Cumberland Times-News

June 15, 2013

Terry Lippold: He got it right

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— Terrence Patrick “Terry” Lippold — or, as Joe Powell once pegged him, “Tiny” — was a great man. He was a great friend. He was a great baseball man, and he was a great umpire.

Having known Terry since the ninth grade at Fort Hill High School, I could tell you a million stories. Everybody could tell you a million stories. We just couldn’t tell you here.

No, there was nothing bad or horrible, or even wrong ... Okay, some of the things we did were wrong, but, believe me, they were never malicious or hurtful, other than to, perhaps, ourselves. But most of the stories we’re all talking about are just a little ... oh, how can we say it? Most of the stories are just a little too salty to put into a family newspaper. For Terry, you see, was a salty guy. He was a fun-loving, happy, upbeat, generous, friendly and loving guy, and we’re all going to miss him terribly.

Terry umpired baseball and softball here for close to 40 years — from the time he was old enough to don the equipment. You all know him. ZZ Top? The big, burly umpire with the beard down to his waist? The happy man, who let you have your say, but who was the strict and fair arbiter of the game we all hold so dear to our hearts.

Nobody loves the game more than Terry did, and nobody took better care of it than — again, my thanks to Joe Powell— “Big Lips” did. He was was fair, he was just, and he was damn good.

 “The person who made the statement ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ must have had Terry Lippold in mind,” said Paul Ackerman, one of the best baseball players who ever lived in these parts, as well as one of the greatest coaches and stewards of the game that we have. “Because if you’d see him on the street — with that long beard, the whole ZZ Top thing — you’d never dream how professional of an umpire and baseball guy he was. And he embraced it. He loved it.

“When people showed up to see him umpire, they must have been thinking, ‘What are we in store for today?’ But after seven, 10, 12, 14 innings of baseball, what have you, he explained it: ‘This is the way it is,’ and they all left with a good feeling.

“Terry never left anything in doubt. I see these guys in ‘Duck Dynasty’ and figure Terry’d fit right in. He was professional, he was one of the good old boys and he’d make duck calls with the best of them.”

Few love the game as Allegany College of Maryland baseball coach Steve Bazarnic does. But Terry Lippold did.

“Everytime I talked to Terry — and I talked to him a lot — all he ever said was how much he loved umpiring,” said Bazarnic. “It was a big part of his life.

“He had his knee replaced and he wanted so bad to get back out there this year. He was an icon of local umpires. He stepped into Sookie’s shoes, and Al Martin’s. Terry did a lot for the umpires and for baseball in the area.

“He was fun to talk to. It was always ‘Go Maryland’ and all that good stuff. We talked a lot. The last couple of years he was riding around with his dog, and he loved that.”

Bazarnic was not the only person to mention Terry in the same breath with local umpiring legends Sookie Grimes and Al Martin. Said former Allegany High baseball coach Toby Eirich, “In my time around — I’m talking Rocking Chair League fast-pitch softball, high school, college, Rec League and Hot Stove baseball — you’re talking about the Mount Rushmore of local umpires. Terry Lippold, Al Martin and Sookie Grimes. There’s the Mount Rushmore of umpires right there in my book.

“The thing I liked about Terry when he worked a game was he always gave you a fair shake, and if you went out there to talk to him as the head coach, he’d let you talk. He’d listen to you and let you have your say. Then he’d say, ‘Now get the hell out of here.’ But when he had your game you never had to worry. You knew everybody was going to get a fair shake.”

Duane McMinn, Allegany High athletic director and former Campers baseball coach, was new to the area when he got his first taste of Mr. Lippold, but he was quick to discover that Terry was the man he wanted umpiring his games.

“When Lippy showed up for our games I knew we would get a fair shake,” said McMinn. “He was consistent and approachable. If you had a question and approached him he didn't try to peacock you. He did the job professionally and he and Steve (Northcraft) made a great team to work with at games.

“The two of them worked really well together and losing both is a huge loss for baseball and softball in our area.”

Truth be known, Terry took the death of his friend and fellow ump Steve Northcraft very hard. Steve, too, was as good as they came when it came to umpiring and officiating, and he and Terry did make a great team because at their fundamental core, they loved the game.

“I can just visualize, looking out to home plate and seeing those guys, Terry and Steve Northcraft, standing there,” said Bazarnic. “Both great umpires.

“They cared about the kids, and Terry did a lot for the Rec League and the Hot Stove. I can’t believe how many people ... I saw (former CCBC Dundalk head coach) Elliott Oppenheim not long ago, and he always brought up Terry Lippold — ‘the guy with the beard, ZZ Top.’ So many of those guys are the same way; they remembered him. He had a passion. Oppy said, ‘I enjoyed being thrown out by him.’ He said Terry ran the game and you’re not going to persuade him other than to make his calls, and he got it right.

“Outside the area a lot of people who came to play here thought the world of him. I just can’t believe it yet.”

“I called (former Garrett College and Frostburg State University head coach) Phil Caruso, one of the great baseball guys there is, and told him Terry had died,” said Ackerman. “Phil, of course, lives in Frederick County, but the only thing he asked is, ‘What are the arrangements?’ and he was right there. That’s how much people loved and respected Terry Lippold.

“Terry was a bottom-line guy — strike or ball; fair or foul. He didn’t believe in straddling the fence, no sir. He wanted to get the call right. He was a perfect example of why we shouldn’t stereotype umpires. He was definitely a professional in every respect. He didn’t want to be the game; he wanted to make the call.”

Jim Whisner, who has known Terry for most of his life, and who umpired with him for seven years, said “Terry was old school. He was probably one of the last umpires around here to still use the outside protector. One day we were working a game together at Allegany College and I talked him into using the inside protector.

“I said, ‘We’re both big, my equipment will fit you. It’s out in the car, go try it.’

“He did, and after about four innings, about four or five foul-backs to his shoulders later, he went to his car between innings, cursing me every step of the way, and he got his outside protector. He had had enough foul balls for one day.

“As an umpire he was fair; he knew the game. He gave coaches some leeway, but he never lost control of the game. He was ‘Shadow of Sookie.’ Terry loved Sookie. He really looked up to him, and Sookie was a big influence on Terry. Truth be told, Terry idolized Sookie.”

And Terry proudly followed in Sookie’s footsteps to dusty ball diamonds wherever and whenever he was needed.

“With Terry, you could wait to the last minute, give him a call to umpire, and he’d be there,” said Bazarnic.

“He knew the game ... He was just a unique person and a big part of baseball in the area. He always talked about umpiring and wanting to umpire, and he had a great passion for it and he did it. He will be sorely missed.”

Ackerman said, “He’d let you have your say, but if you were beginning to say too much he’d say, ‘Eh-eh-eh-eh, I got it. Let’s move along.’

“With Terry, it’s either fair or foul. And I believe that’s how he lived his life. But in the end he said, ‘It’s time. I’m good. Let’s go Home.’ And that’s where he is now.

“Terry was a giver. The guy was just a giver. He exemplified the way a life should be lived. God knows how much pain he lived with for most of his life. But he got his knees replaced to come back to baseball. He was a very, very special person. I count my blessings I knew him. We’ll remember him. We’ll remember him always.

“Sports. You know, sports ... It’s just a game, but for some of us it’s the best part of our lives because of the people like Terry that we’ve met through them and because of them. Terry found a unique way to get the job done.

“(Friday at the funeral) was a sad day, but it was a proud day. Terry’s not in pain anymore. He’s where he needs to be and where we all want to be.

“Everybody loved Terry Lippold.”

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com