It's a Very Simple Game
Charley Eckman

Early Years

WWII and Refereeing

the BAA

1950's: Refereeing
the NBA

Coaching Pistons: 1954-55

Coaching Pistons: 1955-56

Coaching Pistons: 1956-57

Detroit Pistons: 1957-58

1958 - 1963

1964 - 1967

1968 - 1974

1975 - 1979



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Refereeing: 1964 - 1967


January 6, 1964 - The Philadelphia Inquirer by Frank Dolson,    "With a Laugh Instead of a Snarl"...Charlie Eckman worked a game in the Madison Square Garden, during the Holiday Basketball Festival.  As usual, he did a lot of talking.  But what Charlie said was designed to ease tension, not create it. "C'mon let's not make foolish fouls now," Eckman would warn the players in a friendly voice."
"Once, after a Providence man had been called for traveling, St. Joseph's was so anxious to put the ball in play that Eckman had difficulty getting his hands on it.  Charlie didn't bellow 'gimme the ball' in a tone of voice guaranteed to breed resentment.  Instead, he walked over to the St. Joseph's player, reached for the ball and said softly:  "We got a new rule.  I'm gonna hand it to you. Now take your time. We ain't going nowhere." The player grinned and handed Eckman the ball.  As a grammarian, Charlie has a lot to learn.  As an official, there's reason to believe some of his holier-than-thou colleagues might do well to learn from him."
"Probably, some coaches object to Eckman's comments, especially when he calls a play the "wrong way." But most of them wind up laughing -or at least struggling to stifle a smile.  After all, it's tough to stay angry at a man as cheerful as Eckman."
"Charlie's secret is simple.  He doesn't take himself so seriously that he shows up for work with a chip on his shoulder.  Eckman understands the emotional problems involved in playing and coaching. When the teams took turns throwing the ball away at the Garden, Eckman retrieved one wild pass, glanced at the tense young man reaching for the ball and yapped: "Why don't you guys do me a favor? Get a handle for it."
"Charlie is frequently successful soothing the perennially frayed nerves of basketball coaches - a rare breed that once included Eckman. Once an official misses a call, he's faced with a touchy problem.  Eckman tries to solve it with psychology.  He used it the other night during the Penn-Davidson game to soothe a coach who was breathing fire.  A Penn player, dribbling up court, nearly lost the ball when a Davidson man made a swipe for it."
"What d'ya call that?" screamed the Davidson coach. "Fumbling," replied Charlie, smiling sweetly.  "I know that," snapped the coach. "Then," barked Eckman, "why the hell did you ask?"Photos by Sports Illustrated

Photos by Sports Illustrated

Photos by Sports Illustrated

(Photos by Sports Illustrated)  

"Unquestionably the most colorful basketball official in the game, Charley Eckman may also be the best. He regularly overrules the rule book to run the game on 'guts and judgment,' encouraging some players, bawling out others, yet earning the respect of all of them."

February 3, 1964:   "HERE COMES CHOLLY BOP DE BOP BOP,"  Sports Illustrated, by Frank Deford ....."Eckman looks like Jack Palance, the bad guy in the movies, only Charley has a high-pitched laugh and smiles most of the time when he is supposed to be tough, so there goes the image.  He does not blow a long whistle, but drops it quickly from his mouth so he can shout and gesture with more facility.  For a TV game he gives it "a little more of the old federal case," but he never becomes a complete ham, as so many officials do.
"What really distinguishes Eckman is his perspective: an operating theory that officiating is 98% guts and judgment and no more than 2% rule book.  Moreover, he has the quaint notion that the game was meant to be pleasurable.  On court, his good nature renders him impartial as he settles the players down, jokes with them ("you don't shoot well enough to argue with me," he will inform a protester, and what can the kid do but grin also and relax), tries to keep them from making unnecessary fouls ("watch the elbow...ease up...leme see some daylight").
  "He treats players as equals, rather than intimidating them as so many tough-guy referees think they must do.  Eckman goes by the precept that firmness and courtesy can work together."
  "Making noise is just plain natural with Charley Eckman, and so is making friends.  The latter is a little surprising, since Eckman is a basketball referee by trade and basketball referees are usually ranked as friendly types right up there with muggers.  Eckman is the most colorful basketball official in the country, but the kicker is that he may also be the best.  Acknowledgement of this has come in regular assignments to handle the finals of the NCAA's, the NIT and those of pro basketball's NBA."
"Greenville, SC is the best place to ref in the world. They treat referees like human beings there," said Charley.
"Eckman's bluntness is no act.  He is almost pathological on the subject of phonies.  Most of them he lumps with the yo-yo's. (A yo-yo is "a guy who goes up and down but don't go nowhere.")
  "Some yo-yo comes bop-de-bop-bop out of college and right away he's making two bills a week, and he ain't about to break his neck driving all over icy roads for this.  I got to have an operation on my leg after the season. Thrombosis.  That's a clot in the vein.  If it don't move I don't die.  But if I have to stop officiating, where am I? - 3,000 games and 25 years and that's it.  No pension, no nothing. Either I am a nut, or this is the greatest game in the world.  It has to be to go on like this, all the things wrong with it."
"Most wrong, Eckman thinks, is the system of selecting referees, whereby a coach can blackball any referee assigned to his home game by the supervisor of officials. This is accepted in every section of the country and is based on approximately the same rationale that Al Capone used when he was sorting out the Cicero police department. It explains why so many officials, who only work close to home, become "homers' - subconsciously or otherwise."
"Charley likes to talk about amusing experiences as a referee:  Last year, Philadelphia's Joe Fulks, a good-natured giant who was finishing a glamorous career, stunned one and all by squawking violently when Eckman called a foul against him in the final seconds of a nationally televised game.  From the stands it looked as though the six-five Fulks had blown his top and had every intention of dismembering the five-eight Eckman. "Stand right here with me, you little squirt,:" Fulks was saying.  "This is the last time my mother down in Kentucky is gonna see old Joe on TV, and I want to give her a good, long look.  Turn around so the camera can get me on my good side.  Now hold still while I jaw at you.  OK?  Now throw me out of the game so I can act real indignant." Charley likes to talk about amusing experiences as a referee

