|Julie Ramsey-Emrhein (left) and Patrice Johnson ’06 deliberate over sports selections.
It was a tall order, but somebody had to do it: Pick the top 10 hits in Dickinson sports history.
And so they hunkered down to their task on a spring evening, this panel of “experts”: Wilbur “Goby” Gobrecht ’52 (Dickinson sports historian, former coach and player), Patrice Johnson ’06 (former basketball player), Julie Ramsey-Emrhein (former trainer), Darcy McDonald ’09 (former cross country runner), Dolores “Deeg” Giachetti Shank ’87 (Sports Hall of Famer in basketball and softball), Professor John Osborne (historian, former soccer coach), Dave Webster ’88 (lacrosse coach and former player), Les Poolman (athletics director) and ex officios Sherri Kimmel (senior editor) and Charlie McGuire (sports information director).
A few hours later, the deed was done. In no particular order, in bold black marker, the list of premier moments in sports ran through a few flip-chart pages. Some selections feature individuals, others specific games, eras in a certain sport or facility upgrades. As always, there were more contenders than made the cut. After perusing the ones that did, you may want to tell us what you think we missed. You can do just that by weighing in on Dickinson Magazine’s Facebook fan page. We hope to read you there.
Sprinting to Glory
Outside the training room in the Kline Center a big red board announces the track and field greats of Dickinson. Making the board even once is a feat, but five times? Only Denise Shotwell Hubley ’89 has achieved this number of individual records.
No one is more shocked than Hubley, that 20 years postgraduation she is still enshrined as the queen of the long jump (indoor and outdoor) as well as the 55-, 100- and 200-meter dashes for outdoor track. “You’d think by now someone would have come along and smashed those records,” says the executive vice president of finance and accounting for Balfour Beatty Communities, a Philadelphia-based real-estate firm.
Hubley’s most memorable achievements occurred shortly after graduation, at the NCAA Division III championships outside of Chicago. Hubley conquered the field in the 200, zoomed to second in the 100 and sixth in the long jump. Her cinching of the 200, she says, “was the highlight of my life, right up there with the birth of my three kids.
“It’s a time I remember very vividly,” she recollects. “I was pretty much going on adrenaline. I probably could have kept on running.”
Though she hasn’t kept up the pace, due to work and family commitments, the wife of James Hubley ’90 plans to get back in the running game, for fitness if not for competition. And she’s hopeful that her two older children, who’ve inherited her fast-twitch muscles, will stride out on the track someday—preferably like mom, at Biddle Field.
Devils Tear Up Happy Valley
Penn State wasn’t part of the Big 10 in 1931, but the Nittany Lions were still plenty big when the Red Devils trekked to State College on Oct. 17 for their first match-up in a generation. The two schools had met annually from 1896 to 1907, and Penn State’s winning record against Dickinson—including a 52-0 shutout in 1907—stung as much as the October wind when Dickinson-ians packed the new Beaver Field.
Ben James ’34’s brother Richard was in the stands—cheering on the other guys. A Penn State senior, Richard was a fraternity brother of Lions fullback George Lasich, whom Ben remembered as a “220-pound pile driver.” James, playing center and weighing a mere 145, bet his brother $5 that Dickinson would win the day.
The Devils took the momentum early on. Ed Johnson ’32 nearly scored on the opening kickoff, and a strong defense put the Lions on their heels. In the second quarter, Eddie Dick ’35 intercepted a pass and then threw a 15-yarder to Joe Lipinski ’33, who barreled his way to a 55-yard touchdown.
Dick, whom James called a “tremendous punter and place-kicker,” knocked in a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter. By the time the Nittany Lions scored on a 20-yard pass in the fourth quarter, it was too late.
Dickinson and Penn State never met again, but the 10-6 win restored the Devils’ pride. Members of the ’31 lineup would go on to become some of the college’s most notable Hall of Famers: James, Johnson, Lipinski, John “Milt” Davidson ’33, Ken Kennedy ’33 and Lloyd “Cornie” Hughes ’34. James and Davidson, the sole survivors, keep the memory of that day alive.
What’s in a Name?
Athletic mascots are strange beasts, often surfacing surreptitiously and sticking unintentionally. That was the case with Dickinson’s Red Devil mascot, which emerged in 1930 when the football team played a tough game against George Washington University. Because of the Carlisle team’s grit and spirit against a superior squad, a writer from Washington’s Public Ledger dubbed the Dickinson athletes “the Red Devils.” The name appeared in quotation marks in the next issue of The Dickinsonian and quickly caught on. The quotation marks soon were dropped.
In 1936, the college administration floated the nickname “Colonials” as a possible replacement for the new “Red Devils.” The students adamantly rejected the change.
By the 1970s, the face of a human-like red devil was added to the floor of the Alumni Gymnasium, and it was emblazoned on the floor of the new Kline Center gym in 1980.
