Everyone has a “greatest” or “best of all time” opinion about everything. Michael/Kobe/LeBron or Payton/Sanders or Nicklaus/Woods, all constantly debated. My “Best of All Time” local legend is Larry Carbone. I was like in 5th through 8th grade at St Mary’s with an older brother at St Joe’s a year or two behind Carbone and playing in the sports programs, while Carbone ruled sports for the Lancers. It should be noted that he is indeed a lefty, and anyone that knows me knows that the left-handed community is a unique one of which I am proud to be a part. But that is a mere circumstance in the story of Larry Carbone’s dominance. Football, Basketball, Baseball…certainly the Big 3 in the mid 70s…and three sports that it would be impossible to decide which one of those 3 that Carbone was best at.
Football: Lakefront Stadium…seemed like it was freezing and windy every game. Carbone leading teams with greats like Bob Hogan and Joe Fiorini and Mike Gentile and Phil Wade. From what I can remember the offense was a current read-option version of the old veer. St Joe’s playbook was very old school, yet Larry Carbone was the Ultimate X Factor when no one had a clue what an X Factor was. And PUNT a football???? You’d actually have to see to believe how high and far he could punt a football. The reason he probably shined most in this sport is that the QB position he played requires the most skill and leadership and decision-making of the three sports in question.
Hoops: Point guard. The first guy introduced by the PA announcer and just trotted out and stood with his hands behind his back. Carbone was again the leader of teams littered with stars like Larry Pacetti and Phil Webb. He never made a mistake with the ball. St Joe’s gym used to be PACKED for those games with the band playing every game. And the bigger the game and the crazier the crowd, the more in control and calm was Larry Carbone. I don’t ever remember seeing his miss a free throw or turn the ball over.
Baseball: In a recent Facebook conversation, the story of Carbone throwing a no-hitter vs Thomas More at Lincoln Park came up. I personally was there that day but had no clue a no-hitter was being pitched…I was still just a kid and running around half the time. Legend has it he had hurt his wrist or something and could throw his fastball but not his curve. So he told the coach he’d been messing around with a knuckleball and was going to use that as his off-pitch. Well, the result was a no-hitter against the best team in the conference. I’ve never independently verified if that was the case, but either way, it was yet another dominating performance by the best ever.
My Time Opposing The Man: Fall of 1982 I go back to school in Madison and Witte Hall and three days before the start of the intramural flag football season opener, our floor decided we want to register a team. All that was left of the 8 levels was one spot in the Open Division. The true joke is, I’m our QB. Game day…I walk up to the opposing team’s QB and say..”I’m Pete Hegewald’s younger brother and I know who you are…please take it easy on us”. Then I went back to the team and said “fellas, the QB over there just finished like 7th in the country in total offense at Brown University last year and he may actually be a better punter than he is a QB so if he has to kick, we might wanna give him a step”
To sum up Larry Carbone, I will reference that game in ’82 out in the fields by University Hospital. So once I told everyone we were playing a guy of that caliber, they were all excited. Not because they thought we could compete, but just to watch an athlete like that play. Anyone with any ability on our floor was a basketball player from Tosa East. Larry Carbone was new to them. The play in question Carbone took off running and used kind of a pick from a teammate to make an unbelievable move on 2 defenders and headed toward me and a dude named Mark Gusho. Right as we converge on him, Carbone plants and pitches to that teammate who had followed along behind and maintained pitch-relationship. The funniest part was, Gush didn’t even wait til the end of the play before screaming “how the fuck did he even know that guy was there”????
Simply put, when I was a kid, guys like Larry Carbone were my heroes. He didn’t know me any more than Giannis knows an 8th grader who is a fan today. I’m glad times were different then. I’m glad going to a St Joe’s basketball game with Mark Castelli blasting his trumpet and leading the band in the National Anthem was my idea of fun on a Friday night. It made me appreciate seeing the best 3 sport athlete I’ve ever seen. Back in ’08 when my kid was on the Tremper volleyball team that won state, I’ve said many times that I believe Tricia Tirabassi went through those final 10 or 12 games of the season as the setter and NEVER made a mistake…against the highest quality opponents. As good of a stretch as you will ever see. And I think Larry Carbone went years and years across 3 sports and did very much the same thing. And yes, that may be an overstatement…but not by much.