    "On another occasion, Eckman was in the middle of a sticky situation at Moline, Illinois. An appeal was made for the Heart Fund before the game, and the fans responded so generously that Eckman and Max Tabacchi, the other official, helped a crew of pretty girls collect the coins showered on the court.  It was one of those nights when every close decision went against the home team, Blackhawks and the crowd began to cast coarse doubts on the integrity and ancestry of the referees.  During a time-out, Tabacchi drew a handkerchief from his pocket to mop his brow - and to Eckman's horror, a dollar in small change clattered noisily to the floor.
"Max thought his money might be stolen if he left it in the locker room, so he took it with him," Eckman explains.  "He tied the change in his handkerchief.  The knot must've slipped and the coins shook loose.  The fans thought we had pocketed some of the money donated to the Heart Fund.  Now they were sure we were robbers---from charity, yet.  A hotel could've been furnished with the chairs and cushions that were thrown at us.  We needed a police escort to get out of town."
"Even the yo-yo's know Cholly Eckman is a player's referee."

February 17, 1964, "Letters to the Editor,"  Sports Illustrated:   "Having had the distinctly inspiring experience of playing in at least a dozen games refereed by Charley Eckman while at Duke, I took great pleasure in reading Frank Deford's fine article, "Here Comes Cholly Bob-de-bop-bop" (Feb 3).  Well do I recall the effect of Cholly's stinging rebukes at a missed rebound or an ill-timed pass during the course of a game.  Yet equally well do I remember the tonic effect of the Eckman humor in a tense, hard-fought contest.  Charley is, in effect, a two-team coach, unbiased official and master psychologist wrapped up in one, and he is abundantly successful at all three. In fact, Charley is the only referee I know to be cheered by the fans upon his appearance on the floor for a game-not as a show of favoritism but solely out of respect for a man who "calls 'em as he sees 'em." by Buzz Mewhort, Durham, NC

1964 - "NC STATE BANQUET SPEAKER" ... On Refereeing.  "Diminutive, fog horn-voiced Charlie Eckman had a word for the wise to State College senior cagers at the annual Wolfpack cage banquet last night at the Carolina Country Club. "Try out basketball officiating", Eckman told the seniors and other State fans. They say that you can join the navy and see the world," the former coach of the Ft. Wayne Pistons related.... "But I bought a 50 cent whistle and saw it."
"A good official has to have many qualities Eckman continued. But high on the list was the quality of "guts". "There is no room for 'rabbit eared' officials."  "Officials should expect boo's.  That is part of the privilege of fans who pay their way into the game. I have never had any trouble in a game with either Everett Case or Bones McKinney.  I have never seen them act in an ungentlemanly manner."   
"Prospective officials should mix with coaches and players and make themselves "part of the game". "I always make it a point to compliment players on good plays.  A good official can't hibernate.  He has to get to know coaches and players but don't become 'well liked.'  The minute an official goes out on the floor to please a specific coach he is dead."  Times, Sports Writer by Joe McLean 

1964 - Newspaper Observer, Whitey Kelley writes:  "COACHES AGREE --- ECKMAN'S BEST"  "We don't see enough of the good officials like Charley Eckman," Chuck Noe, the human voice box from SC, pointed out. Noe and Clemson's Bobby Roberts want a more equal distribution of the best officials. Unfortunately, there's only one Eckman.  The coaches feel that he does not bend under pressure."

Charley gets on the outs with the Southern Conference
and is fired!

"Charlie Eckman Would Abolish Rating System" by Jim Hunter State Sports writer.  "If I could make any change I wanted in college basketball, I would do away with the referee rating system," Charlie Eckman told members of the Columbia Touchdown Club Tuesday.  Eckman, a leading basketball official and former professional coach, said the rating system causes nothing but ill feeling between coaches and officials.
"The intent of the system is to give conference commissioners an idea of how well the referees are performing their duties in the eyes of the coaches. But the system presents other problems.
"A lotta referees," said Eckman, "show in this rating system they have no guts.  They perform their duties with the thought in mind of staying on a particular coaches list."
"The system can also bring about what is known among coaches and officials as 'homers.'  "There are some guys who can't travel," said Eckman.  "He becomes known as a homer and the fans, players and coaches alike come to think of him as such.  It's not good when a guy can't referee other places out of his restricted area due to travel limitations."

1964 -  "Charlie Eckman is fighting for what he thinks is right" when he attacked the method of coaches having the say-so on officials, as used by the Southern Conference.  He was released, dropped, fired by the conference after 25 years of officiating basketball games." Greenville, SC newspaper, Top of the Morning, by Jim Anderson.
Referee Charlie Eckman challenges a statement by Wake Forest Coach Bones McKinney

"Yes, You Are --Referee Charlie Eckman challenges a statement by Wake Forest Coach Bones McKinney during Saturday's ACC title game.  McKinney obviously is on the opposite side in the debate. News and Observer ....March 6, (no year)

July 15, 1964 - Times DEckman is as good as basketball officials come. ispatch Editor, Chauncey Durden writes; "Little Bop Goes Long Way"....There was a message for all area basketball officials in the Southern Conference's dropping of Charlie "Bob-de-Bop-Bop" Eckman from its approved list of referees:

 " Basketball officials, like small children, should be seen and not heard.
 " Nor should basketball officials be 'indiscreet' in the company they keep.
 " Eckman, a smallish fellow who talks 13 words to the dozen, is rated by many the best basketball official in the country.  Which doesn't mean that Eckman is infallible, or that he does not have some off-night. But game-in-and-game-out, Eckman is as good as basketball officials come.

