For Tom Berlin, Friday was one doozy of a birthday. The Sykesville resident turned 70 and his old school, UMBC, pulled a historic upset in defeating Virginia in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Moreover, it was Berlin who, 52 years ago, chose the UMBC mascot, the Retriever.
"That's my claim to fame," said Berlin, a retired government worker who entered UMBC when it opened in 1966. That fall, school officials held a contest for students to select a mascot, and Berlin submitted his entry.
"Growing up, I never had a dog, but I'd always had an affection for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever," said Berlin, who'd attended Catonsville High. "Everyone was trying to link the mascot to Maryland — the funniest entry I can remember was the 'Crustacean' — and It dawned on me that the Retriever would be a great one."
When school officials chose the winner, "I was surprised. I never expected it," he said, "sort of like UMBC winning that game. Now the whole country is pulling for the Retrievers, the underdogs, and that's kind of neat."