Johns Hopkins Athletic
Inductees: Father, son
If Hopkins Lacrosse has dynasties, the Morrills are its
Patriarch Kelso Morrill ('27) learned and played the sport here from 1924 to 1927, then turned to coaching. He shepherded the renowned teams of '41 and '50 to their national championships. His son, Bill Morrill ('59), was a first team All-American attackman for three years and graduated as Hopkins' all-time leading goal scorer and point scorer. Bill's son Mike ('88) also made the All-America team, and was a member of the 1990 and 1994 national teams to boot.
You can talk about talent running in families, but in the Morrills' case, it is talent that runs, cuts, dodges and scores like the dickens.
Now the two elder Morrills are being recognized for their achievements as part of the third induction class into the Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame. As for the youngest Morrill, Hall of Fame rules state a student has to be at least 10 years past graduation before being considered.
Kelso and Bill Morrill will be honored along with the 10 other inductees at the half time of the Blue Jays' home football game against Dickinson College Nov. 2. A Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremonies will follow that evening. Bill Morrill will accept the awards on behalf of himself and his father, who died in 1968.
"Both of these men made tremendous contributions to the sport," said former director of athletics Bob Scott. A member of the Hall of Fame induction committee, Scott noted that father and son (who shared the full name William Kelso Morrill) are being honored for different achievements.
"Kelso was a great coach, and Billy was a great player," Scott said. "They each made their mark in the sport and were great assets to the Hopkins athletic program."
Scott ought to know. As a sophomore member of the 1950 championship team he was coached by the father. Less than a decade later, Scott would coach the son as part of a juggernaut team that lost only one game in three years of play.
"After the 1950 championship team there were several years when the teams were not as proficient, so there was some excitement when our group came along," recalled Mickey Webster ('59), Bill Morrill's teammate and one of the great assisters in lacrosse history. With Webster feeding and Morrill shooting, the '57-'59 Jays were all but unstoppable, rolling over even the highest ranked opponents like a great blue tide.
Webster and Bill Morrill were both inducted into the national lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1978. On Nov. 2 they will once again be together, this time as the newest members of the Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame, which was established three years ago on the main floor of the Newton H. White Athletic Center on the university's Homewood campus. Now honoring 37 inductees spanning the breadth of Hopkins sports history, the Hall of Fame will henceforth induct no more than six new members each year.
"Bill played for Friends and I played for Boy's Latin, so we used to compete," Webster said. "After the disappointing seasons in the early '50s Hopkins alumni led by Bennie Boynton heavily recruited those of us who were seniors in high school, so we ended up together."
There was great anticipation with the arrival of Webster, Morrill and other members of the class of '59. At that time athletic rules prohibited freshmen from participating in varsity sports, so there was considerable interest in the freshman team, culminating in the day the newcomers were sent out to scrimmage against varsity.
"We came out and there were one or two thousand people gathered around the field," Webster said. "We scored within the first six seconds and the crowd went nuts. I can still remember looking over and seeing two deans hugging each other." The freshmen went on to win the scrimmage and begin a winning streak that would run almost unbroken through senior year. At almost every game, Bill's father Kelso would nervously pace the sidelines, watching his former team and, in particular, his son.
"Dad had stopped coaching in 1950, but he was still very active," recalled son Bill. "He was a professor of mathematics and dean of students so he was very involved in campus life. His greatest gift was as a teacher, and not just on the playing field. I couldn't tell you how many people have said to me they would never have passed math without my father's help."
"He was a real gentleman," recalled John Tolson ('41) of the undefeated team of 1941. "He handled himself well during games, but beforehand you've never seen anyone get so high strung and nervous. Yet he never swore. His expression was 'Judas Priest!' and he'd say that if he was really agitated. If he got really, really excited he'd say 'Judas Priest on a raft!' But that was the worst you'd ever hear."
Kelso Morrill was inducted into the national lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1962. A stickler for the fundamentals of the sport, he wrote what many consider the first authoritative book on how to play the game. One of his early innovations was to encourage both-handedness in his players for greater flexibility on the field.
"I remember he had me playing both right- and left- handed in the old days when the wooden sticks made it very difficult to do so," said son Bill. "He'd keep after me and after me and I'd get discouraged, but he wouldn't quit. When I got to college I was one of the few players able to play both right- and left-handed, and it gave me a tremendous advantage. It's now much more common with the modern sticks, but in those days it was something unique. I always thought my father was a very innovative coach."
"The supreme moment for me came toward the end of the 1941 season," Tolson said. "We had been building and building in the '39 and '40 seasons when we only lost three games by a total of three points." In 1941 the team went undefeated in 12 games. "We just swept through all the colleges, but we didn't get a chance to play the Mt. Washington club team."
Considered the best of the best, the Mt. Washington club consisted of former college players from different schools. "They'd been undefeated in something like 25 or 30 games, so even though we weren't on the schedule to play each other someone made a suggestion we play a special benefit game for British war relief," Tolson said. Mt. Washington was formidable; the '41 Hopkins team was already renowned. On the day of the game a huge crowd came to see Hopkins decisively prevail.
"I'll never forget when we won, looking over and seeing Dr. [Wilson] Shaffer and Kelso Morrill jumping up and down like little kids," said Tolson. "It's a memory I'll always keep of the two of them."
"Kelso Merrill was Hopkins," said Scott, who counted on his former coaches' advice when he became the Hopkins head coach at the age of 25. "He gave so much of his life and time to the sport and to the school. This recognition in the Hall of Fame is only a token of the respect and admiration he commanded. Kelso taught and coached with emotion, and he was wonderful at both."
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