  "It is passing strange, then, that the Southern Conference (or a sufficient number of SC basketball coaches, for it seems that the coaches can black-ball an official) which, the last time we were listening, was talking about taking measures to improve the caliber of officiating in the league, would drop the best official it had.
  "Eckman, a one-time pro coach himself, named three SC coaches as the hatchet men who lopped his name off the SC's approved list of officials: Davidson's Lefty Driesell, George Washington's Bill Reinhart and West Virginia's George King.  "Driesell," Eckman said, because "I made the mistake of working the Davidson-VMI game in the tournament last season when Davidson got beat;"  Reinhart because "George Washington has been waitin for me for two years ever since they lost a game to Maryland on a last shot;" and King who "told me during the Duke-West Virginia game at West Virginia that he'd get me."
"Eckman is always 'on' - he's one of the more entertaining after-dinner speakers at sports gatherings - and many of his humorous barbs pierce oversensitive hides.  Some coaches object to his game adlibs, directed to the press row, players' benches and even near-court spectators.
"As Eckman sees it, his only responsibility to coaches is to give them top-grade officiating.  He's been chosen to work every SC tournament he's been available for. But the Southern Conference coaches suddenly want no part of him. Too much Bop-de-Bop-Bop for them."

July 13, 1964 - Charlotte News Sports Editor, Ronald Green.  "Why Did Eckman Get Gate?...Just why Eckman, a familiar figure in this area for many years, was given thumbs down is not clear.  It is my guess that personality, rather than ability motivated the dismissal."

July 14, 1964 - Roanoke Times by Bill Brill. "Charlie's Fired for Being Good ....A strange thing happened to Charlie Eckman on his way to the basketball court. He got black-balled. If you wanted to be foolish enough to try and rate basketball officials in the Southern Conference, it is advised here to start at Nr.2...Eckman was No.1, make no mistake about that."
"Nobody ever said you had to like Charlie Eckman, but to know the man is to respect his integrity.  Charlie carries with him a big mouth and a loud whistle, but when he talks you listen, and when he blows that whistle, he's usually right and always honest. That is more, far more, than you can say for many officials. Perhaps Charlie Eckman was fired because he isn't a 'homer.'
"You could say many things about Charlie Eckman, but on two points, (1) good judgment and (2) rabid crowds won't bother him, he leads the class. A rather pointed wish here is that the coaches who don't think Eckman is good enough for their team could strangle on some of the incompetents they will get in his place."

July 14, 1964 - Charlotte Observer, Whitey Kelly - "Eckman Advises Southern Refs: Be Sure Popular Teams Win.....It is not really important which three coaches blackballed Eckman.  That the conference allows such a procedure is almost too much to believe.  If the conference and its commissioner,Lloyd Jordan, allow the dismissal of an official on such a flimsy vote - three dissenters among nine coaches - then it deserves the bush league title."
"A year ago, Clemson Coach Bobby Roberts lashed out at officiating he claimed favored the Big Four.  It was his thought that some officials panicked under the pressure of home court crowds. "And we don't get the good ones like Eckman," he charged, "when we are away from home."  He pointed out that Clemson saw Eckman only one time that year on an away court while Duke, the conference kingpin, had him in five or six games away from Durham."
"What Roberts was projecting was that Eckman isn't known as a homer....he calls the game as he sees it, not the way the home crowd sees it.  Good officials are hard to find. Maybe the Southern Conference prefers those of ordinary ability.  That's what it will get so long as three coaches can put an official on the sidelines."

July 16, 1964 - The Roanoke Times by Bill Brill.  "SC Officials, Round No.2....Davidson has admitted that Coach Lefty Driesell didn't want Eckman for any games this year.  Davidson athletic director Tom Scott, however, has called Eckman's accusations 'unfair."
"If West Virginia gave Charlie the boot, and it is certain that George King wielded the axe, then this writer was on hand for the beginning of the controversy"....(Bill describes the situation as to how Charlie, himself and Jeff Mullins, Duke star, were talking in the hotel lobby in early December before a game.  When time to leave both referees, Charlie and Lou Eisenstein, rode to Mountaineer field house in Morgantown on the Duke bus.)
"Duke staged a second half rally to win. Nobody complained about the officiating, including the often-rabid West Virginia press. Later, however, it developed that George King filed an official protest in the SouthernCharlie Eckman, left and Dave Campbell Conference about Eckman, charging that Charlie should not have ridden onthe Duke bus."

"Charlie Eckman, left and Dave Campbell,
who introduced Charlie to the Homestead Sports Club"

July 24, 1964 - Times-Dispatch, by Chauncey Durden: "Eckman's Erupting ...Charlie Eckman's voice came booming through the receiver..."What I'm doing now won't help me, but it will help officials ten years from now."  What Eckman, the very best basketball official in the South Atlantic area and perhaps the very best in the entire country, is doing is sounding off against the high-handed action of two-thirds of the SC basketball coaches in having Eckman's name and that of Lou Bello, the area's second best official, stricken from the SC's approved list of officials......"

August 5, 1964-Letter from Jim Weaver, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Commissioner:
"Dear Charlie:  It is with regret that I learned of your resignation as a basketball official from the ACC, although I can understand your position.  Your work was outstanding and I never worried about the game as long as I knew you were officiating.
  Our method of assignment is, as you know, not to my liking and I have said many times that I feel the assigning agent should have full authority.  There is, of course, another side to the picture and if a coach doesn't like an official or care to have him work, then the official is working under a handicap. I think in time we will grow and become more mature in these matters and that you will someday see a better method of operation in most areas.   
Charlie, you have rendered intercollegiate athletics quite a service and I can only wish you well in your new undertaking. With kindest personal regards, I am....Jim " 

