July 25, 2013

His Space: Fifty Shades of Jay

by Bill Tanton | LaxMagazine.com

A version of this article appears in the August 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

It may surprise you that within the legendary Johns Hopkins lacrosse family there are internecine rivalries.

These often surface at the traditional smoker party (now smokeless, of course), when the squad that's about to open the new season is introduced to the old grads.

At a place like Hopkins, which has played lacrosse since 1883, which has won 44 national championships and has 65 players in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, it's probably natural that some teams boast that they were better than others.

"You guys couldn't run," an alum from a 1970s national championship team said dismissively a few years ago to some players from the '60s. An '80s man then chimed in, "The modern game is so far ahead of your teams."

Tommy Gough had heard enough.

"Say what you want about the best team we've ever had," he said, "but there's no question which one was the most loyal. It was us. The Fifty Team. We've had a reunion every year since we graduated in 1950, and we're going to keep having them until there's only one of us left."

In June, I was privileged to attend the 1950 Blue Jays' 62nd reunion at the Baltimore home of Jeannie Pohlhaus, widow of Fifty Team member Neil Pohlhaus, who died in 2010.

The guys were there, all right, those who are still with us. Of the 25 men on the Fifty Team, nine are living. A few, including Lloyd Bunting and Wilson Fewster, were too ill to attend. In the last three years Pohlhaus, Bob Sandell, George Mitchell, Ham Bishop and Tommy Gough died. One of the deceased team members, goalie Joe Sollers, was represented at the reunion by his wife Carter and son Wick.

Some of Johns Hopkins' national champions over the decades may believe they were better than the teams of the late '40s, but to be sure, none had a better record. For four seasons, 1947 through 1950, the Fifty Team never lost a college game.

Seven of its players had also played together in high school at St. Paul's (Md.) School and never lost a game there either. Their wives and survivors call them The Magnificent Seven. They are Sandell, Adams, Mitchell, Pohlhaus, Ham Bishop, Ray Greene and Robbie Baker. Their coach at St. Paul's and Johns Hopkins was Howdy Myers, who died in 1980.

It's understandable that the Fifty Team members have such a bond and such pride. I have known many of them since they played at Homewood, some even since their St. Paul's days. They always viewed themselves as winners.

Men their ages, now in their mid- to late-80s, tend not to worry too much about an alma mater that has just failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 41 years. They have more pressing things on their minds. Nobody at the reunion mentioned Johns Hopkins's joining the Big Ten for lacrosse in 2015 until I brought it up.

"It's all about money now," Rollo Brent said.

Added Mort Kalus: "There's no tradition any more. Everything's changed."

Bob Scott, the Hall of Fame coach and player at Johns Hopkins, tempered the conversation. "I think everything will work out just fine," he said.

What these old Blue Jays care about now is one another. They care about the bond, their own mortality and, always, the Fifty Team.

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