Men's Lacrosse 1950

photograph courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives

This is the team portrait of the 1950 men's lacrosse team.  The team was not an official varsity team at Dickinson until April 12, 1952 so the team pictured here is a club team.  The team received contributions from fans and supporters in order to provide necessary funding.  The members of the team were (from right to left): The game of lacrosse originated with Native American tribes long ago.  The tribe most closely associated with the game of lacrosse are the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois as they are more commonly known, of Central New York.  Among the original players the sport of lacrosse held deep religious meaning as it is believed to be a gift from the Creator.  Because of the spirituality of the game it was used to settle disputes among tribes over land and other matters.  The winner of the high stakes contest was never disputed as this would be a direct disobedience to the Creator.  The structure of the game was radically different than it is as we know it today.

The first games were played on a field at least five hundred yards long.  Today the standard field is only 110 yards long.  Instead of the familiar ten on ten play of today, the original game was played with at least one hundred to a side.  Also the equipment has evolved greatly over the centuries.  The stick has grown from a wooden hook like shape with leather straps to a plastic/fiberglass head and titanium shafts.  For tribes like the Iroquois, the game lasted for two to three days, from sun up to sun down.  As with also all modern games, time limits were set on the white man's version and today the game lasts for forty minutes.   Lacrosse's structure may have been altered over the years, but the love for the game's quickness, agility, and excitement has remained constant.

When the white man saw the game being played for the first time, it would be forever changed.  The first game to be witnessed was between the Mohawks and the Akwesasne during the early 1700's.  It was immediately promoted among the French and English and was a success.  The religious nature of the game was played down among the white players, due to its pagan connotations , but many the tribes who founded the ancient game, still acknowledge its religious importance.

Lacrosse's popularity grew steadily through the 1800's and into the 1900's.  It took root and spread across Canada, the United States, and around the world.  It is perhaps most popular among collegiate teams.  The first intercollegiate game was played in New York's Central Park between New York University and Manhattan College.  Because the game was only going to grow more, the United States International Lacrosse Association was founded in 1926.  It helped to manage the game and provide some guideline for colleges and universities to play against one another.

Lacrosse at Dickinson was fairly unknown when Robert G. "Robby" Hopson came to the college in 1947.  Hopson went to Swarthmore High School where he had gained a love for lacrosse and the skills to be one of the best on the field.  He wanted to continue his  lacrosse career at Dickinson, but the school had no team to join.  So Hopson decided he would form a team himself.  His first meeting was attended by 4 seniors, 4 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 4 freshmen.  The group decided they should start by practicing basic stick skills.  They trained on the Benjamin Rush campus, which today is more commonly known as Morgan Field, across from the old Conway Hall.  (The Boyd Lee Spahr Library stands today where Conway Hall once was.)  After some practicing, Hopson felt they were ready for the next step.

Hopson went to the Board of Athletic Control on February 24, 1948, asking that his group be recognized as a team.  The board decided that the players continue in their efforts but that they would not recognize them as an official club team.  But Hopson pressed on.  During his sophomore year he returned to the board to ask again for recognition.  Again they denied the team club status, but did allow the players to practice on Biddle Field.  It was a step in the right direction.

One of the main reasons the team could not be recognized was a lack of funding and equipment.  The team was supported by the Hopson name once again.  Robby's father, Mr. Howard G. Hopson helped to fund the fledgling team.  The team was also lucky to receive the support of Thomas L. Carey who provided help as a secretary and advisor to the team.
Hopson went before the board in the spring of 1950 and again asked to be recognized as a  team.  He had the financial support of his father, the clerical help of Thomas Carey, and a team with a lot of practice.  The board had no choice but to allow Hopson the chance he had begging for; he could now play lacrosse the collegiate level.  An English professor   Professor Francis W. Warlow, of the English department, became the team's new coach and faculty advisor.  Coach Warlow had gained extensive lacrosse experience at Johns Hopkins, where he had played as an undergraduate.

The status of the new team was still a little tenuous during the first few weeks.  The team, although recognized, still lacked the necessary equipment required for intercollegiate play.  Through the generous donations of one of Secretary Carey's close friends, Avery Blake, the team received a portion of the equipment that they needed.  The college also helped the infant team when they could.  The team wore old football jerseys that the football team no longer needed.  The goalie had an old baseball catcher's chest protector.   And the new team used old soccer cleats from the 1930's that someone had stumbled across.

What the team lacked in new equipment, they made up for in spirit.  The first men's lacrosse game in Dickinson College history found the Red Devils victorious with Robby Hopson scoring the first goal.  The lax men had defeated Penn State Center of Harrisburg 12-6.  In order to pay for the referees, the players' girlfriends passed a hat around the crowd. Some of the players were so dedicated to their new team that when they found out that the Carlisle Hospital needed blood they left in the middle of practice, "donated", and contributed the money to the team's treasury.  Of course they finished the practice...

Lacrosse had taken root at Dickinson and its popularity only grew when the home crowd could see the team for themselves.  The first game played on Biddle Field was between the "Cream Puffs" and the "Eclairs".  It was an intra-squad match up set up by Coach Warlow, with around 300 to 400 students attending.

The story of lacrosse at Dickinson is quite inspirational.  Robby Hopson came to Carlisle and simply had to play lacrosse.  Through his hard work off and then on the field (he had 25 points with 24 goals and 1 assist in only eight games over his two years) and through the support of friends and faculty, lacrosse has continued to be one of Dickinson's most popular sports to date.

Andrew Averill

Tewaarathon (Lacrosse) the North American Indian Traveling College, 1978 p. 24-30., Microcosm: 1950,51,51.,
Gobrecht, W.J. The History of Red Devil Lacrosse, Dickinson College, Carlisle PA 1986.