While the mascot has taken on many guises—although never a giant furry suit—no standard logo was adopted until 2002. That logo does not include an actual devil but rather the Dickinson “D” with a spiked tail. That devilish “D” adorns the majority of the varsity uniforms, sports-oriented communications and College Bookstore merchandise, although a whimsical, cartoonish devil character created that same year wielding a pitchfork also makes some appearances.
Roping an NCAA Bid
To help the women’s basketball team get to the NCAA tournament for the first time, Coach Dina Henry turned to an unusual piece of equipment. During a late-season practice in 2005, the second-year head coach showed her team a simple piece of white rope. They’d already celebrated a record 13-game winning streak and the program’s first national ranking, but with the conference playoffs looming Henry knew it would be meaningless unless they finished strong.
“If you were hanging off a cliff by this rope, who would you want on the other end?” she asked. “Because if you can’t look around this team and say that you’d want any of these people, then we’re not going to go as far as we could.”
Each player gripped the rope, told her teammates what she admired about them and promised to “hold the rope”—which became their motto. Then each cut a piece and carried it all the way to the conference finals, when a loss seemed to end their record 24-win season and dash their NCAA tournament hopes.
That night, however, the team got an unexpected call to meet at the gym.
“We were obviously all emotional wrecks,” recalls Megan Shelley Dapp ’05. They didn’t know that Henry had just learned that the team’s remarkable run had earned them an at-large bid to host an NCAA tournament game for the first time in Dickinson’s history. “When we walked in, and she told us the news, we were all jumping on furniture, crying and yelling. It was amazing.”
Though Henry still keeps a piece of that rope in her office, the players who held it loom even larger in her memory: “Beyond the records, fanfare and accomplishments, it was the people who made this a truly magical experience.”
To learn more about the team's historic NCAA-tournament run, watch a video conversation with Patrice Johnson '06.
A Dynamic Dynasty
Head Coach Don Nichter is not a superstitious man, but looking back, he remembers telling the 1997 women’s cross country team, “If we make it [to the NCAA National Championship], I’ll shave off my mustache.”
Since then, the team has run roughshod over its rivals. Between 1997 and 2007, the Red Devils captured 10 conference titles, won six Mideast Regional Championships and qualified nine times for the NCAA National Championship.
Under Nichter’s leadership, the team produced three Regional Athletes of the Year—Callie Bradley ’04 in 2002 and 2003, Emily Hulme ’06 in 2005 and Cait Bradley ’08 in 2006. The Devils also earned 49 All-Centennial Conference honors and placed 40 runners in the top 10, including 22 top-five finishes. They collected numerous All-Mideast Region honors and set a college record in 2006 when seven runners placed on the All-Region squad with four finishing in the top 10.
Nichter, who’s been named Mideast Regional Coach of the Year six times since 1999, attributes their success to the team’s esprit de corps. “There’s buy-in to the program, and they have patience about long-term results and trust in what they’re being asked to do,” he says. “Most important, they have a strong passion for the sport.”
Meanwhile, he remains mustache-free. The team shows no signs of slowing down, so he’s not taking any chances.
Three-thousand meters, 28 hurdles and seven water jumps—all of it while jockeying for position in a tightly congested block of runners. “A steeplechase athlete has to have a certain mojo for competing in that event,” says Don Nichter, head coach of cross country and track and field.
Cait Bradley ’08 showed some of that mojo in 2008 when she won the NCAA national title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, posting 10:22.60, the fastest time of the season in Division III.
“I was super nervous but got some really good advice from a friend [to] just run how you normally run, and you’ll do fine,” she recalls. “I did just that [and] ran hard from the gun. It was a perfect race and a perfect day for me.”
The 2007 and 2008 captain and MVP of the women’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams also finished her college career with nine Centennial Conference and seven All-American honors. In her wake are a multitude of school records—she shattered five in 2007 alone.
“By far she’s the most dominant female distance runner we’ve had here,” Nichter says. “Her work ethic is phenomenal.” He adds that Bradley’s competitive drive—combined with her speed, stamina and flexibility—made her the ideal steeplechase runner.
“Every race has its challenges,” Bradley says. “But I do think steeple [requires] a unique combination of skills. Steeple is a gutsy race, but I’m slightly biased.”
Bradley continues to run competitively, and she works for Apogee Adventures, a youth outdoor-adventure company founded by Kevin ’95 and Gitta Peterson Cashman ’96.
A 1904 Washington Post article described Frank Mount Pleasant, class of 1910, as possibly the greatest all-around athlete in the world. Playing for the Carlisle Industrial Indian School, Dickinson College and several local teams, Mount Pleasant, a Seneca Indian, dominated the diamond, ruled the gridiron, claimed the court and tore up the track.
