GETTYSBURG, Pa. – In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Middle Atlantic Conference, former Sports Information Director Bob Kenworthy ’59 took a look back at some of his favorite moments in athletics during that time period at Gettysburg College.
Few individuals can claim a longer relationship with Gettysburg College and the MAC than Kenworthy. He has been following the Bullets for nearly seven decades, including 40 years as Gettysburg’s Sports Information Director. The majority of that time saw the Bullets competing as a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference.
Taking the mantle of Sports Information Director in 1959, Kenworthy was an eyewitness to some of the greatest athletic accomplishments in school history. He saw teams claw their way to conference titles despite competing against larger institutions; he watched individuals student-athletes overcome adversity to claim national titles; and he worked alongside coaches who were about more than just “X’s” and “O’s.”
Prior to the start of the 2012 fall season, Kenworthy, who was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the MAC Hall of Fame, revealed some of his favorite personal moments and recollections from Gettysburg’s long and storied history in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
Most Memorable Male Student-Athlete: Joe Bavaro ’66 - Wrestling
When you’ve seen as many games as Kenworthy has over the years, trying to pick out a favorite moment or athlete can be a daunting task indeed. When it came to the most memorable male student-athlete, his initial list contained more than a dozen names, including Gettysburg Hall of Athletic Honor members Russ Riegel ’50, Ron Warner ’62, Jim Ward ’66, and Arif Husan ’93.
But one name rose above the crowd for the former Gettysburg SID in wrestling great Joe Bavaro ’66. Bavaro was a two-time MAC champion and two-time national champion at the College Division level. Amazingly, he was also a two-time runner-up at the University Division as well, competing against wrestling powers like Oklahoma University and Iowa State University. Over his last two varsity campaigns, he posted a remarkable 50-2 record, with both of those setbacks coming in the University Division finals.
“He was like Tiger Woods when he was coming up,” recalled Kenworthy. “You always knew he was going to win or he was going to be in the thick of things every single time. He had such a great move. As soon as he rolled he was into it and the guy was on his back and he was finished. It was so beautiful to watch.”
Most Memorable Female Student-Athlete: Sue Marshall ’85 – Basketball, Softball
Like the list of male athletes, Kenworthy’s list of female athletes was no less impressive with the likes of Lynne Cassidy ’92, Denise Babinchak ’84, Marianne Paparone ’81, Barb Taylor ’86, Jaquie Gatti ’92, and Martha Orem ’84. The one name that filtered to the top, however, was basketball and softball star Sue Marshall ’85.
“That’s a tough question,” stated Kenworthy. “There are three or four that really stood out to me, but I’d have to say Sue Marshall was my favorite. What an athlete! She had great overall athletic ability and she could do just about anything.”
Whether it was on the basketball court or the softball diamond, Marshall was one of the most dominant figures in school history. On the hardwood, she was lauded as MAC Player of the Year and earned All-America Second Team while becoming the first and only women’s basketball player to average 20 points per game in a single season. In the spring, Marshall posted a .343 career batting average to go with a 26-6 record and minuscule 0.89 ERA for the Bullets softball team.
Most Memorable Men’s Coach: Hen Bream ’24 – Baseball, Basketball, Football
Perhaps no individual served as more of a mentor to Kenworthy than former coach and athletics director Hen Bream ’24. Kenworthy spent his youth attending many Gettysburg athletics events before becoming a Bullet himself. In 1959, he joined the staff as the first-ever Sports Information Director, serving directly under Bream, who was Director of Athletics at the time. Kenworthy and Bream would work side-by-side until the latter’s retirement in 1969.
From 1927 to 1956, Bream spent time coaching football, basketball, and baseball. He led the Bullets to multiple conference championships and his combined career coaching record was an impressive 448 wins against 280 losses and 14 ties.
“It’s what he brought to the table,” said Kenworthy. “It was his leadership, his judgment of character, his ability to adjust in all three situations. His teams were always fully prepared for every contest they entered. There were just so many different things about him and his rapport with his kids and his staff.”
Most Memorable Women’s Coach: Kay Higgins – Women’s Basketball, Softball
Kenworthy saw the rise of women’s athletics and worked alongside the two most influential coaches in school history in Grace Kenney and Lois Bowers. But his choice for his favorite women’s coach went to the short-tenured Kay Higgins.
“I respected Kenney more than any other coach for what she had to go through. She developed the women’s programs and had to deal with a great amount of adversity.
“Kay was intelligent and she put everything she had into being the best possible coach she could be. She knew how to treat her players and yet gain tremendous respect. She knew her sports inside and out, especially basketball, and she was a wonderful student of the game.”
Higgins coached the women’s basketball and softball programs from 1981 to 1984. She turned around the women’s basketball program, taking a team that hadn’t posted a winning season in nearly a decade to a school-record 22 wins and an appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament in 1983-84. On the softball field, Higgins led the fledgling program to a 40-11 record during her three-year tenure, including a 16-1 record in 1983.
