Today’s video is a special re-telling of a story given to us via email by a recent customer looking for a stick repair. One thing I’ve been wanting to do is to chronicle the stories of the sticks that come through our shop by highlighting the experiences of the owners themselves. We decided to share this unique story in a new way. We hope you enjoy.
Stick Stories, Vol. 1: I Am Number Twenty-Four
“The lacrosse stick that you are restoring for me was given to me in 1957 by coach George Gernand when I was a freshman at Sparrows Point High School just outside of Baltimore. Somehow, Coach had acquired two sticks of this style, and he gave one to me and one to my friend and neighborhood buddy, Bob Bandy. Bob was clearly going to be a star, and knowing we were neighbors, I think Coach knew that we would practice at home a lot, improving our stick work. Lacrosse had little following at our high school, and Coach was trying to build a program. We went on to play JV and varsity at SPHS, playing together on attack for two years. I was the crease attackman when that was still a specialty. Mostly I was good at setting screens, moving in front of the goalie on shots from the midfield to block his view, and then fighting for rebounds. We were a weak team, which allowed me to play a lot. Tall, skinny, and not a particularly good player, I was lucky in the sense that I had all that playing time.
Bob went on to the Naval Academy and played on the Navy teams that had the historic run of national collegiate titles in the mid-1960s. I went to Johns Hopkins as an electrical engineering student on an academic scholarship package.
When lacrosse season came around in the spring of my first year in college, I decided to give it a shot and tried out for the freshman team. Again I was lucky in the sense that Hopkins was going through a period of seriously down years. Having come out of the steel mill country around Sparrows Point, guys like me had a reputation of being a rough lot. East Baltimore was shot-and-a-beer land. Having gained 30 pounds in the prior year and having a bit of an attitude towards the private school guys that were always showing me up in class, I banged folks around a lot in the try-outs. Our high school team had been short on skills and long on rough play, and I took that with me to Hopkins. The coaches bought my act and I made the team, again as the starting crease attackman. No one else was stupid enough to stand in front of the goal and play dodge ball, letting 80 miles per hour shots slide past his body. Nowadays, that style of play is prohibited, by the way.
During the 1960s, there was a huge surge in demand for engineers and scientists all related to the space program and the Cold War. In fact, that was another stroke of luck for me. It’s why I had a financial package from Hopkins. There was a lot of money available for electrical engineering students. By the way, Michael Bloomberg was one of my electrical engineering classmates. We were 40 or so in number, graduating together in 1964.
I gave up lacrosse in my sophomore year. Trying out for the varsity, I was overwhelmed with the academic load and averaging 5 hours of sleep per night. Hopkins had good teams for many reasons, and one was the brutal workouts. It was killing me. Something had to give. So, I gave up ROTC and lacrosse. It was a tough call. I had survived the first cut, and Coach Bob Scott liked me. But I made the tough choice. My class had started with nearly 100 electrical engineering majors, and less than 40 graduated. I have regretted giving up lacrosse all my life, pondered how I might have done something different so that I could have played, but I know it was the right choice. I was the first in my family to ever graduate from college, in a tough major at a tough school. And I had a very good 35-year career.
I am attaching a photo of the 1961 Hopkins freshman team. Starting line up is sitting in the front row, as was the tradition for team photos. I am No. 24. The stick I am holding in front of me is the same one that you have in your shop.