Lacrosse In The 1960’s: Lacrosse At Johns Hopkins And Most College Programs Was “A Riotous Sport” But Was Showing Signs Of “Refinement” (Sports Illustrated, April 23, 1962)


Springtime's fiercest game is lacrosse, once played for blood by Indians and now played for glory by collegians. The sport's focal point is Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins fights for a championship

It is a riotous sport. Sticks and bodies fly. The seeming alternative for the practitioner is to skewer or be skewered. But refinement has come steadily since the bloody days of its origin when Indians played to kill. Nobody gets killed playing lacrosse anymore. It only seems like it.

In The Great Tussle with Hopkins, a work dealing with heroics in that sometimes violent and always exhausting game of lacrosse, Frank Merriwell had an especially heavy time of it. The captain of the Johns Hopkins University team attempted to take Frank’s girl (unsuccessfully), conspired to get him to smoke (unsuccessfully), to get him to drink (unsuccessfully), to have him beaten up (Merriwell won by a knockout) and in a last flash of satanic inspiration tried to put him out of the game by cracking his skull with a lacrosse stick. At the end of the story Merriwell tells the imaginative but villainous Hopkins man: “I don’t know how you happened to be chosen captain of the Hopkins team. You can play lacrosse, but you are a dirty fellow.”

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It is, in fact, a misconception shared by thousands who know a little bit about the game that dirty fellows naturally gravitate to it because in it they can slake their devilish thirsts. It is a riotous sport. Sticks and bodies fly. The seeming alternative for the practitioner is to skewer or be skewered. But refinement has come steadily since the bloody days of its origin when Indians played to kill. Nobody gets killed playing lacrosse anymore. It only seems like it.

Even those Mephistopheles at Johns Hopkins, that Maryland school which feels as fervently about lacrosse and plays it as well as Notre Dame does football, have changed since Merriwell. The present captain of the team, Henry Ciccarone, is a loving father who hasn’t stolen anybody’s girl in years. Jerry Schmidt (see cover) is an All-America attackman who hits like a fullback and has been known to cause suffering, but he is a mannerly boy and always says he’s sorry. “Why, lacrosse people are always nice people,” says Jack Kelly, who publicizes the game (Lacrosse Newsletter, circ. 1,100) out of the goodness of his own nice heart. They are also all peculiarly devoted to their art, which is, if not vicious, no tippy-toes game either.

For more:  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1073714/index.htm

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