October 9, 2009 9:07:00 AM
SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College will induct 10 new members into the EMCC Sports Hall of Fame tonight at a reception and banquet as part of its 2009 Homecoming weekend.
This year''s inductees also will be recognized Saturday afternoon in pregame ceremonies prior to the EMCC''s homecoming football game against Northeast Community College.
Included posthumously in this year''s class is former S.D. Lee High three -sport athlete Larry "Rock" Cohen.
Cohen played halfback and defensive back for coach Bull Sullivan''s 1960-61 Lions teams. He also was an all-star center fielder on the EMCC baseball team. After graduation he continued his athletic success at Livingston State College (now the University of West Alabama) in football and baseball, earning all-conference selection his senior year.
"He was a great guy," West Point resident Clyde "Baby Doll" Pierce said. "We roomed together for two years. He was a good student, dressed well, and was very neat-- so much so that whenever someone would come into our dorm room, Larry would get upset if they sat on the bed and got it all messed up. For that reason, he always wanted the top bunk."
Cohen''s propensity for neatness and dapper looks was also recognized off the field. Cohen was voted best dressed and featured as a beau in the EMCC 1960-61 yearbook.
During Cohen''s and Pierce''s playing days at EMCC, football players stayed in the athletic dormitory known as The Alamo.
"It was a three-story building," Pierce said. "Larry and I had a room on the third floor for two years. Coach Sullivan and his family as well as some of the assistant coaches (Ooop(sp.) Swoope) stayed on the first floor."
Columbus resident and former teammate Miller Griffin was one year ahead of Cohen at Lee High and EMCC.
"Larry was a very good friend of mine," Griffin said. "In football, he was a better defensive player. But in baseball he was always either the leadoff hitter or in the top of the batting order. He was a very hard hitter with a consistent .300 average."
Charlie Box, another Columbus resident, former Lee High and EMCC teammate, said he and Cohen were scheduled to room together at The Alamo but when Cohen realized Box did not bring a fan or a radio he moved in with Pierce.
"We both graduated from Lee High in ''59 and our football team had gone 6-4," Box said. "Greenville won the Big 8 that year and only beat us by one point, 7-6. Larry was a very good player for us. When we got to Scooba Coach Sullivan immediately realized that Larry was better on defense and he played halfback."
Box also remembers his friend''s rituals for neatness even on the field. "He was an absolute character," Box said. "This was back in the day when players did not use as much athletic tape. But Larry would use almost a whole roll getting everything on his uniform, socks, and shoes just right."
Box remembers his friend fondly.
"Larry was an all around good man. We raised our families together, fished a lot, and our sons are friends."
One humorous experience occurred in The Alamo one night when Cohen was the subject of a practical joke. "Someone rigged up a way to have a voice broadcast out of our radio. Larry was listening to the radio and it was like a shortwave and someone said that they were from Columbus. The boys were upstairs with a microphone and they had Larry believing that he was communicating with someone over the radio. He took it well when he found out that it was just a joke."
Pierce feels strongly about his former roommate and teammate being inducted into the EMCC sports Hall of Fame.
"He deserves it," Pierce said. "I was inducted into the sports Hall of Fame, and am so excited Larry has been recognized for his achievements."