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  A Tradition in Its Own Right

Men's lacrosse at Johns Hopkins began with the founding of the Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Club in 1882, which means the game itself is a Hopkins tradition. A committee studying campus sports in the 1920s found the game to be "particularly congenial to the school's climate and the temperament of the Hopkins student." But within the Hopkins lacrosse legacy, there are several traditions (besides winning national championships — 43 at last count).

The first home game of every season features a memorial ceremony, begun by Herb Baxley of the Class of 1919, commemorating 10 Hopkins lacrosse players who have died in the nation's wars. Team captains trot out to the goals and pin to the nets two service flags that bear stars, one star for each former player lost in the two world wars and Vietnam.

The stands at Homewood Field are named for Conrad Gebelein, who directed the Hopkins band for more than 50 years, until 1979. Gebelein established the tradition of playing the fight song after every Blue Jay goal.

The song's lyrics are ... how to put this ... the lyrics are odd:

To win, to win,
You'd like like Hell to win.
But you'll have to wait,
'Til the moon turns green,
And the Brass Band plays
   "God Shave the Dean!"
Hi-lo, Hi-lee,
It's plain as A-B-C,
If anyone's going to win today,
It's we, we, we!

Each time the band plays the song, Hopkins fans follow the last note with a chant, counting the goals to that point: One, two, three, four, five, six ... we want more! Opposing players and coaches hate it, which, of course, is the point.

For several decades beginning in the 1930s, Hopkins fans would come to early spring games clad in blue jay feather coats. The feathers were harvested from an aviary of jays bred specifically for that purpose, and the coats were sewn by a local tailor who specialized in feather coats, hats, and boas. The tradition lasted until the '70s, when the run-off from the aviary polluted the Jones Falls and ran afoul of the recently enacted Clean Water Act.

No athletic locker room would be complete without signs exhorting the players to greater efforts and loftier achievements. Above the door to the men's lacrosse locker room is a sign that reads, "I will give my all for Johns Hopkins University today." Every time a player passes under the sign, he reaches up and slaps it.

At every Friday practice before a game, the team plays "Sky Ball":one player climbs to the top of the stadium stands and heaves a ball for each defenseman, including the goalie, to catch. Practice can't end until each has caught a ball, and freshmen have the added burden of making a catch while upperclassmen try to stop them.

The men's team plays one home game every year in honor of Chris Gardner, a freshman on the 1996 team who died of cancer. Proceeds from the game go to the Hopkins Children's Center. Chris' mother presents plaques to the most valuable players from each team.

Home games (and many away games) always include a boisterous section of diehard fans, many of whom wear matching yellow T-shirts. This bunch traditionally brings bananas to the game, not to maintain potassium levels but to reward the Hopkins stars of the game. After the opposing teams file past each other and shake hands, the Banana Bunch will shout the names of the Jays whom they've selected for recognition, then fling a banana to each. The players are usually dexterous enough to snag the fruit on the fly.

The women's team has traditions of its own. One is the "Pipe Game." At the end of the final practice before a game, players and coaches take turns shooting the ball toward the goal, attempting to hit the vertical pipes that hold the net. Someone always strikes it; sometimes as many as 10 shots hit home.

Return to "In the Finest Tradition"
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