Lacrosse finally has Hall of Fame befitting its storied tradition

John Steadman

June 21, 1991|By John Steadman

No longer does lacrosse, the oldest of American games, hav to apologize for its Hall of Fame. A building offering a rich tone of elegance, recognizing excellence, has been opened on the campus of Johns Hopkins University to appropriately showcase such treasures as memorabilia, equipment and the deeds of players who made distinguished contributions.

Hopkins, which for 25 years housed the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, has played an important role from the outset. It first provided space in the Newton White Athletic Center for what served as a modest residence for lacrosse's highest place of honor and now has made available the leased-property for a building on University Parkway, adjacent to historic Homewood Field.

An imposing bronze statue of an American Indian, to be designed by either Jud Hartman or Fred Kail, will be erected in front of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame to give it an arresting identity. What has happened thus far is the creation of an attractive 5,500-square-foot facility that is the new headquarters for the Lacrosse Foundation and Hall of Fame museum.

The surroundings are eye-appealing and offer visitors a look into the evolution of the sport, documenting a story that had its

inception with Indian tribes -- numbering as many as 1,000 warriors -- playing in clearings varying from 500 yards to a half-mile. Hopkins has been the most prominent among past and present college teams but displays in the Hall of Fame also include Hobart, Yale, Cornell, Maryland, Syracuse, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and others so as to accurately define the game's roots and its ongoing growth.

A total of 188 players and coaches have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and a special room will be added within the next five years to accommodate their plaques. For the present, they will rim the walls of a theater where lacrosse films are available for viewing.

If there's a negative it's only that there's not adequate room to show all the old jerseys, sticks, helmets and pictures. But what has been achieved, with the exterior design by Jim Grieves and the interior by the Adler Display Co., is worthy of applause and appreciation. Steven Stenersen, executive director and a former University of North Carolina captain, projects the Hall of Fame will draw 10,000 spectators in its first year.

"The acceptance has exceeded our fondest expectations," he said. "I believe we'll continue to attract increasing numbers. Exhibits will change frequently and various collections are to be rotated. We welcome memorabilia that is privately owned. In

that respect, there's no telling what 'jewels' we might inherit from individuals here and around the country."

Bobby Pool, a standout creaseman, who later pioneered numerous equipment changes, donated 30 sticks; Fritz Stude his Olympic jersey; the bathrobe the Naval Academy gave to its celebrated coach, the late "Dinty" Moore; a placard advertising Harvard vs. Cornell at Soldier Field in 1910; and a plethora of pictures. It's all there.

In a loft, reached only by ladder, is the office of the archivist, Donald Fritz, an 11th-generation Marylander. "We have extensive records and texts, even scrapbooks kept by the families of former players," Fritz remarked while pointing to storage boxes and file cabinets. "We're especially proud of a leather diary kept by Bill Schmeisser, who coached the Hopkins team that represented the U.S. in the 1928 Olympic Games at Amsterdam."

All the players had signed the log, except John Lang, who didn't take passage on the SS Roosevelt because he was studying at MIT. He joined the team later and was the only name missing but Fritz corrected the omission by having sports writer Doug Brown of The Evening Sun contact Lang on a visit to Baltimore and the roster was completed -- more than 60 years later.

In 1928, only 36 colleges/universities played lacrosse. There are now 215 offering the sport, plus another 149 "club" teams on campuses around the country. So the expansion continues, which only enhances the purpose of the Hall of Fame, which is open to the public for a $2 adult admission and $1 for students.

What is most significant is that aesthetically the game is in position to offer a positive look at itself. The men who steered the course of action for the Hall of Fame, with its inception going back over two decades, made a contribution that will endure the test of time. Lacrosse has a rich history and now there exists a prideful setting with which to present it.

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