Charley decides to return to refereeing the NBA

August 5, 1964 - " Eckman to Toot Whistle Among Pro Referees Again", The Baltimore Sun by Seymour Smith
 Eckman to Toot Whistle Among Pro Referees Again"Charley's Got The Grip - Charley Eckman gets early start in packing for NBA campaign. Veteran official rejoined pro league's refereeing staff."
The 1964-65 Basketball season finds Charley back in the NBA ...There will be a familiar figure waddling backward and forward, his whistle tucked into the right side of his mouth-the place where a cigar nestles the rest of the time  - in the NBA this winter.  For television, Charley Eckman will give it "a little more of the old federal case."
 "I'm really looking forward to returning," enthuses Eckman, who junked his  collegiate schedule after a bristling rhubarb with Southern Conference mentors over the blackball system.  "I've got the best offer I've ever had and I'll work about 15-16 games a month.  Any more?  I'm bowlegged enough now."        "Eckman moved back into the NBA this season as a result of a chintzy deal by the Southern Conference.  The coaches there can blackball an official.  He received the ultimate tribute from Bob MacKinnon, the Canisius coach, after the Griffins' loss to Providence in the NIT final in March 1962.  "Eckman called a perfect game." MacKinnon declared. "He did not make a mistake for 40 minutes." 
"The hope here is that Eckman will continue in the game.  His intimates know that the Southern Conference deal hurt him deeply.  But basketball needs men like Charley Eckman."  (undated article by Ray Ryan)        "Plans to Referee County.  Charley Eckman, Anne Arundel's gift to America, plans to suspend referee activity to try his luck as a candidate for the County Executive job in the Jan. 26 election. Judging from the number of people who plan to file for the office, Charlie will have plenty of company."

November 12, 1964 - The STAR, Anne Arundel County Newspaper.   "ECKMAN-OTHERS, To file for County Executive Job"  

December 5, 1964 - "MARYLAND Profiles ...Charlie Eckman - an all-Maryland second baseman at City College, the Glen Burnie resident is the best known referee in the NBA..once a Judge, he coached the Fort Wayne Pistons, later the Detroit Pistons to three straight titles"


Charley decided to leave the NBA. (undated article by Ray Ryan)  "Eckman is Ready to Quit as Ref ...Charley Eckman, the best referee in basketball, may hang up the rubber soled shoes shortly, after 26 years in the sport.   "Look at my ankle," he said in Madison Square Garden Saturday night, before moving out on the court to work the Knick-Baltimore Bullet game. His left ankle was taped heavily, and he limped when he ran.  "The doctors tell me it's nerves," he revealed. "It seems to get worse instead of better.  The traveling is grueling, too.  Maybe I need a rest."

January 1965 - Charley was hurting while refereeing in the NBA.  After refereeing 30 games, Charley decided to leave the NBA. 

Eckman No Longer Whistles on Job

Undated article by Steve Guback,  "Eckman No Longer Whistles on Job ...After 26 years of officiating, Charlie is back in his home at Glen Burnie, MD sitting the rest of this one out.  He's working for a whiskey firm, but he says he isn't really happy. "You have to drink every day," he said..."and who needs it every days?" This means that Charlie is very, very blue, indeed."
  "The pro season is only half over, but Charlie already has had to call it quits, "It was all that flying," Charlie explained. "The trips to the coast were bugging me.  I couldn't take it. I drank the champagne, watched the movies and I still sweated out every mile."  "I'm trying to find myself," Charlie said softly, "but what the hell am I suited for anyway?  Running a bar, public relations ...I've been in basketball practically all my life."

February 13, 1965 - Bill Tanton, Baltimore News American: "Bad Legs, Air Travel Put Eckman in Drydock".. "After 26 years (45 years of age) of pounding his way up and down the nation's hardwoods, Charley Eckman doesn't know how to act now that he's in drydock.  My legs were killing me early in the year.  I've got a deterioration of the leg muscle and surgery couldn't correct it. But what finished me was the air travel.  I never did like the planes, but this year it was murder." 

Eckman officiated at numerous charity events"Eckman officiated at numerous charity events.  This 1960 game at the Baltimore Civic Center featured Bullet Old Timers including Buddy Jeannette (right), coach of the Bullets.
"Eckman was bitterly disappointed that he didn't get the Bullets (Baltimore) job of general manager when the franchise came here two years ago. "You know the definition of authority?  That's a guy from out-of-town." 

 Reference the State-Duke game which had atrocious officiating. I'll take Charley Eckman any old time.

February 18, 1965 - "Reader (Lewis) Wants Charley Eckman"  "Reference the State-Duke game which had atrocious officiating.  I'll take Charley Eckman any old time.  He seldom, if ever, lets a game get out of hand, and would not permit the starting of a Duke-State feud on his basketball court.  If he had officiated the other night, you wouldn't have the small spark present to fan into something bigger.  I, for one, would like to see a feud, as you call it - good, hardy rivalry between teams -but would just as soon not see something unnecessary fostered between two coaches in the name of journalism."  Durham Morning Herald, SPORTS CORNER by Jack  Horner.  
  (Editor's note:  "It's a shame, Mr.  Lewis, when coaches can pick the referees they prefer. We need more officials with the nerve to call 'em the way they see 'em like Eckman.  But we won't have them as long as coaches can mark them off their lists.) Charley Eckman hired as sportscaster for WCBM

"Charley Eckman hired as sportscaster for WCBM Radio, Baltimore"

Spring 1965 -  Fred Neil, News and Sports Director of WCBM, Baltimore, explains how Eckman was hired, in the book he co-authored with Charley:   It's A Very Simple Game, the life and times of Charley Eckman.  A brief synopsis is provided below.

   In 1965, the new Metromedia management of WCBM asked Fred to bring Charley in for an interview:
"Eckman, no...make that he held court ...before the new WCBM management team.  True to character, he was loud, brash and funny.  He provided insights into the sports world punctuated with a few vulgarities. Following the session, (John) Kelly (the new General Manager) pulled me aside and told me to tape a mock show with him as an audition, but to get Charley to repeat some of his stories complete with vulgarities on tape before the mock show.  Kelly wanted to send the tape to the Metromedia executives in New York to show them we had a real find...and to get them laughing.  My request to have Eckman read for the sportscaster job was turned down."
"So who listens, right?  On the way to the recording studio, I stopped by the newsroom and snatched a United Press International sports brief from the teletype machine.  In the recording studio, I had the engineer run the tape without stopping.  I also had one hell of a time getting Eckman to cut loose with his colorful stories with those ...expletives.  After completing the foreplay and the talk show, I asked Charley to read the sports wire copy.  Voila! A star is born! He sounded like --- Charley Eckman...loud, brash and funny...and he didn't make mistakes in reading copy."

