Pancreatic cancer ended Baltimore native George Weicker III's life at the age of 62 Feb. 21 in Nashville, Tenn., but that didn't stop him from leaving a legacy of academic and athletic greatness.
He'd spent his last 35 years at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville teaching math and building a winning tradition as the head football and baseball coach.
The former Cardinal Gibbons star played football, basketball and baseball before attending Davidson College on a football scholarship in 1971.
"He loved playing basketball for Coach Ray Mullis," said his uncle, Roland Knapp, of Baltimore. "He thought the world of him."
Weicker was the 1971 runner-up for Catholic Athlete of the Year and was Gibbons' scholar athlete representative.
"I watched him play a lot of baseball games," former Crusaders guidance counselor and principal Bill Hartman said. "He was a top student and a great athlete."
At Davidson, Weicker started all four years as a linebacker and played first base for the baseball team, becoming the Southern Conference Baseball Player of the Year and an All-American in 1975. He played five years of minor league baseball and was a hitting coach at Vanderbilt University from 1980-84.
Weicker was inducted into the Davidson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015. During a 30-year tenure as head baseball coach at Franklin Road Academy, his teams won more than 600 games and two state championships. He also won a state championship during a 20-year stint as the school's football coach and had a 153-80 record.
"George wanted to coach his son for his senior year in baseball," Knapp said. "He was trying all the latest treatments but didn't make it."
A former Baltimore city schoolteacher, Evelyn Weicker remembers watching her son play in the Eastern League All-Star Game at Fenway Park in 1978.
"George singled off the Green Monster," she said. "It's one of my greatest memories. He took his two kids on a tour of the park years later and showed them the spot. He was a great father."
Evelyn Weicker taught at Westport Elementary School in the early 1960s, and George attended her school so she could keep an eye on him. Her husband, George Jr., had played on the University of Maryland's 1954 Sugar Bowl team and worked as an industrial engineer at Bethlehem Steel. He also coached football at Glenelg High School.
"That's where it all started," she said. "Young George followed his father up and down the sidelines."
The Weickers lived in Edmondson Village, and George played in the Leakin Park Little League. He wanted to be a Gibbons Crusader because his neighborhood friends were going to attend the school.
"We were Episcopalians, but they didn't mind," Evelyn Weicker said. "He attended a Roman Catholic high school, a Presbyterian college and ended up a Methodist."
It was Evelyn Weicker who encouraged George Weicker when he returned to Baltimore from his minor league seasons to get a master's degree in education from Johns Hopkins. Once there, George Weicker met members of the Blue Jays' baseball team and founded a fall league for two years.
He never made it to the major leagues and relayed his thoughts on the matter in a 2007 interview on Vanderbilt's website: "I really was hoping to get up there just to be able to say I was up there. If you have 20 home runs in Double-A, you think you may get a shot. I was playing for the Cincinnati Reds where the roster didn't turn over."
Those Reds teams were known as the "Big Red Machine."
But the minors led him to the love of his life. Playing first base during the inaugural season of the Nashville Sounds in the summer of 1978, he didn't recognize the Davidson coed he'd met before in the stands heckling him with her friend.
"We harassed him during the game, and while he tried to casually glance around to see who we were, he did not recognize me until after the game," Lucy Weicker said. "The next night was a rainout, so my friend and I cooked him a nice dinner. That was the first time we really sat down and visited and got to know each other."
Playing Triple-A ball in Venezuela changed George Weicker's life, according to his mother.
"He was eating in a Caracas restaurant and watching kids pick up scraps off the street," Evelyn Weicker said. "It changed him and gave him a certain amount of humility. He lived an interesting life, but you would never know it from talking to him. He was never boastful."
More than 400 people attended his memorial service in Nashville Feb. 27. His players wore T-shirts with their favorite "Weickerisms" on them.
"Failure can't live in the company of perseverance."
"Creative repetition is the backbone of learning."
"Play for the guy next to you."
Calvert Hall baseball coach and former Gibbons teammate Lou Eckerl played football and baseball with Weicker. When the Crusaders beat Poly on the gridiron, 9-6, in 1969, it was Eckerl at quarterback who scored a touchdown and Weicker who kicked the game-winning field goal. Eckerl recalled a player you were glad to have on your side.
"George was always happy and laid back, a great teammate," he said. "He was very talented and thoughtful."
Issue 221: May 2016