1963 Tennis Team: The Undefeated Season

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos courtesy of Loyola University Maryland Archives

It could have been Coach Vincent Colimore’s style and approach to the sport.

It might have been the team’s mix of class years and the fact that they had diverse tennis training, coming from both public and Catholic high schools in Baltimore.

Maybe it was just the perfect blend of talent and luck.

Regardless of the reasons why the 1963 tennis team pulled off a rare undefeated season, the players look back on those days when they competed and supported one another with pleasure and pride.

“There was that blend of tennis talent as well as intellectual talent,” said Robert Malko, Ph.D., ’66. “And the intellectual talent helped win some tennis matches. It wasn’t just the sports skill. It was the mind ability, the intellectual ability to work your way through different matches.”

The team’s undefeated season culminated in being named the Mason-Dixon Conference Champion team. Malko played alongside teammates Louis Albert, Ph.D., ’64, Alex Cummings, ’64, Denny Keating, ’65, Gary Klein, ’66, Dan Michaelis, ’63, Jim Mohler, ’63, Barry Tillman, ’63, and Russell Tontz, ’65. Colimore, the coach, also taught foreign languages and educational psychology at Loyola.

Together Again

Fifty years after that series of victories, five of the eight teammates returned to the Evergreen campus with their wives for a reunion on April 20.

“They had five matches that they won 5-4,” said current Head Tennis Coach Rick McClure. “When you win that many 5-4 matches, a lot of things have to be in your favor.”

Using wooden rackets as they played on courts that were alongside Cold Spring Lane, the players recall competing before a sparse audience.

“The players really respected each other, and in the close matches, different people on the team stepped up to win. It wasn’t just relying on three or four people to win all the time. The 15-and-0 was a team thing,” said Malko, now a professor of finance in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Tontz, a dentist, father of 10, and grandfather of five who lives in San Diego, Calif., recalls that at one point then-president of Loyola, Rev. Joseph Sellinger, S.J., asked him for tennis lessons.

“We used to play indoors. We got to be pretty good friends,” Tontz said. “He was a wonderful man. He’s a saint.”

Working for Wins

Even though it was an undefeated season, the wins didn’t always come easily, said Albert, now president of Pima Community College’s West Campus in Tucson, Ariz.

“I remember that the championship match toward the end of the season we played Hampden-Sydney. As I recall, it was a team we lost to most of the years,” he said. “We won 5-4. We just squeaked by.”

As a Jewish member of a mainly Catholic team, Albert recalled watching his teammates make the sign of the cross and pray before matches. And he remembered one team trip to play Fordham. They traveled to New York City on a Friday to be there for a Saturday match, and they started talking about dinner.

“It was during Lent, and we wanted to go to Mama Leone’s,” Albert said. “We fanned out across the campus to find a priest to give us the dispensation. You’re talking to the guy that found the priest. I said, ‘It’s not for me, Father. It’s for the other guys.’ And I brought it back to them.”

Mohler, who was team captain, described Coach Colimore as low-key. “He didn’t do many changes, just put you out there,” said Mohler, who lives in Catonsville, Md.

After matches Mohler and Michaelis carpooled back to Catonsville. On the way home they would celebrate a win by stopping for fried hard crabs at the Franklintown Inn off of Cooks Lane near Security Boulevard. During 1963 they ate quite a few crabs.

Teammate Bonding

In his role as a college president, Albert appreciates the value of athletic programs.

“There’s something wonderful about intercollegiate sports, and the bonding that takes place,” said Albert, who cheers on the tennis players at Pima Community College. “I’m one of the people behind the fence here.”

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