Jerome A. “Jerry” Komin, a retired salesman and highly regarded local sports official who had been a champion athlete at Mount Saint Joseph High School, died of dementia Aug. 30 at Lorien Encore at Turf Valley, an assisted living facility. The Ellicott City resident was 86.
“My father took me when I was a little guy to see Jerry at Mount St. Joe and then I followed his career at Loyola,” said Jack Degele, commissioner of the Baltimore Catholic League, which oversees Catholic high school basketball.
“He was a players’ ref, knew all of the local guys, and loved doing high school games and following the kids,” he said. “When I was in high school, he reffed my games and then when I was in college at the University of Baltimore for the Mason-Dixon Conference.”
Billy Warren, president of the Baltimore Metro Officials Association, is an old friend.
“Jerry wasn’t a stickler for the rules and went with the flow,” Mr. Warren said. “After he refed at junior varsity games at Mount St. Joe, he’d hang around and watch the varsity. He was just a normal nice guy. He was a mentor to me and a lot of younger ones who came up into the group and became officials. He was a guy who gave back.”
Jerome Anton Komin, son of Jerome Komin, a printer and fisherman, and his wife, Anna Komin, a baker and homemaker, was born in East Baltimore and raised there. One of his boyhood friends was future Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers right fielder Al Kaline, family members said.
Jeffrey L. Komin, his son, years later arranged a reunion between the two men.
“I took him to see Cal Ripken get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. I arranged with Al Kaline ahead of time for the two of them to get together,” Mr. Komin wrote in an email. “They spent over an hour in the backroom of a baseball card store in Cooperstown talking about the old times, playing sports in Baltimore, and how much fun they had playing together and against each other.”
Each day, Mr. Komin took two streetcars to get to his Irvington high school.
While a student at Mount St. Joe, he was the leading point scorer when the Gaels topped Mr. Kaline’s Southern High School, in the 1953 MSA basketball championship game. During his junior and senior years he was named to The Sun’s All-Scholastic teams, and in 1988 he joined the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Mount St. Joe in 1953, he began his college studies at what is now Loyola University Maryland, where he continued playing basketball and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.
He then worked for the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in the procurement department until becoming a Purex soap salesman and subsequently a salesman for Carnation selling milk and cat food, and then the Drawing Board, where he sold greeting cards.
In 1970, he went to the Frederick P. Winner Co., a liquor distributor, where he sold beer, wine and spirits to Baltimore-area bars and package goods stores. Even though he retired in 1996, he continued to work part time for various distributors selling Gatorade and Trident chewing gum.
With his days of playing sports behind him, Mr. Komin turned to officiating in 1968 and continued until 2013.
“Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and Columbia was only a year old when Jerry Komin whistled his first foul in a high school basketball game. That was 1968,” The Sun reported in 2001.
“You would see him almost every day officiating some Baltimore sports teams, ranging from youth to semipro,” said his son, Jeffrey Komin of Ellicott City.
“He officiated basketball, baseball, soccer, and men’s slow-pitch softball. He always enjoyed talking with the players and crowds, using his salesman instincts to de-escalate any situation. Players, coaches and parents always knew when Jerry Komin officiated the game, the players would be the one that decided the outcome of the game, not the ref,” his son said.
Mr. Degele said: “When I took over the Catholic League from Loyola High School’s Jerry Savage, I got Jerry Komin to ref our games. He had that great personality, loved doing games, and wanted to be there. And he didn’t turn down his nose if it wasn’t a college game.
“When Jerry reffed a game, things were done differently. Sure, coaches could be a little argumentative, but after the game was over, we were all friends and went out for pizza and a couple of beers,” Mr. Degele said.
He said Mr. Komin’s sports experience in high school and college aided him in his role as a referee.
“He knew the game and you knew you were going to get a good-officiated game out of him because he knew how to play and he knew what you were doing,” Mr. Degele said. “And you knew he was going to be fair.”
“He was a real character and a dedicated official. He was always there and he really enjoyed it. The ex-player really came out of him,” Mr. Warren said.
Mike Malone, a member of the Maryland Basketball Officials Association, said: “Plus, his stories were entertaining and interesting and he was using them to teach you what happens in a game and you benefited from it. He was one of my mentors when I came to be a basketball official.”
It was a source of pride for Mr. Komin that his son joined him officiating at area sports contests.
His son explained in The Sun interview that he may call games “a little tighter” than his father.
“You’ve got to control the game,” the elder Komin said in the interview. “You can’t let things get out of hand. You’re not going to let a guy push another guy across the court. [But] the kids are the game. You’ve got to let them play.”
And both father and son agreed that fans come out to see the game, not the refs, “and that the best officials try not to take over a game,” reported the newspaper.
Mr. Komin was a member of the Free State Pleasure Club. One evening in 1961, a friend brought his date and the former Darlene Maize, to the club where he was busy scrubbing the floor. The couple began dating, fell in love and married a year later.
“That was the last time she saw him do that task,” his son said, with a laugh.
Mr. Komin enjoyed spending summers in Ocean City and traveling to Palm Desert, California, each spring. He was 75 when he obtained his passport and celebrated his birthday with a family cruise. He was also an ardent fan of “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”
Mr. Komin was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City where a Mass of Christian Burial was offered Sept. 3.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by two daughters, Stacey Collins of Severna Park and Jennifer de Palma of Ellicott City; and three grandchildren.