Charley and MD Comptroller, Louis Goldstein

"Charley and MD Comptroller,
Louis Goldstein"

Charley with Jack Fowler and Charlie Menzel

"Charley with Jack Fowler
and Charlie Menzel"

May 5, 1965 - "TESTIMONIAL DINNER in honor of Charlie Eckman" sponsored by the Old-Timer's Basketball Association."

Theodore R. McKeldin, Mayor, City of Baltimore

"Charley Eckman and Charles Menzel"......"City of Baltimore, Mayor's Citation presented to Charles Eckman for "services rendered as a player, coach and official during may years of dedication to the sport of Basketball." Signed by Theodore R. McKeldin, Mayor, City of Baltimore

Charley Eckman (left) gets pat from John (Honey) Russell

May 6, 1965 -  "Man of the Hour - Charley Eckman (left) gets pat from John (Honey) Russell, Milwaukee Braves scout, at testimonial for Eckman last night at Emerson Hotel"  

Irrepressible Charley Feeted by 600 Fans

Baltimore Banner, May 6, 1965...."Irrepressible Charley Feeted by 600 Fans...."It's a long way from Stricker Street to Broadway." Those were the words of irrepressible Charley Eckman last night at a testimonial dinner for him sponsored by the Old-timer's Basketball Association at the Emerson Hotel.  Although all of Charley's friends couldn't get in to honor him, a crowd of 600 turned out to pay tribute to one of the most colorful officials ever.  "Finest isn't the word," said Jim Lackey, who sponsored Eckman's entrance into the Baltimore Basketball Association (BAA) back in 1940.  "He's the greatest," said Lackey, who has worked more than  300 games with "Jolly Charley."

They'll Have Trouble Finding Another Tooter Like Charlie

May 12, 1965 -The Charlotte Observer, by Wilton Garrison:  "They'll Have Trouble Finding Another Tooter Like Charlie".... "All clocks, even the seven-day variety, eventually run down.  And so it is with Charlie Eckman.  After 27 years of tooting and clowning, Jolly Cholly has hung up his whistle as a basketball referee.  A big testimonial dinner in Baltimore the other night made it official."
"Charlie was equal to the occasion.  When it came his turn to speak, he spoke for 40 minutes.  Charlie has never been at a loss for words. "  


"During the 1963 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden, a St. John's player screamed at Eckman that he had been fouled. The colorful ref looked at the complainer disdainfully.  "Young man," he said, "you gotta shoot better than that before you can officiate."
"Eckman has for years been the most colorful official in the nation.  Also one of the best, maybe THE best.  He encouraged some players, bawled out others, yet earned the respect of all of them." 
"Moreover, he always believed the game was meant to be pleasurable.  It was his routine to settle the players with jokes, try to keep them from making unnecessary fouls.  He treated players as equals, never intimidated them, combined firmness and courtesy."
"Last winter a player collapsed at Charlie's feet after a full-court play.  "Tired?" asked Eckman. "Cholly, I'm beat," the kid replied.  "Well, just lay there for awhile." Eckman said. "I got the ball and you got to throw it in to start play, so ain't nobody going nowhere without us."
  "Charlie, the players liked you.  So did a lot of coaches and fans and sports writers, including me."Shown chatting with Albert Praley are Mrs. Wilma Eckman and daughter Linda Nevin 

 May 1965 - "Friends Get Together..... Shown chatting with Albert Praley are Mrs. Wilma Eckman and daughter Linda Nevin.  Wilma's husband, Charlie is the popular sports and radio personality." Maryland Gazette Newspaper, Glen Burnie, MD

Summer 1965 - Charley had an operation to remove a blood clot in his leg.  Charley's radio career is tops.  As Fred Neil, who hired Charley at WCBM said: "Charley and broadcasting were a perfect match.  Charley was self taught as a referee-a natural.  He had no basketball coaching experience but he was a natural.  He had no training as a broadcaster. He was a natural. The only running he had to do was with his mouth ...which came naturally." 

1965-66 basketball season brought Charley back to refereeing the ACC games.  He had a full compliment of games along with his radio show.

 November 23, 1965 - Personal letter to Charley at WCBM Radio concerning his comments on Boxing great-Cassius Clay.   "Bravo especially for your dressing down of Clay for his disrespect for our flag and country.  You showed your objectivity in your salute to Patterson.  You hit your mark when you said "We are becoming tolerant of the intolerable."  Emerson had a good description of some of the cowardly me-tooers in evidence today.  He calls them the "wearers of the gentlest asinine expressions."  The only racism you go for is human racism.  We need all the courageous, normal human beings like you we can get.  Never change!"

 November 24, 1965 - Personal letter to Charley at WCBM - Re:  Cassius CLAY

 "I was so delighted with your early morning broadcast of yesterday morning that I decided to write you and compliment a man for having the guts to say facts on the radio channels. I am referring to your comments about Cassius Clay in the recent fight."
  "To put the record a little plainer, I have never seen an athletic game during my four years at high school and four years at Cornell.  Neither have I ever listened to a sportscaster anywhere without turning to another station.  Sports are just of no interest to me.  But the manner in which you present material, has made such a difference that I was content when my wife, who in her late sixties became an Oriole fan, insisted on hearing each morning as to what had happened to her beloved birds (Baltimore Orioles).  She recently died suddenly but I got to like your comments although God knows, I know nothing of the business, but it was fun to listen to your terse and what seemed to me, just comments.  I will still be Welcome Aboard Charlielistening to your peppery wit."

December 10, 1965 -  "Welcome Aboard Charlie"....Paul Seymour (right), Bullet coach, welcomes Charlie Eckman to Bullet broadcast team.  Eckman will handle color on radio for Bullet games.

