the Florida sun. It is doing the thing that means most to us. In Lefty’s case, that is coaching.”
In his first year at Loch Raven he took his team to the state championship at College Park, where his team faced Central High School from Prince George’s County.
“When the season began … they were wondering what the school was doing hiring a retired guy in his 60s to teach varsity baseball,” said the 1984 Sun article. “They love him now.”
The article quoted the school’s principal, Jay Gernand: “It’s a plus for us that Lefty has been through lots of tournament play. He’s even been to Cole Field House. A lot of high school kids would be awed by the size of the place. Lefty won’t let that happen.”
Though the team lost in the state final, Mr. Elliott was named The Sun’s boys’ coach of the year. “He immediately turned an also-ran team at Loch Raven in a solid contender. The Raiders won 10 straight games and reached post-season play for the first time in their 12-year history,” said the Sun account.
Mr. Elliott continued coaching and joined Dulaney High School’s staff. He coached girls’ cross country and won the state championship in 1996 and the track and field county championship in 1997.
He was a committee member of the Maryland Marathon and was its past treasurer. He also refereed high school and college basketball and soccer, and had been a host of the Maryland Special Olympics at Essex Community College.
As a young man he sang in the choir of the Olive Branch Evangelical United Methodist Church in South Baltimore. He also sang in local theatrical productions and appeared in “Carousel” and “Man of La Mancha.”
He also sang with the Paint and Powder Club and aboard the Bay Lady and the Lady Baltimore on harbor cruises, and appeared with the Balladeers at the Parkville Post of the American Legion.
In 2007 he was inducted into the Maryland Old Timers Baseball Hall of Fame.
A memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the chapel at Oak Crest Village, 8801 Walther Blvd., Parkville.