by Todd Peterson
June 15, 2011
‘One Of The Greatest’
He was a fixture on every area football field and baseball diamond for countless years and in addition to being an outstanding official and umpire, he was nearly a genius when it came to knowing the rules of every sport.
That knowledge led him to become the rules interpreter for baseball, football and softball in this area. If you needed to know anything about anything related to these sports, Larry was the guy.
Larry passed away on Sunday in his home in Murrell’s Inlet, S.C. at age 72, where he lived with his wife Janet, had lived for several years and his death sparked a flood of tributes and memories for those who were lucky enough to be associated with him during his lifetime.
Wally Huckno, the legendary football coach at JHS, remembered Larry with great fondness.
“We knew him both as a fine football official and as a good friend. In fact, my wife and I visited Larry and his wife at Murrell’s Inlet in Myrtle Beach about five years ago,” said Huckno.
Huckno was, and still is, a pretty fair judge of talent, both players and officials, and Rodgers was at the top of his list.
“I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. He was truly a special guy,” he said. “It’s funny, but I was just thinking about him the other day and some of the other fellows I had admired through the years. When he worked a game, you knew he would bring integrity to it. He was such a friendly fellow and didn’t ever have an attitude. He always took the time to explain things. Larry always threw the flags sparingly and had the game in control at all times. If we had a kid giving the officials some trouble, Larry would always come over to the sideline and ask us to speak to him.”
Another coaching legend, Falconer’s Bill Race, echoed Huckno’s sentiments.
“He was one of the greatest officials we ever had,” said Race. “He was first class all the way. Honestly, I never really had any issues with him and what I liked about him was that he always took the time to explain things to you. Not only was he a great official and an umpire, I remember that in baseball, he always took time to try and teach the kids.”
“He was a gentleman and a fantastic person. It’s a great loss for everyone and he will be missed.”
Former Southwestern coach Fran Sirianni, was a long-time friend.
“Our kids were just a few years apart in age, so we knew each other for years,” said Sirianni. “Needless to say, he was one of the best officials we ever had. Larry was always very fair, always on top of the game and he loved to talk. He really took a special interest in the kids. I recall he always had candy in his pocket for them, whether it was on the field or off. I was proud to have known him. He was a great man and will be missed.”
Randolph football coach Pat Slater added his thoughts on Rodgers.
“I had a lot of contact with him through the years, both in football and in baseball. I did a lot of umpiring with him and he taught me a lot. We had a lot of good times together,” said Slater. “He was always right on top of the game and always had a smile on his face.”
Rodgers also made a big impact of his fellow officials, including Greg Moran, who is veteran umpire and football official for more than 40 years.
“No one knew the rules better than he did,” said Moran. “I loved him. He took me under his wing when I was just 18-19 years old and taught me everything he knew and it’s always stuck with me. He was a great guy. He always knew how to handle the game and would always stick up for you, especially the young guys.”
Moran recalled how Rodgers played a significant role in the area’s baseball history.
“Larry was instrumental in bringing the Junior College World Series here back in the 1980s and before that, the Region 3 tournament,” Moran said. “He went and sat with the junior college officials and convinced them to use our local umpires here rather than bringing in umpires from outside the area.”
According to Moran, Rodgers had an impact even when he wasn’t on the field himself.
“I remember one time that he happened to be down at the stadium to watch the Region 3 playoffs,” recalled Moran. “On a 3-2 pitch, one of the teams didn’t like my call and the whole team came charging out at me from the dugout, so I threw them all out. Larry actually came out on the field from the stands and negotiated with me, the coach and the regional director and got things back in control.”
Another football official who Rodgers left his mark on was Russ Bonfiglio.
“I had the pleasure of officiating games with him for about seven years. He was unbelievable,” Bonfiglio said. “He could tell you every section and paragraph of the rules. He was a wealth of knowledge. He took everything seriously, but he was nice to work with.”
Bonfiglio remembered how Rodgers, a master communicator, took time to share his knowledge.
“It was a tradition for all of us officials to meet at Miley’s on Friday night after games and we would have questions for him and always he’d know the answer. He gave you constructive criticism. If you didn’t understand something, he could always straighten you out. I wish I had half his knowledge. How he could remember rules and articles off the top of his head was amazing. He could talk for two hours straight, but you never got bored listening to him.”
“I’m going to miss him. Everyone will. He was such a pleasure to be with.”
You can’t say it any better than that.
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