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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

This article shared 7887 times since Sat Mar 28, 2015
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Carl Sharp—a Boystown regular and gay softball fixture—passed away on March 27 in Chicago, surrounded by friends. He was 70.

Sharp often was seen playing pool at Roscoe's, with his sassy, quick-witted sense of humor that crossed all generations. He was a long associated with the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) open division softball league—as a player, coach, manager, scorekeeper and umpire. Sharp also was one of the five CMSA Hall of Fame committee members, along with chair Marcia Hill, Dick Uyvari, Doug Malm and Peter Meyer.

Sharp began treatment for cancer in late March and suffered a heart attack on March 25. A steady stream of visitors came to see Sharp at St. Joseph's Hospital in his final days, including Frank Kisner, who spent countless hours over the past few weeks alongside Sharp, as well as Jack Neilsen ( commissioner of the CMSA open division softball league ) and Mark Sakalares ( CMSA board member ), among others.

Another passion of Sharp's was bridge, and he was a volunteer for the Mississippi-based American Contract Bridge League. "Few volunteers have logged as many hours as Carl Sharp, whose specialty is the partnership desk at Chicago-area tournaments," it says on the ACBL website. "He started helping out in 1971 and has been going strong since then … He has worked in many areas but he is known as Mr. Tournament Partnership Chairman."

Sharp was a member of the ACBL National Goodwill Committee.

Born in Chicago, Sharp grew up in Hyde Park. Sharp and his older sister, Alice, were believed to be the first two African-American students to attend University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, and after graduating from the high school, he attended the University of Chicago for his undergraduate degree. He also earned two master's degrees from the University of Chicago.

At age 12, Sharp converted to Judaism after a neighbor, who was a rabbi, took him to services. He had a Bar Mitzvah at age 13 and identified as Jewish his whole life.

Sharp, who was gay, worked for about 30 years for AT&T and was "responsible for the logistics on the installation of phone systems," said longtime friend and bridge partner Stacy Jacobs, of Hinsdale. He retired in the mid to late 1990s. Many CMSA members long remember Sharp lugging around one of the first cell phones to games—a clunky, oversized phone by today's standards, which he "carried everywhere in his man-purse," Kisner said, laughing

CMSA friends of Sharp's also recalled Sharp's neon-colored shorts and/or socks that he wore to games, along with baseball hats that shouted "WHATEVER" across the front. Kisner, the umpire-in-chief for the CMSA open division softball league, confirmed that for one weekend this season, all umpires will wear red compression shorts under their traditional blue umpire shorts and red knee-high socks in tribute to Sharp, as that was his outfit while umpiring in 2014. Sharp also was a manager/scorekeeper for a C1 division team in 2014.

Hill said that Sharp "stepped up and served the board of the CMSA Hall of Fame for eight years and long donated his time to help and serve CMSA." She added that he had "tremendous stories that he shared and it's so unfortunate that he passed away too soon."

Sharp attended the annual Gay Softball World Series dating back to the 1990s.

"Carl never admitted that he cared or loved anyone, but everyone deep down knew that he always did. He would do anything for anyone," Kisner said.

Sharp had a passion for plain M&Ms and almost always had some with him in his shirt pocket. He enjoyed Grand Marnier as well as sweet tea. He was an avid reader, particularly sci-fi books—"and never went anywhere without a book," Jacobs said. He even often had books with him at softball games, and he'd read there, too.

One of the first stories Sakalaras recalled about Sharp came from the 2013 Gay Softball World Series, held in Washington, D.C. It centered on Sharp's late-night munching of M&Ms, followed by his comical "kiss the ring" reply.

Sharp was a worldly traveler as a youth, as he visited Japan, Europe and elsewhere.

Sharp participated in the Selma riots of the 1960s in the South that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

"Carl was a true friend who gave tirelessly to the groups, organizations and friends who he cared about," Jacobs said. "It was a real blessing to see everyone there for him at the end."

Love and support for Sharp flooded social media, from across the U.S.

"He was a Boystown and CMSA softball icon. He had a very good heart, but never wanted anyone to see it. He will truly be missed," Chuck Jacobson, a former Chicago resident and CMSA softball player who now lives in San Diego, wrote on Facebook.

Reeve Hauff-Lazur, a Chicagoan who visited Sharp in the hospital before his passing, wrote on Facebook that Sharp was "loved by many—more than he'd led himself to believe.

"I'm sure you are eating your M & Ms and chasing boys with glasses while telling them 'that's mighty white of you.' I love you and thank you for being a part of my life. Rest in peace my dear friend."

Jeff Kreiling, a former Chicagoan who now lives in Florida, posted that Sharp "was one of the true characters [who] you meet and they scare you to death, but you grow to love for all of their charm and courage along the way."

David Thomas of Chicago said, "We lost an icon of Boystown. A good man [who] had a passion for living life to its fullest in so many various arenas of life. A genuine and true friend to so many!"

Sharp is survived by a cousin.

This article shared 7887 times since Sat Mar 28, 2015
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