My Dad’s football days at Loyola College in the 1920s
My father, Joseph Vincent Abromaitis, began classes on the Evergreen campus in 1924. A rising junior, he had completed four years at Loyola High School and two at Loyola College at the combined schools’ previous campus on Calvert Street.
An athlete, he already had some experience with Evergreen, since the field opened two years before the official move. This athletic field, which featured both a baseball diamond and football gridiron, is the same one I played lacrosse on in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Eventually covered with artificial turf, it became Curley Field and was later renamed through the kindness of the John M. Curley, Jr., family for the late, great women’s lacrosse coach Diane Geppi-Aikens.
A three-season athlete who played football and baseball and ran track, Dad would have loved Loyola’s new stadium, the Ridley Athletic Complex. An otherwise hand- some man, Dad sported a nose broken several times while wearing the “tools of ignorance” as a catcher, and through-out his life his memories of Loyola College were shaped largely by his time on the football field.
The football team started in his freshman year before the College moved to Evergreen. The beginning squad numbered only 19 players: one quarterback; five halfbacks, including Dad; and a fellow Lithuanian named Zemaitis at guard. The freshman team played four games against Mount St. Mary’s Prep (a 6-0 loss); Georgetown Prep (14-3 win); Navy Plebes (36-0 loss); and Johns Hopkins Freshman. As the Loyola year-book described this last game: “Loyola out-plunged, out-tackled, and out-gen- eraled the Hopkins squad and won, 20-0.”
The 1923 and 1924 seasons brought no better results for the fledgling squad. Highlighting the poor showing in these years was an 89-0 shellacking by perennial Charles Street rival Johns Hopkins. By Dad’s senior year, the College had hired Stan Coffall, an All-American from the University of Notre Dame and a protégé of Knute Rockne. The savior of Loyola football, Coffall had earlier coached St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia to a city championship and was enticed to Baltimore along with a number of his championship players. Under Coffall, the team grew in the number, size, and talent of its players. Positive results were immediate as Loyola scored easy victories against the Army Tank School at Fort Meade and Juniata.