The initials "LB" are emblazoned on the helmets of the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team this season to honor the remarkable life of Dr. Larry Becker, who was killed in an automobile accident in West Palm Beach, Fla., in January at the age of 77.
Now, Becker's lacrosse legacy will be on display at Homewood Field as a two-time national champion, a dedicated and supportive alumnus and an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in getting athletes back on the field.
"During my 16 years as head coach at Johns Hopkins, Larry was always there to lend his support, both financially and, more important, emotionally," Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala said. "As a player, he was tough, hard-nosed and always put the team first."
That team was the Blue Jays. According to his son, Gary, Becker bled Hopkins blue and played with David Cordish and Joe Cowan in the late 1950s. The trio worked together to make the Cordish Lacrosse Center a reality.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gary Becker
"Having the initials on the helmet is a special thing," Gary Becker said. "Homewood Field is a special place. When I go into the new facility, I can see my father's name on Coach Pietramala's office."
Larry Becker grew up in the Waverly neighborhood, attended Forest Park High School and then enrolled at Hopkins. He loved sports and excelled at lacrosse and basketball in college. He was also the state racquetball champion five times and a scratch golfer.
While still alive, Becker had been immortalized by film director Barry Levinson as one of the original members of a Pikesville, Md., group that formed the basis for the 1982 movie "Diner."
He played during the halcyon days of Hopkins lacrosse, when Hall of Famer Bob Scott was the coach and fierce battles against the University of Maryland were the biggest sporting event in town.
"He was aggressive and strong, smart and completely aware of all aspects of the game," two-time Maryland All-American Ray Altman said. "You wanted him on your team."
His shot was legendary.
"He was a stud, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and fast," Gary Becker said. "He had one of the hardest shots in the game. In an all-star game at Memorial Stadium, he shot the ball so hard it hit the pipe and ricocheted to midfield. The opposing team got it and scored the winning goal."
Larry Becker broke his leg his senior year, and that experience inspired him to become a doctor.
"My dad understood how bad players wanted to get back on the field," Gary Becker said. "He was one of the first doctors to bring arthroscopic surgery to Baltimore."
Gary played for his father in middle school.
"I grew up with a wooden lacrosse stick in my hand," he said. "After a rough practice, dad would take us on ‘the tour' around our middle school in Pikesville, backwards and forwards. At 40, he was in better shape than any of us. We still talk about ‘the tour.'"
However, life was not always a joyous event like a Hopkins lacrosse game for Larry Becker. He lost two wives to cancer and was taking care of a third with Alzheimer's.
"He was handsome and so successful, but he had an ability to persevere," Gary Becker said. "He took care of us when my mom passed away. He taught us to ‘live life' and ‘love life.'"
Larry Becker had spoken to his son about dying before the accident and his desire to have a simple ceremony in Florida where he lived.
"That wasn't going to happen," Gary Becker said. "Five hundred people showed up. I can't tell you how many people told me they talked to my father every day."
Gary Becker was on his way to visit his father on the day he was killed and spoke to him on the phone.
"He told me about a recent golf game," Gary Becker said. "He'd missed the green by 30 or 40 feet and then hit a shot that put him two feet from the hole to win the championship. You can't imagine how many people claimed to have seen that shot at the ceremony."
They wanted to be on Dr. Larry Becker's team.
"His winning attitude was contagious," Pietramala said. "He was a true Hopkins man and will be sorely missed."
Issue 219: March 2016