Charley Returns to  ACC Collegiate Basketball
for the 1965-66 Season

December 20, 1965 - "Colorful Eckman is Back - Or is He?" Frank Spencer. "Charlie didn't work in the ACC last winter and a lot of folks said that it was because of some black marks given by Bones McKinney when McKinney was coaching at Wake Forest.  Others say that Charlie and the basketball supervisor of officials for the ACC, Footsie Knight, had clashed over Eckman's love to talk sports at any time, especially within hearing distance of listening newspapermen."        "Whatever the trouble, Charlie had things all ironed out and was given a full conference schedule this season.  Even those who disagree with Eckman admit that he is one of the most competent basketball officials in the country. He's too good to be sitting in the stands. Last week Charlie notified the ACC basketball office that he was forced to cancel eight of his games in the conference this winter."

Charley with Earl Campbell and George Rawlings 

Charley with Earl Campbell and George Rawlings    

"Charlie told Knight, "I know this is going to put you on the spot and I don't like to do it but I have a contract (with a beer concern) to do the color on the Baltimore Bullets broadcasts and $5,000 is a lot of dough on the line."  Even Footsie had to concede that $5,000 was a lot of dough on the line and he couldn't blame Charlie for fulfilling the radio contract."
"McKinney resigned as Wake basketball coach early this fall and immediately Eckman was back on the officiating schedule with a full program.  It is good for the conference to have a colorful official like Eckman on the court."  Charlie Eckman is 'Living' Proof ....Referees ARE Real Live People

"Charlie Eckman is 'Living' Proof ....Referees ARE Real Live People".. undated article by Roger Burgett, Observer Sports Writer

    "It's a fact, referees are real live people.  The general opinion seems to be that as soon as an official calls a ball game he hides his striped shirt, rubber bottomed shoes, and all personal effects in general, including himself."
  "With basketball tournaments the No.1 subject in the sports world now and with referees often playing an important role in the outcome of a tournament, it was a pleasant change to find that Charlie Eckman is a real live human being and not a mechanical robot who always calls 'em for the other team."
"Eckman is a referee and quite an experienced one.  He was on hand last week to officiate four games in the ACC tournament, including the championship tilt between Duke and State. With the coming of the Eastern Regional tournament this weekend "Jolly Charlie" may return and it might be interesting to take a look at the outspoken gentleman, off court."
"Eckman, who makes Glen Burnie, MD his home town demands a much higher wage scale now.  His pay runs to "$500 and change" as he says, for the ACC tourney regardless of whether he calls one game or four as he did in the recent event. Reaching the higher scale wage was not done overnight and Eckman has gained a storehouse of knowledge about basketball on his way up the ladder."
"The bigger and more important the game the better for Eckman. "I get up for games just like the players do," Eckman remarked.  "No," he answered, "I don't practice my court antics.  (Eckman is famous for his humorous gestures and remarks during the game).  They just come spontaneously."
"Eckman feels the referee has a lot to do with the tempo of the game, however, "If I'm nervous when I go out there," he stated, "it makes the players nervous and the first thing you know everybody is mixed up."
  "Eckman is high on the teams and players in the ACC. Eckman's advice to aspiring young referees, (if there are any): "you have to have guts and good judgment," he quickly remarks. Good words of wisdom from a man who ought to know."

March 1, 1966 - House of Delegates of Maryland present  "House Resolution No. 61 to Charles Eckman and Station WCBM for his daily sports shows and the fine job he is doing and that it's sports fans have the privilege of listening to such a superlative sports analyst as Charlie Eckman. " 

Easy Living - Official Charlie Eckman puts hand in hip pocket during last nights' Carolina-Duke freeze

"Easy Living - Official Charlie Eckman puts hand in hip pocket during last nights' Carolina-Duke freeze"  Photo by Hugh Cashion

March 5, 1966 - The Durham Sun, by Elton Casey , "Jolly Cholly A Character"  ..."Writing sports can be rewarding.  Not necessarily for the paycheck you receive, but because of the 'characters' you meet at a sports frolic.  One who has to qualify as a 'character' to all writers is Charlie Eckman, the ACC basketball official.  Highly capable, Eckman, at the same time, can be the biggest 'clown' who ever donned a black and white striped shirt, put a whistle around his neck, and walked onto the hardwood.  From the time he arrives, until he leaves, he is going to make somebody laugh - and that makes him happy."
"Last night, as North Carolina played its 'slowdown' game against Duke here, Eckman was at his best and the fellows on press row, who could hear his remarks, were entertained as if attending a New York musical.  Working with Dr. Phil Fox, the other official, Jolly Cholly kept a steady chant going to the players and to his partner."
"Fox, leave those sleeping dogs lie," Eckman yelled to his partner from Washington, DC, when all Carolina was doing was holding the ball and Duke steadfastly refused to come out and get it.  Then when Carolina's John Yokley and Tom Gauntlett held the ball for what seemed to be good lengths of time, glancing at Eckman to see if they were within the league time limit of stalling, he snapped: "You got 30 seconds and I don't care what you do with it.  I'm not going to count. I don't like the rule anyway."
"While the stall was going on, Eckman several times "yawned" and winked to some of his friends on press row.  They laughed; so did he.  Off the court, Eckman is as funny as he is on the floor.  He smokes long Havana cigars, keeps his coat pocket jammed with them.  He drives a big Cadillac.  And he has a good word for everyone.  There aren't many people in the sports world he doesn't know by their first names."
"He keeps the players relaxed.  Duke's Vacendak says: "Eckman's constant chatter makes us relax.  I like for him to work our game.  A couple years back I heard he was sick.  I thought so much of him I sent him a get-well card."  Vacendak said."
Charley has a story during one of these 'stall' games, when he pulled a chair onto the basketball court ....:(Read about it in Charley's book:  It's A Very Simple Game, the life and times of Charley Eckman)Jolly Cholly - Charlie Eckman

March 6, 1966 -  "Jolly Cholly - Charlie Eckman, a basketball official noted for his on-court jesting, good naturedly replies to an ACC tournament fan who inquired during a time-out Friday just what Eckman thought of his officiating.  "It smells," Eckman, generally rated one of the nation's best, seems to be indicating."  Charlotte Observer photo by Hank Daniel  

March 6, 1966 - Letter sent to Charley from the Atlantic Coast Conference.  "You have been selected as one of the basketball officials for the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC on March 9, 10 and 11, 1967.  This assignment is being given to you on the basis of your receiving and working at least 8 officiating assignments in the ACC during the basketball season of 1966-67.  The Tournament Fee is $400 with $75 subsistence fee......"  Sincerely,  M.P. (Footsie) Knight.

