Whether you were the type who loves a parade, the sort who goes where the girls are or simply a connoisseur of athletic Donnybrooks—the place to be last Saturday was either West Point or Annapolis. On the stern high bluffs above the Hudson were the pomp and pageantry of an Army graduation week, hundreds of pretty young ladies who had come from every state in the union and an Army-Navy baseball game that starred a very famous athlete (see page 22). And on the gentle slopes of the Severn, the Navy offered more gold braid and brass bands, more beauties and a lacrosse game with a national championship at stake.
When Navy held its pep rally on Thursday evening, two days before the game, it had no inkling that the Army lacrosse team was nursing a year-long grudge. The likelihood of athletic successes was adding to the normal joys of the Annapolis June Week. An electric "Beat Army!" sign flashed from Bancroft Hall, the world's biggest dormitory, which houses all 3,665 of the midshipmen.
Rear Admiral John F. Davidson, the academy superintendent, was introduced at the rally by a glib midshipman as "Big Daddy," and he took it gamely while the exuberant middies cheered. Already the first dates were arriving for their week-long stay, a social assembly that would include three dances, three parades, a concert by Duke Ellington and an address by President Kennedy at graduation. Tough old Navy captains with houses on the academy grounds were helplessly watching their wives take in girl boarders by the score, while the graceful but small colonial town of Annapolis (23,385) was preparing its boarding houses for 50,000 visitors. (Also ready: the town's 200 legal Slot machines, the biggest concentration of one-armed bandits east of Las Vegas.)
The town's narrow streets, meanwhile, looked like a scene from a Monte Carlo road rally. Four hundred graduating first classmen had bought cars. On May 27 regulations preventing them from using automobiles had been lifted, and convertible sport models in flaming red were obviously this year's choice.
"I know we'll do well," summed up the admiral as he spoke at the Thursday pep rally. "Army, Army, call the doctor," sang the midshipmen while they waved their bright white hats and stood impressively tall in the short-sleeved, tropical uniforms that Navy wears in such hot spots as Guam, Panama and Annapolis.
The next morning the Navy lacrosse team was practicing on an athletic field so close to the Severn River (which is actually a tidal backwater, not a river at all) that when Coach Bill Bilderback arrived his first words were, "Don't throw the balls in the water."
The Navy squad should be able to throw well enough to miss a river. Last year it was unbeaten in college play, ending the season by defeating a favored Army team at West Point. (That was the game which Army was remembering so well this week.) This season Navy won nine more consecutive college games, but frequently in such hairbreadth fashion that John Paul Jones would have given up the ship as lost. Navy was badly behind against every major opponent. It trailed Maryland 5-1 in the second half and fought back to win in overtime. It was behind 8-4 to Baltimore University in the last period, and scored in the last minute to beat Virginia.
Speed and stamina, not lacrosse finesse, seemed to be winning for Navy. At the beginning of the season the Middies were actually given little chance of another title. "But we kept improving every game," said Coach Bilderback, sounding a little surprised himself. Navy was getting excellent play from a big (6 feet 2 inches) attack man, Tom Mitchell, had an outstanding defenseman in Team Captain Neil Reich and six football players who provided some brute force. The most noticeable of these was John Hewitt, captain of next year's football team. Navy's 1961 lacrosse philosophy was simple: run, run, run, and eventually the other fellow won't be able to get up and down the 110-yard field. This worked all year.
But if Navy was a surprise, Army was more so. In the state of Maryland there is a tendency to feel that a man cannot play lacrosse unless he is raised within 40 miles of Baltimore. Army was pooh-poohed for playing a weak schedule, and accused of using more muscle than talent. "Animals," a Baltimore newspaper said of the Army team, after carefully making an exception of the Marylanders on it.
One little non-Marylander, however, was a 5-foot 8-inch, 154-pound twirling nuisance named Pat Hillier, who was from Long Island. His 20 goals led Army's scorers. "Best we've seen," said the Navy scouting report bluntly, after listing six things he did well. Another was 155-pound Rusty Broshous, from the town of West Point, N.Y.