His legacy includes some impressive stats. He is purported to be one of the first football players to ever throw a perfect spiral pass. His personal bests in track include the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds, the 220-yard dash in 22.4 seconds, the 440-yard dash in 50 seconds and a 23-foot, nine-inch broad jump. During the 1908 Olympics in London, he placed sixth in the triple jump and broad jump, hampered by a torn ligament. He has been inducted into three sports halls of fame, including Dickinson’s, and in 2007 the Frank Mount Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives was dedicated at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.
He also had a sensitive side and was described in the 1910 Microcosm as “a frank, open-hearted gentleman, quiet and courteous. He is an artist on the piano and a great lover of music. He is exceedingly modest in regard to his athletic ability.”
Mount Pleasant, Dickinson’s first graduate from the Indian school, had a varied career after leaving Carlisle. He coached at several colleges and played on some minor-league baseball teams, but nothing stuck. He served in the Army during World War I and was decorated for bravery. In 1937, he was found in Buffalo, N.Y., lying on a sidewalk, cause of death unknown.
A Muddy Path to Greatness
The 1958 Men’s Lacrosse team’s national title run began in a mud puddle. On a rain-soaked afternoon in Philadelphia, Sam Rose ’58 helped the Red Devils play to an 8-8 deadlock with Swarthmore College, scoring five goals with a little help from Mother Nature.
“There was a great big mud puddle in front of their goal,” he recalls with a laugh, “so I just kept throwing the ball into the water, and it would squirt through.” When the team won 10-9 in overtime, all the players ran for that puddle and dove in to celebrate.
“That was when we first had the sense we could do something special,” recalls Don O’Neill ’58, the team’s captain, noting that the players were beginning to hear that if they won their remaining games they would be named Roy Taylor Division National Lacrosse Champions.
But they still needed to get past Penn State University. Down 6-3 at halftime, O’Neill remembers being asked if the team could turn it around in the second half. “Sure,” he said. “No problem.” And as if it were that simple, the team rallied to tie the game 7-7 and then took the lead when Rose set up Jack Stafford ’59 for the winning goal.
Because the title was decided by sportswriters rather than a tournament, the team didn’t officially claim the college’s only national title until several weeks later, but as they ran around Penn State’s Beaver Field track pumping their fists, all 25 members of the team knew they had done something special.
“We were just insane,” says O’Neill. “We ran around that track, and it was like, ‘Did we really just win it?’ It was euphoric.”
Shocking the Big Apple
Between 1922 and 1952 the men’s basketball team traveled to New York City nine times for what would become a regular drubbing at the hands of The City College of New York (CCNY). With recruiting ties throughout the Big Apple, the CCNY Beavers were busy building the program that in 1950 made it the only college team to win both the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same year. For Dickinson, big losses in the big city would become the norm.
But on a chilly Dec. 12 night in 1925, the Red Devils pulled out a 29-24 win—their only one in the three-decade series.
If the score seems low, consider that each basket was followed by a jump ball at center court. The practice of awarding possession to the opposing team after a basket wasn’t adopted until 1938, and on this night the jump-ball rule worked in the Red Devils’ favor. Team captain Jacob “Yock” Goldberg, standing at what was then an imposing 6 feet 4 inches tall, helped the Red Devils control many of the tip-offs, while also chipping in 10 points.
Add to Goldberg’s aerial effort 10 points from forward Thomas Gallagher ’27 and Coach Richard McAndrews’ stifling zone defense—a revolutionary tactic in the ’20s—and you had the recipe for a huge upset and CCNY’s first home loss since 1919.
With that season’s 15-2 record, the Devils were crowned Class-B East champions with impressive wins over Princeton, George Washington and Temple universities. The team’s .882 winning percentage still stands in the record books, tied with the 1946-47 squad.
From Eyesore to Icon
Athletics Director Les Poolman remembers the not-so-olden days of Dickinson baseball, when the field was “an eyesore, an accident waiting to happen.” Located off an alley near Massey’s ice cream parlor, too close to the track and residences, it didn’t inspire much player satisfaction but instead many bills from neighbors whose cars and garage doors had been dented or windows broken by long balls.
Andy MacPhail ’76, president of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles, knew just how bad it was from his own playing days. “When the track team was competing, we had to suspend our game, because when they were running the 440 they ran right through right-center field.”
When President William G. Durden ’71 approached the MacPhail family, known as one of the most storied in major-league baseball, they were delighted to help fund a new field, which opened in 2003 in Dickinson Park, far from Biddle Field and any tantalizing plate-glass windows.
“We were pleased to be a part of something that makes baseball a more enjoyable experience for the players who followed us,” says Andy, whose brother Bruce ’73 briefly played baseball as did Bruce’s son Logan ’08. Brother Allen ’67 was a lacrosse player, but Allen’s son Bryan ’04 was a keen competitor who had the first base hit on the new MacPhail Field.
“It was so great that these guys came through with the seed money for what is a beautiful field, the best in the conference,” says Poolman. “It is one of the greatest improvements Dickinson has had for a single sport.”