 April 28, 1966 - "Speaker for Kaiser Aluminum"...from letter sent by J.S. Banks "Charley,  Just a note to thank you for making our meeting last Friday most pleasurable.  I'm sure the audience reaction was also pleasant to you.  The general consensus from all hands was that the evening was more fun than we've ever had as a group and your contribution was a major part.  Art Meyer, from our Oakland office, wasn't kidding when he asked you if you would be interested in talking to one of his Marketing groups in the future."

June 6, 1966 - "Letter of Thanks" for being Fitzberger Testimonial Speaker of the night....."We didn't know how outstandingly good a job you can do."

Charley and friends

"Charley and friends including second from right, Jack Fowler and fourth from right, Fred Neil who hired Charley for WCBM Radio and who later became the co-author of Charley's book, It's A Very Simple Game."

1966-67 Basketball Season began with Charley accepting 34 games for the ACC Conference between 1 Dec 66 - 4 Mar 67
Charley continued his radio show and speaking engagements during this time.

1967Speakers of the Evening

January 10, 1967 - Bridgeton Evening News, Bridgeton, CT. "Speakers of the Evening - Judge Charley Eckman, second from right, internationally known basketball official and former professional coach, and John Konstantinos, left, veteran player and assistant coach of the Philadelphia Bulldogs, with master of ceremonies Ted Rieck, second from left, and Legion Sports Frolic chairman Ken Fisher.  Eckman digressed on his amazing career and filled the Shoemaker Post home with laughter after Konstantinos portrayed the progress of his league through relating some of its history and commenting on fellow players and coaches."

Colorful and popular (most of the time) official Charlie Eckman is at his best just like the competing teams

Colorful and popular (most of the time) official Charlie Eckman is at his best just like the competing teams

March 11, 1967 - The News and Observer..."A Camera's Report of the ACC Basketball Tournament ...Colorful and popular (most of the time) official Charlie Eckman is at his best just like the competing teams"   

                                     Charley's Refereeing Career Ends

March 7, 1967 - "Maryland House of Delegates Resolution No. 83...Congratulating Charlie Eckman on his retirement as a basketball official and on the many honors he has brought to the State of Maryland by his achievements..."

March 11, 1967 - Washington Post by William Gildea. "Day Coach Charley Will Sleep Nights" (same article as below)

March 14, 1967 - The Miami Herald by William Gildea.  "Basketball Will Miss Ref Eckman"....After 29 years and 3,500 games, Charley Eckman, the most colorful and perhaps, best referee, is retiring.  Not a few people are saddened because Eckman makes friends.  He won't be back. He has swollen ankles which require icing; bursitis in his left shoulder, and a bad limp as a reminder of an operation on his right leg two years ago to remove a blood clot."
"What Eckman loves to do is "give it the old federal case."  This involves a deliberate pause after blowing his whistle until the crowd is quiet and anxiously turned toward him. He will emerge from the pack of players and bellow his decision, embellishing it with frantic arm and torso gestures and one final grand sweep with the right hand."
"As a referee,"  Eckman says, "must have poise, personality and a pinch of psychology."  His cardinal rule is honesty. "If I kick one, I'll admit it to a coach.' Most of all, you've got to have sense of humor in this racket.  After all these years, that's all I've got."  The Miami Herald, Miami, FL by William Gildea

Referee Eckman: Out with a Blast

Newsweek Magazine "Referee Eckman: Out with a Blast" (Photographic Assoc)Breaking It Up

March 6, 1967 - The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia....."Breaking It Up"  Charley Eckman steps right in to break up this fight.  Charley, who has been officiating collegiate and professional basketball for 29 years, says this is his last season.  The abuse from the fans, he says, is just too much to take." 

      NEA Sports Green, New York, NY. by Sandy Padwe.  "After 29 years in the game, likable Charley Eckman is quitting as a Basketball Official.  He's tired of the abuse ...verbal and physical...from the stands."  ....."It was Charley's 'feel for the game' that earned him the title, 'the player's referee.'  And it is because Charley has lost this 'feel' that he has decided to retire."     

        The Daily Mail, Hagerstown, MD by Dick Kelly.  "One of Basketball's most colorful and controversial whistle-tooters is calling it quits. Charley Eckman has worked all the major games, all the major tournaments, professional as well as collegiate.  But now the hotel room walls and the fans have closed in too much.  "I've got a good job with a radio station (WCBM in Baltimore)," Charley said.  "I think I'll stick with it." Eckman points and calls foul

"Eckman points and calls foul"  The News and Observer, photo by Roy Zalesky)

March 27, 1967 - " Whistle Stop." "They're turning the game into a joke," complains basketball referee Charley Eckman.  So what's funny about getting your upper plate knocked out by a thrown ball?  Your wrist broken by a beer can? Other parts of your anatomy, pelted by peanuts, hot pennies and fish?"

     "After  29 years as a fast-moving target-and four twitchy seasons on the bench as a pro coach in the NBA-the battle-scarred Eckman stowed his whistle for keeps after last week's NCAA regionals in Evanston, ILL.  But Eckman went out with a blast."
"Fans have seen a lot of action from the flamboyant Eckman himself.  Often, when he calls a foul, he pumps his arm, kicks his leg and wrathfully races to the scorer's table."  "Hold it"  he bellows.  "He's got a charge."  Eckman's histronics have made him unpopular with many fans and coaches, but his candor makes him a favorite with the players." 
"Eckman sees all sorts of trouble ahead for basketball - especially in the arenas where rowdy crowds sit next to the court. "There's no respect for law and order in the country," he laments. "If the cop on the beat can't arrest a guy and put him away, how do you expect somebody with a plastic whistle to run the show on the basketball court?"
"Eckman doesn't.  He takes over next week as sports director of station WCBM in Baltimore - and unless someday he finds himself dead broke and desperate, he's never going back to basketball.  "I won't miss the game," he says, "not at all." That remains to be seen."      Newsweek Magazine 

Give yourself a hand did a great job

"Give yourself a hand did a great job!"

