November 25, 2013

Lacrosse Legacies Show Chips Off the Old Block

by Bill Tanton | | Twitter

Avery Blake, Sr. (left) and Jr. (right) were both Hall of Fame members.

This column originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. To start receiving your copy, join US Lacrosse and its over 400,000 members today!

I played college lacrosse eons ago, but I was the furthest thing imaginable from a Hall of Famer. That's probably why I'm in awe of some of the great players who do get to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

That goes double, even triple, for another category: Hall of Fame families, fathers and sons enshrined together among the sport's all-time greats.

You watch these players through the years, and once in a while you think, how could Gary Gait be this great? How could Jimmy Lewis be so quick? Then you see a family with two or three Hall of Famers. That's when I'm really in awe.

I was reminded of this Sept. 19, when Bunky Blake died at the age of 81 at his home in Northern California. I played against Bunky. I'm sure he was not aware that he had played against me, but I am sure he remembered fellow Hall of Famer Buzzy Budnitz on our Johns Hopkins team.

If you thought of Swarthmore in the early 1950s, you thought of Bunky Blake. He was considered a giant at a time when lacrosse players were smaller. He was a 6-foot-5 attackman and a four time All-American who made scoring look easy. In four years, he was held scoreless in just two games.

Blake's coach was his father, Avery Blake Sr., also a Hall of Famer. (Bunky was Avery Jr., but nobody called him that.) The elder Blake was a major figure in lacrosse. He was president of the USILA. In 39 years at Swarthmore and Penn, his teams compiled a record of 246-153-3. (Most people today would not know a game could end in a tie, much less three of them.) Bob Scott, the Hall of Fame coach for Johns Hopkins and author of "Lacrosse," credits Avery Blake Sr. with creation of the zone defense in the book.

I last saw Bunky when he came east for a Hall of Fame induction banquet four years ago. I love seeing the great old players come back to these things. Bunky told me about the Avery Blake Scholarship Fund in California that was created to make sure any child who wished to play lacrosse could.

Avery Blake Sr. is not the only progenitor of a National Lacrosse Hall of Fame legacy. There's also Alan Lowe, a great player at Maryland in the 1960s and captain of the U.S. team that won the world championship in 1974. Lowe was the longtime coach at Manhasset High on Long Island. His teams won 511 games, and Manhasset at one point was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Wasn't that enough success for one family? Not the Lowes. Alan has two sons also in the Hall of Fame. Darren Lowe was a three-time All-American at Brown, a U.S. team player in 1998 and captain in 2002. Kevin Lowe was an All-American and captain of Bill Tierney's NCAA championship teams at Princeton in 1993 and 1994.

And then there's the Kaestners. Buddy Kaestner, one of the greatest defensemen in Johns Hopkins and Mt. Washington Club history, entered the Hall of Fame in 1974. His son, Hank, also a Johns Hopkins defenseman, was inducted in 1985. Another son, John, was such a great player at Maryland in the 1960s that I believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Lastly, you have the Harknesses, Bill and Ned, both coaches. Ned Harkness coached hockey and lacrosse at RPI and Cornell. He led both schools to NCAA hockey titles and went on to coach the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. In lacrosse, he amassed an astounding record, 147-27-2, good enough for him to join his father in the Hall of Fame. Bill Harkness, who immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland with his family in the late 19th century, also coached both hockey and lacrosse, most notably taking RPI lacrosse to the Olympics in London in 1948 and going undefeated there.

I'm pretty much in awe of the whole crowd. 

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