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Top 100: Larry Fones, Fairfax Football, Baseball and Basketball, 1948

Larry Fones is from a different time. Fones is from a time when football players wore leather helmets and guns marked the end of the games' quarters. Fones is from a time in which the community followed its high school sports, especially football, as closely as fans follow their professional sports teams today.

"The people then didn't have television to distract them from the high school sports," said Larry Fones, a 1948 graduate of Fairfax High School.

Fones, now 76 years old, starred for the Rebels on the football, basketball and baseball teams.

He is from a time in which the region had only three high schools: Fairfax, George Washington and Washington and Lee. In the last part of his high school years, Mount Vernon and Falls Church opened their doors to students, adding to the very short list of competitors. "We played all over the place. We played teams from Maryland and teams from Norfolk," said Fones.

And even though Fones said his best sport was baseball, he went on to play both baseball and football at William and Mary.

"Sports are my life," said Fones. "They have been a tremendous asset to me, and I have turned into a halfway decent citizen and have lived long enough to retire."

Fones's life is made up of a time-line of athletic adventures including his time spent playing for the hard-nosed service league — a league which featured teams from nationwide military establishments. He was offered a baseball contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and football contracts with the Chicago Cardinals and the Baltimore Colts.

THE FIRST SPORT Fones had a chance to play for Fairfax was football. Fones recalled games from his days at Fairfax with the help of old newspaper clippings. A Nov. 28, 1947, article in the Washington Post described a game which Fairfax lost 20-15 to Mount Vernon, in front of 3500 fans on a 60-yard pass play that found a Mt. Vernon receiver in the end zone for the victory as the final gun went off. "Mount Vernon scored on the last play and the ball went right over my head," said Fones, remembering the play almost 59 years later.

"STRIKING OUT 19 batters against Falls Church is certainly one of the highlights," said Fones when asked of fond memories from his days as a high school athlete. He also notched three hits in the game.

Fones, the left-handed hurler, led the rebels past opposition in other parts of the state as well.

In May of 1947 he held James Monroe High from Fredericksburg to four safeties in a 19-4 win.

He also led his Fairfax summer league team to a Eastern Fairfax County League title in 1948. In the final against Vienna, Fones hit two hits in the same inning. Fairfax boasted a 9-3 record (Aug. 1948, Washington Post).

In February of 1948, Fones was instrumental in the Rebels 48-45 basketball upset victory over Montgomerry Blair. He sank two shots with less than a minute to go, and totaled 23 points (Feb. 1948, Washington Post).

PLAYING THREE sports at the time was not hard, said Fones. He said that made him a better student, and probably kept him out of trouble. He said the seasons never overlapped, and it was mostly the same guys who played all three sports. After graduating in 1948, Fones went to William and Mary on a football scholarship. In the late 1940's and the early 1950's William and Mary was a football powerhouse, and probably the best team in Virginia. However, in his first year with the Indians Fones broke his neck. The injury kept him off the field for a year and a half. It also kept him out of the classroom, so he was drafted into the service before graduating from college.

"The coach from Fort Belvoir came down to William and Mary to see if any of us are getting drafted over the summer. I said I was, and he offered me a spot on the Fort Belvoir team," said Fones.

From 1952 to 1954 Fones played football and baseball with the Engineers. As a first baseman on the baseball team, Fones won the national championship with the Engineers. He said both football and baseball service leagues were filled with talented players from universities, and also a number of professional players who were in service.

IN 1954 FONES returned to William and Mary to finish his degree. He played football that fall and earned the Bedford Jaycee Sportsmanship Trophy, given to a college football player in Virginia as voted by the state's football coaches. In 1955 Fones graduated from William and Mary.

After turning down offers from the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Baltimore Colts and the Chicago Cardinals, Fones was hired as a Physical Education teacher at Annandale High School in the fall of 1955. While at Annandale, Fones was a freshman football coach and the varsity baseball coach. In 1959 Fones was hired as the Assistant Director of the Fairfax County Department of Recreation. He was named the Director of the department in 1979 and retired from the county service in 1989.

From 1956 to 1986 Fones refereed high school football and basketball games. He officiated in four state championship basketball games. Fones also coached Little League baseball teams in the early 1960's and the late 1970's. Through it all, he said sports have not changed in his mind.

"Sport's been the same to me all along," said Fones. "It keeps you out of trouble."

He did say, however, that players today are better than they were in his time. He gives credit to the youth leagues and kids starting to play early. His favorite sport to watch is football and he has remained a Redskins supporter throughout the years. Fones remains active by playing golf in Fairfax.

Larry Fones is 66 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.