March 1967 - The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA by Chris Cramer:  "Basketball referee Charley Eckman had them rolling in the aisles Wednesday night at the annual Virginia Basketball Club banquet at Alumni Hall.  But one story Charley didn't relate was the little speech he made to the captains before the start of the Duke-South Carolina game in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro last Friday night.
"The fans were expecting a rough game because of the bitterness between the two institutions generated over the Mike Grosso case.  Instead they saw one of the cleanest games played in a tournament that generated tremendous pressure and intense rivalry"        "Cornered at a post-game party last Friday, Eckman was asked what he had said to the captains before the game.  "I told them I was sure they had read all about the Grosso case,"  Eckman said.  "Then I told them to leave that to the politicians and that they were there to play basketball.  I told them I'd be after the first guy that made a deliberate foul and they should shake hands and come out fighting."
   "Eckman is one of the best in the business, especially in a game such as that where a weaker official might have lost control right at the outset.  Basketball coaches and fans are saddened by the news that Charley, after 29 years, has decided to retire."

March 15, 1967 - The Spartanburg Herald by Leslie Tims.  "Charlie Eckman bowed out of officiating on a good note Friday night. He worked the South Carolina/Duke game. You might even say he ran the South Carolina/Duke game. Charlie called the players together before the game, told them they were to play basketball and informed them in no uncertain terms, the way only Charlie Eckman can tell them, that they would either stick to basketball or they would be watching the game from somewhere beside the playing court.
  "His little talk may not have had anything to do with the way the two teams played , almost perfect basketball, no pushing, shoving, elbows, near fights or even beefs, just the finest basketball game you could ask to see."
 "There's nothing more for me to conquer. I've had all of the big ones." said Charley. He might have gotten his biggest thrill in the last game he called when the South Carolina players, who lost their biggest game of the year, came up to him after the game and told him how much they had enjoyed playing in games he had worked.  A man does get a little more than money out of the game after all...."

March 30, 1967 - Atlantic Coast Conference letter.....


Dear Charlie: "It goes without saying that I appreciate very much your letter of the 22nd. Your remarks about our Conference are especially appreciated. I do not have to tell you what you meant to our Conference.  You only have to look at your schedule to realize the high esteem the coaches had for you, and the fact that you were assigned to the "clutch" ball games is ample indication of what the Conference Office thought of you.

  "I really do not know how we will get along without you, but we all understand that a man must do what he thinks is best for himself and his family.  I did not see you work too many games last year because I would usually go elsewhere knowing full well that you would take care of the situation.     
  "I am sending you a little conference memento.  I am regretful that I am unable to slip a crisp note in it, but after all you don't need things like that.

  "Charlie, I want to again express my personal appreciation for what you have done for the betterment of basketball in our Conference, as well as for the inspiration you have passed on to younger officials, and I want to wish for you and yours much continued success.  Cordially yours, James (Jim) H. Weaver, Commissioner

NOTE:  Charley worked 33 ACC games during the 1966-67 basketball year, seven of which weretelevised.  This Fine Form Belongs to Ref Charlie Eckman

This Fine Form Belongs to
Ref Charlie Eckman"


APRIL 1967 - Charley accepts full time job as Sports Director for WCBM,  Baltimore.

Charley Eckman Race" at Pimlico Racetrack. Charley with wife Wilma, daughters and friends. April  1967 - "Charley Eckman Race" at Pimlico Racetrack.  Charley with wife Wilma, daughters and friends.

Charlie with Jockey, Robert Gallimore

April 7, 1967 - "The Charlie Eckman Purse" at Pimlico Racetrack, Pimlico, MD. Charlie with Jockey, Robert Gallimore
and Trainer, D. Smith" (Photo by J. Frutkoff)

April 27, 1967 - "Charlie Eckman is guest speaker for the Men's Fellowship of the First Baptist Church, Danville, VA.

April 29, 1967 - Spartanburg, SC,  "Banquet Speaker and Baseball Umpire:" "Basketball Official Charley Eckman tried his hand at baseball Friday night at Duncan Park, working at first base and comes through with a big out call in the second inning. Charley Eckman, the famed college basketball official and one-time coach for the Fort Wayne Pistons will speak today at Sertoma Club Luncheon and will appear at the Phillies' game with Greenville.  The Phillies have obtained special ruling from Western Carolinas League president  to have Eckman umpire first base."    

Charlie Eckman calls 'em as he sees 'em!

May 3, 1967 - The Baltimore News American.
"Charlie Eckman calls 'em as he sees 'em!" 
WCBM/68 announcement.

Granddaughter, Priscilla Gale Eckman was born.

June 20, 1967 - Granddaughter, Priscilla Gale Eckman was born.


Gentlemen's & Dukes Democratic Clubs, Inc.,

October 22, 1967 -
Gentlemen's & Dukes Democratic Clubs, Inc.,
"Honor Charlie Eckman  and Bernie Lit"

After refereeing basketball for 29 years, Charley Eckman's life changed.   As stated in many articles, it made no difference whether you loved Charley or hated him as a referee, Charley was always respected for his refereeing abilities.  Charley knew all the players and most of the sportswriters.  He knew a lot of the fans.  But no matter how much he smoozed, when the game was on, he was all business.  Charley was proud of his accomplishments as a referee.
Bill Brill, Basketball America Executive Editor called Charlie Eckman - "One of Basketball's True Characters."  He wrote "in another time, pretelevision era, basketball referees were as big a part of the game as the coaches and players.  Some, as incredulous as it may seem to youthful readers, may have had more fame."