Richard "Baldy" Powell, 1940 - 1992
"Baldy" Powell graduated from Allegany High School in 1960. He is the first African American to play on the Allegany football team. Powell was selected to the 1958 All-City team as a Back, and was inducted into the Allegany High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. The following article, written by the late J. Suter Kegg, Sports Editor Emeritus of the Cumberland Sunday Times-News, appeared in the Sunday newspaper on December 13, 1998:
"Baldy" Powell again makes Allegany High history
The first black football player in the history of Allegany High School will soon have his name engraved on Alco's Hall of Honor plaque that hangs in the lobby of the Camper gymnasium. The late Richard Powell, better known to sports followers in the Cumberland area as "Baldy" will be enshrined, along with three other former Allegany stars, Monday evening, Dec. 28. The ceremony will take place during the "Bill" Bowers Memorial Basketball Classic at the Camper gymnasium.
Also to be inducted posthumously will be Jim Sullivan. The other two selectees, according to Donnie Gibson, Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee, will be announced within the next several days.
Had it not been for Rev. Bruce Price a Methodist minister, Powell may not have been on the Alco honor team. Rev Price, a former Camper gridder, was helping Chet Payne, then the coach, at the practice sessions. "Baldy," even though he loved all types of sports, was ready to quit after the first week.
Powell's speed and power as a 167-pound halfback, played a big role in him leading the Campers in scoring and becoming a unanimous choice for All-City honors. Payne said it was a great pleasure to coach him.
"I love football," Powell told me, "but I didn't like calisthenics and I didn't think I could make the team. Reverend Price convinced me that I could and because of him, I didn't turn in my uniform."
Powell, who died Oct. 29, 1992 at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Martinsburg W.Va., also excelled in baseball at Allegany.
His selection for the Allegany Hall of Fame brings back two special memories for me regarding "Baldy" - one in football and the other in baseball.
During his senior season at Allegany, Lenny Moore, an All-American at Penn State University and then a National Football League standout with the Baltimore Colts, came to Cumberland when his young son sustained severe burns while visiting his mother's former home on Central Avenue. I asked Lenny if he would pay a visit with me to the Powell residence, telling him that "Baldy" was one of his staunch supporters. "I'll be happy to," he said. And "Baldy" was all smiles throughout the visit.
Few sports devotees in our area knew that Powell's first name was Richard. To them, he was always "Baldy", and there- in lies a story.
As a child he never liked to get his hair cut because he said the clippers pinched his neck. After he refused to go to the barber shop one day, his mother took him there and told the barber to cut off all of his hair. That same day he played baseball with the Braves in the Dapper Dan Little League. His teammates called him "Baldy" and the name stuck.
To get his reaction I started to call him by his first name. That lasted until he was teenager and shortly after Bedford Street was made a one-way thorough-fare. I waved to him while going over the railroad crossing and he had a puzzled look on his face. At that instant I knew why: I was going the wrong way.
The next time I saw him, he greeted me with a smile and this remark: "If you quit calling me Richard, I won't tell anyone about you driving the wrong way on a one-way street."
That special baseball memory was the day I saw "Baldy," then a senior, make one of the greatest catches I have ever seen. Allegany was playing Fort Hill at Penn Avenue Field and a Sentinel batter belted a long fly ball to left that was foul by a mile, as the saying goes. Powell didn't appear to have a chance to snag it but he never stopped running and finally made the catch for the last out of the inning.
Fort Hill coach "Bobby" Cavanaugh, one of the tri-state area's top diamond mentors of all time, waited in the home plate area as Powell jogged toward the Alco bench. "Baldy, no one should be permitted to run that fast in the outfield," he exclaimed. Then he stuck out a congratulatory hand and said, "That was a great catch!"
I am certain that was something Powell remembered for the rest of his life.
"Baldy" continued to play sports after joining the Air force. He was active in football, softball, and baseball in the Philippines (Clark Field), and at Maxwell Field in Alabama he played touch football, basketball and softball.
Playing for the 450th Fighter Wing Green Hornets at Clark, he was converted from halfback to fullback because of the extra weight he had taken on, having tipped the scales at 218 pounds. Despite the extra avoirdupois, "Baldy" galloped 65 yards for a touchdown. His teammates told him that he looked like Jim Brown in powering his way through the line, practically flattening would-be tacklers.
After ending his playing career, "Baldy" went into officiating, becoming the first black to umpire in the Tri-State Association. When Jack Gilmore, Allegany's athletic director, was head football coach of the Campers he was praiseworthy of the manner in which Powell worked youth games on the gridiron.
"After calling a penalty, 'Baldy' would frequently take a player aside and explain to him why he called the penalty and that was good for the young offenders," said Gilmore.
Area sports fans have many memories of this new Allegany Hall of Famer. Hon. Fred Sharer, Allegany County Circuit Court judge, recalls an incident when Powell decided to run for a seat on the City Council. "He filed under the name of Baldy Powell," Judge Sharer said. When told that he had to file under his given name of Richard, he said, "But no one knows me by any other name than Baldy." Donnie Gibson will make sure that the nickname "Baldy" is engraved on the Hall of Fame plaque.
J. Suter Kegg, Cumberland Times-News
Photograph from the 1960 Allegewi, Allegany High School Yearbook.
Information provided by Renae Powell, a cousin of Baldy's.
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008