In 1977, the Eastside Athletic Club committee discussed their plans for their annual Spring fundraiser, with discussion quickly turning to supporting their charity of choice, the Abused Children of Maryland (which would be later named St. Vincent’s Villa). They quickly agreed that some type of banquet was the best vehicle for both raising funds and establishing the great need for help for these suffering youngsters, while concurring the event should be centered around the Baltimore Colts. Sam Lamantia reached out to his friend and client at his barbershop (Gentlemen’s Gentlemen), Assistant GM Ernie Acorsi. As they discussed the banquet in further detail, it became apparent that the idea was sound, but it needed a strong focal point. Then Acorsi stated “I think that you should consider a courage award for this town. There has been nothing like it. It could be an ongoing event and the football players would be involved.”
As time progressed and more preparatory meetings were held, the group was constantly considering candidates after whom to name the award. After floating out several ideas, including Johnny Unitas and Artie Donovan among others, Lamantia reached out to another friend, Baltimore Sun reporter, Larry Hess. His response was “there’s only one person you can name this award after. That’s Eddie Block.” At the initial banquet, the Eastside Athletic Club honored Colts Owner, Jim Irsay, helping gain 100% cooperation from the front office, officially founding the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation. In 1978, the first ever Ed Block Courage Award, voted on by the Colts players, was announced, honoring defensive lineman, Joe Ehrmann.
After the Colts left for Indianapolis, Athletic Trainers from around the NFL, Dean Kleinschimdt, John Lopez and Kent Falb approached the Professional Football Athletic Trainers organization, expressing the amazing work the Foundation had accomplish over its six year existence. The group worked together to create a partnership with the NFL and NFLPA to make the Ed Block Courage Award a league-wide initiative. This first national class of recipients included Hall of Famers Jack Youngblood and Ronnie Lott.
In 1989, St. Vincent’s Villa was dedicated as the first official Courage House in partnership NFL and league commissioner Pete Rozelle. After Dan Rooney was invited to the 14th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards in 1991 as an Honorary Chairman, he elected to help expand our mission. The Pittsburgh Steelers dedicated the first member of the National Courage House Support Network for Kids, Holy Family Institute, later that year. From their Lamantia and the Foundation worked with organizations from across the league to add Courage Houses in NFL cities, with support of each team.
Sam Lamantia served as the first chairman of the Foundation, as well as Executive Director for over 36 years, helping spread our mission to 23 cities across the country. His work to support abused and at-risk youth established him as a nationally recognized humanitarian. He is now honored by the Foundation by the newly established Sam Lamantia Award, with a grant presented to a Courage House each year elected by the Board of Directors. His legacy will live on as the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation continues to grow with the additions of new Courage Houses and the expansion of support for the members of the National Courage House Support Network for Kids.
“By virtue of you coming here and reading this, you are among the compassionate of the world. No higher accolade can be given. Compassion is the soul of all religion. Compassion is the noble way of life, a great guide for the truly noble of heart.” -Ed Block
Ed Block was a hero in many ways. Under General Patton in World War II, he earned a Purple Heart. As an athletic trainer, he was a master in his chosen field. As a person, he was compassionate and giving.
Ed was the Head Athletic Trainer of the Baltimore Colts from 1954-1977. He was asked to join the team by the legendary coach Weeb Ewbank in 1954 and cared for the team’s legendary players of the Colts’ glory years of the 50s, 60s and 70s. He was inducted in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Hall of Fame in 1974.
While Ed will be remembered as one of the most educated athletic trainers of his day, some of his most significant contributions came in the tirelessly manner in which he gave of himself to help improve the lives of children. He stood for courage and championed the cause of those who displayed that characteristic. His work and philosophy continues today through the Foundation that bears his name. A great and compassionate humanitarian, he was always proud to be known simply as “Ed Block of the Baltimore Colts.”