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March 13, 2008: '77 Bees Still Buzzing Despite Loss of Leader

March 11, 2008

Howard “Chip” Silverman was laid to rest this past Monday. Diagnosed in October with melanoma, Silverman battled for more than four months, but he knew then that the score was settled.

It often takes a death to measure the life of a man. Silverman’s memorial service at Sol Levinson’s Funeral Home Sunday evening demonstrated as much. For a 65-year-old Jewish man from Northwest Baltimore, you would expect the "Diner" guys to all be there: Richard Sher, Boogie Weinglass, Barry Levinson, Ray Altman, Al Levine and Stanley Fine, to name a few.

But what was unexpected by some and more illustrative of Silverman's life, was the outpouring from the members of the black community he touched -- both in his capacity as a drug czar for the state of Maryland and in coaching lacrosse at Morgan State University in the '70s.

Many Baltimoreans remember Silverman because of his close relationship with Levinson, who wrote and directed "Diner." Silverman was at the heart and soul of Levinson's Baltimore-based films, "Tin Men," "Avalon" and "Liberty Heights." It was Levinson’s memories that fueled such great art, but it may have been Silverman’s soul that prodded the great observer to such heights.

There are those who knew Silverman for his own writing prowess. And those who remember him for his tenure as lacrosse coach at Morgan State that inspired the book "Ten Bears," which Silverman co-wrote with Dr. Miles Harrison.

Howard "Chip" Silverman

But little known is the story of how Silverman saved lacrosse at the University of Baltimore. Silverman's friend Frank Glorioso, a pugnacious face-off man on the 1977 UB Bees team, shared the story at Silverman's memorial.

“I just want to make sure you guys know the whole story," said Glorioso, describing UB's season in the sun, and how close it came to never happening. "Nothing against what he did at Morgan, but Chip saved lacrosse at U of B.”

After the 1976 season, UB coach Dick Edell resigned to take the coaching job at Army. UB athletic director Frank Szymanski turned to Silverman, who had been out of coaching since leaving Morgan in 1975, to be interim coach while helping the school find a new coach for the 1977 season.

As the season got nearer and there was still no coach, Silverman agreed to coach for one season. "The program would have been shut down," Glorioso said.

Led by two 100-point scorers, Bob Lacy and Tim O’Meally, the goaltending of Frank Pierson and the spirit of a band of brothers, Silverman led this rag-tag squad to an 11-7 regular season record.

“Chip really wasn’t the X’s and O’s guy; that was assistant coach Dino Mattessich. Chip was more of the motivator," said Steve Hamp, one of Silverman's assistant coaches that season.

Silverman was certainly a master motivator. Glorioso remembers one game in which the Bees were down by three goals with about four minutes to play. “Chip called a timeout and says, 'You guys get me four goals and I’ll get you five cases of beer,'" Glorioso said. "Bob Lacy says, 'Make it six and you’ve got a deal.'"

The Bees scored the last five goals to pull that one out.

Silverman's success at Morgan State was certainly fulfilling, but the '77 Bees may have made him prouder than any other group he coached.

The Bees had been slaughtered, 22-4, earlier in the year by the Dave Cottle-led Salisbury State team. But come the first round of the playoffs, midfielder Phil Fridley scored late to pull out an unlikely 11-10 UB victory. Next up was Hobart, which dressed more than 40 players, while the Bees had just 16, due in part to injuries. The preppies from Hobart burst the bubble of the Bees with a convincing 26-12 thrashing, but the memories were branded, and the camaraderie would last forever.

Three years ago, a spot was found on Glorioso's lung, and an MRI showed a tumor on his kidney. He had half his kidney removed, and has not only survived but thrived. During those tough times, Glorioso was buoyed by a call from his original coach Edell, who was beginning his own personal health trials. He was also boosted by continual visits from Silverman.

Last July, Glorioso returned the favor by nominating Silverman for the University of Baltimore’s Hall of Fame. Silverman received the news in early January that he was selected to the Hall. He called Glorioso and told him he had gotten the nod, but knew he wouldn’t be around to receive the award.

Glorioso, trying his best to keep Silverman’s spirits up, said, “I’ll pick the award up for you; I love you, and you don’t know how many lives you touched."

At the Hall of Fame induction May 9, Glorioso will be able to do one last favor for his friend and coach.

Issue 3.11: March 13, 2008