From the PG Archives: "Big Daddy" Found Slumped in Chair

Grid Star Lipscomb Dies, Narcotics Use Suspected

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This story from the Post-Gazette archives was first published on May 11, 1963.

BALTIMORE, May 10 (AP) -- Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb, a fun loving goliath of professional gridirons for a decade, died today of unknown causes after a night on the town in his new yellow Cadillac convertible.

"There is definite suspicion that narcotics are involved in the death," Dr. Rudiger-Breintecker, assistant medical examiner, said after a preliminary autopsy.

The examiner said there were at least three needle marks above veins on both elbows of the 31-year-old Pittsburgh Steeler tackle. A homemade syringe was found near his unconscious form in a west Baltimore apartment and will be chemically tested.

Dr. Breintecker said the results would not be known before next week and until the autopsy is completed the cause of death remains undetermined.

A night time traveling companion in whose apartment Lipscomb was found on the kitchen floor told police "there had been drinking going on" and they had been with a couple of girls in the early morning hours.

The companion, Timothy Black, 25, was being held by police for investigation in connection with the death. He reportedly had submitted to a lie detector test.

Lipscomb -- 6 feet 6 and 288 pounds -- played defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League.

Lipscomb was one of the few players to reach the top grade in professional football without going to college. He went into the Marines out Miller High School in his native Detroit.

The Rams picked him off a Marine team at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1953. After two years as a reserve, they let him go and the Colts took him for $100.

Big Daddy was a regular on a defensive crew variously called the "Savage Six" and "Six Tons of Fun" who helped carry the Colts to successive championships in 1958-59. Lipscomb was voted All-Pro both times.

He liked to describe his play with an old football story: "I just grab me an armful of men, pick 'em over until I find the one with the ball, then I throw him down."

Then typical of his showmanship, he'd solicitously help the dazed ball carrier to his feet, brush him off and head him toward his huddle. The crowds loved it.

They couldn't help noticing him. In addition to his size, he was best at sweeping across the line and nailing a ball carrier on the opposite side and out in the open for all to see. Then he'd stay prone, while the fans groaned "is he hurt?" before slowly climbing to his feet to wild applause.

"You have come a long way and when you start rushing the passer more, you will become one of the greatest tackles the game has ever known," Coach Weeb Ewbank told Lipscomb before the Colts beat the New York Giants for the 1958 championship.

Lipscomb took his acting ability on a professional wrestling tour in California in 1959 with Don Joyce, a former Colt defensive end.

The Colts unexpectedly traded Lipscomb to the Steelers on the day of practice for the 1961 season.

Lipscomb had his personal problems off the field. He was twice divorced, the last time in 1960. He had two children by the second wife, Cecilia.

For the past four years, he had lived in Baltimore with Sherman Plunkett, a former Colt now with the San Diego Chargers of the American Football League. Plunkett, his wife, and Jim Parker, all-pro offensive lineman for the Colts, confirmed identification of Lipscomb's body at the hospital. Black told police of the events leading to Lipscomb's death.

Black said they went out riding in Lipscomb's car about midnight, took two girls drinking and went to Black's apartment. After a couple of hours, they took the girls to their homes. Black went to breakfast in a lunch room and Lipscomb went to the apartment.

When Black returned, he said Lipscomb was in a chair slumped over the kitchen table. He tried to slap him awake and Lipscomb fell to the floor. Black called a municipal ambulance.

Lipscomb was pronounced dead at Lutheran Hospital shortly before 8 a.m.


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