The NFL season is upon us once again and unlike the average pro football fan, who looks forward to the possibilities of glory that any season he could bear witness. I often find myself thinking of players and games that I never had the pleasure of seeing.
Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb played in the NFL for 10 seasons, 5 of them with my beloved, Baltimore Colts. It was during those 5 years that the Colts won their first 2 championships; 1958 and ’59. He was the first of the truly fast big men in the NFL and was essentially a prototype for what has become a fairly regular but still novel position, that being a defensive lineman who could drop back into pass coverage.
I don’t think about his talent as much as I think about his personal challenges and the tragedy of his early demise. A demise that has mystery attached to it and is all too common in Baltimore.
Eugene’s childhood was indeed tragic. He was fatherless and poor and his mother was murdered when he was 11 years old. Years later a friend was shocked that Big Daddy literally carried photos of his mother’s crime scene photos with him and would show them if that dark mood struck. His mother had been stabbed 47 times.He grew up damaged and was treated poorly by classmates and even teammates when he joined the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. He was made fun of because of his size and his lack of refinement. Between high school and the Rams, he joined the United States Marine Corps where he found the discipline and purpose that had been denied him in his youth. Those youthful years were filled with the kind of trouble a Detroit street kid would find easily. Later on, this is the kind of trouble that would bring him down.
By the accounts of many, he was truly a gentle giant that loved children and helping people and when he died, he lay in state in a Baltimore funeral home where thousands paid their respects.
In 1963, Big Daddy died of what was reported as an heroin overdose after a night of serious partying. There are conflicting reports of how his evening proceeded and even where he was found but what is known is that he was found in a West Baltimore rowhouse on Brice St. He had spent the evening with his friend, Tim Black and a some ladies. It was reported that when the evening began he had over $700 dollars in his pocket and when he was found dead, he had $73. The medical examiner reported that he had enough heroin in him to kill a few men. He had 4 needle marks in his right arm even though he was right handed and it is rare for anyone to shoot into their favored hand’s arm. According to many, Big Daddy was also deathly afraid of needles. Tim Black told police that they bought a$12 bag of smack. $12 bought a a lot of dope in 1963…I’m assuming. Cause of death was the overdose, how he achieved that overdose is open to speculation and if you google Big Daddy Lipscomb you can read the conflicting versions of his final hours.
I urge you to look into the life of Eugene Lipscomb and marvel at how anyone could achieve anything when faced with the difficulties that he was forced to.