Raymond Berry, Baltimore's All-Pro receiver in those days, cherishes one memory of Lipscomb on the field. The Colts were playing the Philadelphia Eagles, and Berry was standing on the sideline when the Eagles' fullback, 225-pound Clarence Peaks, took a handoff, started to his right and cut back toward the middle. "Then I see Big Daddy Lipscomb. He was flowing down the line of scrimmage in pursuit, and he sticks out his arm," Berry says. "Peaks hit Big Daddy's arm, and it knocked him backwards. Backwards! He arm-tackled Clarence Peaks! That was the kind of play he brought to the game."
He also brought it to a working-class city in which Moore, Berry and quarterback Johnny Unitas—along with a defensive line that included Marchetti, Art Donovan and Don Joyce—were the patron saints of the common folk. The Colts won the NFL championship two years in a row, in 1958 and '59. Berry remembers the relationship between town and team as a unifying force that cut across racial, social and economic lines: "It was a marriage, practically a honeymoon, between a team and a city."
Big Daddy, a man of the streets, was among the most beloved of all Colts. He was the quintessential "gentle giant" who picked up opposing players after knocking them down. "Are you all right, Sweet Pea?" he asked Los Angeles Rams quarterback Billy Wade, extending him a hand after crushing him in a pile-on. Big Daddy gave his bed to a derelict man who had passed out drunk in a driving Baltimore snow, and he bore ghetto children on his mammoth shoulders through the city's streets. More than once he stopped his car when he saw a kid running barefoot in the winter. "Why don't you have shoes on?" he asked one boy.
"I don't have any shoes," the boy said. Lipscomb drove him home, and minutes later he was escorting the boy and his mother through a clothing store, buying shoes and jackets and pants for the kid.
"I saw him do that three or four times," says Johnny Sample, a Colts defensive back at the time. "A heart of gold."
No wonder, then, that a crowd upward of 20,000 came to see him off at Charlie Law's. At 10 p.m., the hour of closing, Law called Geraldine Young, the wife of former Baltimore running back Buddy Young, and asked what he should do. Geraldine had made all the funeral arrangements, picking out the coffin and suggesting how the body should be prepared for viewing. ("Don't put too much makeup on him, Charlie," she had said. "Don't make him look ashen.") His remains were to be shipped to Detroit that night for the funeral and burial, and Law was running out of time. "There's still a line two blocks long," he said. "What should I do?"
Geraldine thought for a moment. She had been at the funeral home earlier in the day and had stared in disbelief at the lines of people filing by to pay their last respects. "If the people are there, Charlie, let them see him," she finally told Law. "This is a great testimony to Big Daddy."
In another kind of testimony, women arrived from all points, at all hours. "He always had three or four ladies," Geraldine says. One of them, a singer who had flown in from Canada, where Lipscomb had wrestled professionally in the off-season, arrived not long after Law had closed his place at midnight, and she lighted like a lost starling on the Youngs' porch. Touched by her story, Buddy called Law at home, and a mortuary attendant working late let her in for a private viewing. "Thank you!" she cried after Buddy made the call. "I've just got to see him one more time!"
Big Daddy, who found football easy enough, life hard enough
To—after his last night cruising Baltimore
In his yellow Cadillac—to die of heroin;
Big Daddy, who was scared, he said: "I've been scared
Most of my life. You wouldn't think so to look at me.
It gets so bad I cry myself to sleep—"
Say Good-bye to Big Daddy
At night before he went to sleep, when he was living in Baltimore with Colts tackle Sherman Plunkett, Lipscomb would slide his bed against the door so no one could get in. He kept a gun under his pillow. He would tie Plunkett's giant dog to the end of the bed to keep at bay the flitting ghosts that went bump in his night. "I don't know what the hell he was scared of," says Donovan, "but he was scared to death of something."