Joseph Sedwick Sollers jr., helped revive lacrosse

September 23, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Joseph Sedwick Sollers Jr., a businessman and member of the national Lacrosse Hall of Fame who helped to invent the STX replaceable plastic head for lacrosse sticks, revolutionizing the sport, died Wednesday of cancer at his Lutherville home. He was 68.

At his death, Mr. Sollers was president of the William T. Burnett Co., a Jessup manufacturer of polyurethane, where he started as a salesman in 1953.

"He was part of the team along with Bill Crawford and Roland Fracalossi that developed the synthetic head," said Richard Tucker, also a member of the group and chairman of the board of Burnett.

Patented in 1970, the development of the plastic head coincided with the growth in popularity of lacrosse on the high school and collegiate levels.

STX-Inc. began manufacturing the new heads and lacrosse sticks at a plant in Timonium in 1971. The plant is now located in Essex.

At the time, lacrosse sticks were handmade by Indians in Canada and were all one piece of wood, curved at the top to form the head of the crosse. The pocket of the stick was made of rawhide. When a wooden stick was broken, it had to be discarded, head and all.

The advantage of the STX-Inc. stick was its pre-strung head and pocket of synthetic fibers that can be slipped onto a straight piece of wood. If the handle was broken, the head could be removed and placed on a new stick.

Later, the new head combined with a stick made of lighter weight materials revolutionized the sport.

"It changed the game of lacrosse forever. It quickened the game and made it faster. Suddenly an ordinary pass downfield turned into a bullet," said Dyson Ehrhardt, director of development at Boys' Latin.

Mr. Sollers was born in Denver and moved to Park Avenue in Baltimore as a youngster. He played lacrosse at St. Paul's School and at Boys' Latin beginning in 1942.

He left Boys' Latin as a junior to enlist in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned to the school, graduating in 1947.

In 1945, he was named the first recipient of the C. Markland Kelly Jr. High School Award as the outstanding lacrosse player. He was the only four-time selection to the All-Maryland Scholastic Association lacrosse team.

At the Johns Hopkins University, he was a three-time All-American lacrosse player from 1949 to 1951. In 1949 and 1950, Hopkins was national champion.

In 1951, he became the only player ever to win both the C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award as the top collegiate goalie and the William C. Schmeisser Memorial Trophy as the nation's outstanding defensive player.

"He was a stylish kind of player who always put a great deal of electricity into his position on the field," said Mr. Tucker. "He was graceful and exciting to watch."

Mr. Sollers, who also had a home on Gibson Island, was active in the Boys' Latin School Alumni Association and was a member of the Gibson Island Club, the Johns Hopkins Club, the Maryland Club and the Bachelors Cotillon.

He had been a board member of the Boys' Latin School, the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Genesis.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St.

He is survived by his wife, the former Catherine Carter Middleton; a son, Joseph Sedwick Sollers III of Washington; a daughter, Catherine Carter Sollers Townsend of Lutherville; and a grandson.

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