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1921-22 Baseball Team (2003)

To the high school baseball coach, athlete, or fan living in the Chicago-area, the story is a familiar one. Cold rain, cold sleet, cold snow, or just plain cold. Spring in the Windy City. It is somehow comforting to know that the spring of 1921 was no different. With the inclement weather hampering its preparation, the Rambler nine, fielding one of its most skilled, most athletic teams ever, was slow to round into shape. However, with warmer weather came warmer bats and arms, and Loyola, after a desultory 4-3-1 start, rallied to an 8-1 finish, and overall 12-4-1 record, and a final game victory over vaunted Lane Tech. Thus began a two-year run of some of the finest diamond play in Loyola history, culminating in a 1922 City of Chicago championship. Led by Coach Grover Malone, the Maroon and Gold stormed through two glorious seasons in the springs of 1921 and 1922. The junior-dominated team of '21 perhaps had a glimpse of the greatness to follow when it barely lost an early-season, eleventh-inning 6-4 tilt to the powerful Lane Tech team, defending city champs, before a crowd of two-thousand. It was a loss, to be sure, but a sign to a young team that it could play with anybody. A few weeks later, the Ramblers battled a powerful Northwestern University squad to an all-even game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Only a solo home run downed the Ramblers, but the loss smelled more of victory than defeat. Two games later, a 5-1 pasting of heralded Culver Military Academy established beyond dispute that something big was brewing on the playing fields bordering Dumbach Hall. An interested spectator at that game, a local college football coach by the name of Knute Rockne, personally complimented Coach Malone on the superb play of his Loyola Ramblers. Clearly, they had arrived, and another year of maturation was more than enough for promise to be confirmed by accomplishment. The 1922 Ramblers not only met but exceeded the big expectations heralded by its previous spring campaign. They blazed through the season in spectacular fashion, racing to an undefeated season, a victorious showdown with Lake View in the title game, and the designation Champions of the City of Chicago. Along the way, the Rambler nine established their place in Academy athletic lore as one of Loyola's legendary teams. The collection of talent rivaled that of any Loyola team before or since. Lennie "Muggsy" McGraw dominated on the mound, a magnificent hurler who displayed consummate control with both the fastball and the breaking ball. His battery mates were the formidable Larry O'Connell and dependable Marty Clark. No weaknesses were apparent in either the infield or the outfield, with both groups exhibiting the characteristic speed, precise fielding, and consistent hitting that defined the Loyola diamond men. Defending the interior were quiet but dependable Louie Metzger at first; sure-handed, hard-hitting Howie Schlacks at second; the complete player, future Baseball Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom at shortstop; and steady, cool Will Coyne at third. Roaming the outfield were speedy, long-legged Lefty Beggs in center; splendid co-captain John Kluetsch in left; and clean-up slugger Gene Hartke in right. Pitchers Bart Winn, Bill Crowe, and Russell Dooley shared the mound chores with Metzger. Utility men Bill Snowhook and Art McDonough added indispensable depth. Reigning supreme over all was Coach Malone, who brought a professionalism and expertise in the dugout both at practice and in games. Three members of the team later gained induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame — Metzger and Lindstrom in 1985, and O'Connell just last year. Lindstrom would go on to a phenomenal career in the major leagues and ultimately a spot in Cooperstown in 1976. Individual heroics aside, however, the 1921 and 1922 Baseball Ramblers should be remembered and celebrated as a team for the ages not because of the exploits of a single individual, but rather, because of the commitment to a common purpose that united them in the early years of the Roaring 20's.

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