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Booton Herndon
May 09, 1955
The old Indian game of lacrosse has come into its own as a spring sport. Its ingredients include brave hearts, stout clubs and a slow whistle
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May 09, 1955

Skull 'em! Hip 'em! Score!

The old Indian game of lacrosse has come into its own as a spring sport. Its ingredients include brave hearts, stout clubs and a slow whistle

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Several years ago, after a lacrosse game played between a team of college stars and a team of Onandaga Indians, the chief of the Onandagas took one of the particularly deserving college boys aside and showed him a couple of the deadlier secrets of the game.

"Lookum here," the chief said. "Hold your foot over other fellow's foot, so. When he start, put foot down. Dislocatum hip. When fellow too fast, run away from you, hitum in heel with stick. Gettum just right, he no run no more. Ever."

The young man thanked the chief courteously and departed. In 28 years of coaching lacrosse since then, 19 at Navy, Dinty Moore has never felt called upon to teach his men how to dislocatum hip, but some of Navy's bruised opponents have often wondered what holds him back. Last year Navy was national lacrosse champion but the real proof of Dinty's coaching ability occurred during the game with Duke. A Navy attackman known now as Homicide Hargrave, aiming his 230-pound self at a Duke player scurrying about on the sidelines, miscalculated the range and hit his coach instead. The impact broke Dinty's leg in two places and severed most of the ligaments.

"What a body check! Man, that's the way to play lacrosse!" exulted the coach as they carried him off the field.

This spring some 60 colleges and as many secondary schools fielded lacrosse teams. In many schools it was the third biggest sport, after football and basketball. More players were participating than at any time since before the white man arrived and spoiled the fun. (Thousand-man Indian teams used to stage contests lasting for days, not even stopping to bury the dead.) It's a game that is exciting both to play and to watch. "After you see lacrosse," said Rip Miller, athletic director at Navy and one of the Seven Mules of Notre Dame, "other spring sports are like kissing your sister."

Although lacrosse is a rough game, you don't have to be either a behemoth or a goon to play it. In what other team contact sport these days can a 140-pound honor student like Virginia's Jimmy Grieves make All-America in his junior year? "I just don't know what comes over me when I play lacrosse," Jimmy mused recently.

Another good thing about lacrosse is that it's easy to understand. If you have ever sat in a darkened projection room with a bunch of football coaches running one play over and over trying to find out what their own team was doing, you appreciate the simplicity of lacrosse all the more. "It's basketball played on a football field with a club and a slow whistle," someone once observed with a shudder. The idea is to throw a hard rubber ball in the opponent's goal, around or through the goal tender. Each team has 10 men, but only six can cross the midfield line at a time, so that the melee is restricted to 12 men and the goalie.

"We used to play with 12 men and what the rule book called natural boundaries," recalls Joseph B. Beck-man, an All-America at Maryland 24 years ago. "We used to knock down a lot of fences. We played Syracuse in the football stadium. There were high concrete walls around the field. The referee got both teams together before the game and told us he didn't want to see anybody get bounced off those walls. Well, the game started, and the ball went over against the wall, and I had a good shot at a guy—could a slammed him through the wall—but I remembered what the referee said and laid off. All of a sudden BOOM two guys hit me and knocked me up against that concrete and the whole stadium shook. Hell, the whole town shook. I looked up at the referee and he was laughin' all over himself. He was from Syracuse!"


When a man has possession of the ball you can do most anything to him to make him wish he hadn't. Provided you hit his stick at the same time, you can hit him with your stick anywhere between the shoulders and the knees. A new rule this year prohibits hitting him on the head at any time. He doesn't even have to have the ball, just be within 15 feet of a loose ball, to be eligible to receive your best body block. The only restraint is that you can't hit him from behind or below the knees.

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