1958 lacrosse team celebrates its championship
April 29, 2008
Members of the 1958 lacrosse team at their 50th reunion.
Fifty years after leading the Dickinson College lacrosse team to its first and only national title, Don O'Neill '58 delivered again.
At the end of a daylong reunion on April 12 in celebration of the team's accomplishment, O'Neill, the team's captain and leading scorer, spoke of what the title meant to him in 1958 and over the past half century. He then donated his lacrosse stick to the college.
O'Neill, a Dickinson Hall of Famer, was one of 25 members of the team that shared the Roy Taylor Division National Lacrosse Championship with MIT. Thirteen members of the team made it to the reunion, which featured a reception at Biddle Field, recognition at halftime of the current team's game against Washington College, group photos and dinner at the Carlisle Country Club, where O'Neill spoke and presented his gift to his alma mater.
'Part of my life'
"What happened in 1958 was very special," said O'Neill, an attackman for the Red Devils. "For the past 50 years the players of the 1958 Dickinson College lacrosse team and the games we played have been in my thoughts in some way nearly every day. It is part of my life. Thank God I am a Dickinsonian!"
Although team members stayed in touch with one another over the years, the reunion enabled them to savor the title in a way that was impossible 50 years ago.
“Graduation followed very quickly after the season, and the team members dispersed to follow chosen careers,” said defenseman Harvey Bair ’58. “The bond of friendships that endured was the legacy of an improbable season, fondly remembered by all.”
O’Neill has vivid memories of the team’s run in May 1958.
"We were 6-1 and on the way to a good season when we defeated Swarthmore College 10-9 in overtime on a cold rainy day on a muddy field in Philadelphia," he said. "This was the clue that we could be contending for the title."
Two weeks later, on May 17, that clue became reality. By then, the team was 8-2 and facing Penn State University at State College in the season finale. Down 6-3 at halftime, the Red Devils came back to win 8-7 in what was the equivalent of today's Division III championship.
"In those days there was no national tournament," said Dickinson's lacrosse coach Dave Webster. Instead, sports writers and other experts selected the champions.
Webster said the former champs are not only a source of inspiration to the current team, but are well aware, thanks to the passing of time, of the significance of their achievement.
"It probably means more to them now," Webster said. "It's the only national championship in Dickinson history. The farther removed they are from it, the more it means to them."
Members of the championship team who attended the reunion were David Semler '61, William Tyler '61, Jack Stafford '59, Jud Laird '59, Bruce Eddy '60, Creighton Reed '59, Ron Naditch '59, Rich Shanaman '58, Bill Corey '58, Don O'Neill '58, Bill Solomon '58, Harvey Bair '58 and Sam Rose '58.