Most Memorable Team: 1962 Baseball
Led by first-year coach Gene Hummel ’49, the 1962 baseball team enjoyed unprecedented success. The team finished 12-6 overall and claimed the program’s only Middle Atlantic Conference University Division championship. It also qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time, where it knocked off St. John’s University and future New York Mets hurler Larry Bearnarth 7-5 in the opening game.
Posted: Thu, 23 Aug 2012
It was a great season with great players like Frank Martin ’63, King Gore ’62, Rick Taylor ’64, and ace pitcher Ted Koerner ’63. But the things Kenworthy remembers most from that team went beyond victories and runs. The bus trips were always an interesting event, whether it was a shortcut around Baltimore involving a bridge far too small for a loaded bus or an incident with a fire extinguisher. Against St. John’s, Kenworthy was questioned about King Gore’s ability at the plate and the SID wasn’t too high on the outfielder’s chances. On cue, Gore smashed a home run to help the Bullets pull off the upset. Moments like that put the 1962 baseball team at the top of Kenworthy’s list of great squads.
“They were really a great group of guys,” said the former SID. “That was a fun team and Geno was fun to travel with. You just never knew what was going to happen. There were a lot of good, colorful players on that team.”
Most Memorable MAC Title: 1964 Football
From 1942 to 1982, the football program had ranked among the best in the East, but the squad had come up short of a conference title on many occasions, often just one victory shy. That changed in 1964 when Eugene Haas ’43 led the team to its first and only title in the MAC University Division.
“It took so long and was so hard to achieve,” Kenworthy said. “When competing year-in and year-out against Lehigh, Lafayette, Delaware, Bucknell, Hofstra and Temple, it was a most difficult schedule and we were competing against teams which put more money into their programs. These (teams) were the cream of the crop on the lower level of the University Division teams.”
Despite the odds, Gettysburg piled up victories over Hofstra (27-7), Bucknell (12-7), Delaware (22-19), Lehigh (39-7), Muhlenberg (51-20), Lafayette (21-3), and Juniata (41-17). Only close losses at Albright (22-19) and Temple (32-20) marred the Bullets’ schedule.
Gettysburg led the MAC in passing behind the strong arm of Jim Ward ’66, who finished with 17 touchdowns through the air, including 11 to receiver Ken Snyder ’65. The defense played a major role as well, leading the conference in passing defense and posting 17 interceptions, including four by Rod Albright ’67.
Most Memorable Individual Performance: Joe Egresitz ’67 – Track and Field
An All-American and MAC MVP on the gridiron, Joe Egresitz ’67 is more highly regarded more for his exploits on the football field at Gettysburg, but it was a performance on the track field that Kenworthy remembered.
As a sophomore in 1965, Egresitz was Gettysburg’s top javelin thrower, setting a school record with a heave of 208 feet, two inches in a meet against Delaware. His most memorable performance didn’t involve that implement, however. With the outcome of a tri-meet with Bucknell and Delaware Valley hanging in the balance, Egresitz entered the pole vault, an event he had competed in just once since high school, and promptly cleared 10 feet, six inches to claim the runner-up position. Gettysburg ended up winning the meet as well, out-distancing Bucknell by eight points.
“Joe was probably one of the most gifted athletes I ever saw,” noted Kenworthy. “It was a crazy thing like that that sticks out in my mind when I saw him go over and enter and do what he did. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Most Memorable Comeback: Football, Gettysburg 34, Bucknell 33 – Nov. 5, 1949
Twenty-three years before the “Immaculate Reception” helped the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Oakland Raiders in the NFL playoffs, a lucky carom into the arms of a Bullet wide receiver helped seal an improbable and exciting comeback against Bucknell University.
On Nov. 5, 1949, Bucknell had jumped ahead of Gettysburg 33-27 with less than 40 seconds left to play on Memorial Field. It was Homecoming, and the home team wasn’t about to let the Bison walk off the field without a fight. With the Bullets barely across midfield and only nine seconds left, quarterback Ross Sachs ’50 let fly a pass to star wide-out Don Emert ’51, but Emert was double-teamed and the ball bounced off his shoulder, right into the waiting arms of trailing receiver Lee Snook ’51. Snook carried the pigskin the remaining 20 yards for the game-tying score. Ron Fitzkee ’51 (right) put the finishing touches on the win by kicking home the extra point for the 34-33 victory.
“Hen Bream let me sit on the sideline for the game,” recalled Kenworthy, who was 14 at the time. “The ball was in the air when the gun went off. It hit Emert on the shoulder, and the trailer caught it for the touchdown to tie the game.
“And then Ron Fitzkee said, ‘Here Bob, hold my glasses, I’ve got a job to do.’ He runs out and kicks the extra point and we win 34-33. It was one of the greatest sporting events and one of the greatest comebacks I can remember.”
Posted: 22 Aug 2012 05:17 AM PDT