Lacrosse players on the field at Cornell in front of a packed crowed in the mid-1970s

Men’s lacrosse plays before a packed Schoellkopf crowd in the mid-1970s. (Photo by Cornell Athletics)

Book Looks Back at Heady Days of 1970s Big Red Men’s Lacrosse

In an excerpt, a star player revs up his teammates during halftime of a big game against a key rival

Editor’s note: On April 24, just weeks after the book was published, coach Richie Moran passed away at age 85. A tribute to him in the Cornell Chronicle can be found here.

By Beth Saulnier

The cover of the book "We Showed Baltimore"

The new book We Showed Baltimore chronicles the legendary Big Red men’s lacrosse squad of 1976­–78—when, under the leadership of coach Richie Moran, the team won 42 games (while losing just one) and notched two national championships.

Written by veteran lacrosse reporter Christian Swezey and set to be released by Cornell University Press’s Three Hills imprint on April 15, the book is drawn from more than 90 interviews with players and coaches, from both the Big Red and its rivals.

Among its main characters is a star player who, decades later, would become a hero and victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: Eamon McEneaney ’77.

An All-American inducted into both the Cornell Sports Hall of Fame and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, McEneaney perished in the World Trade Center after helping dozens of his colleagues escape. (Cornell honored him by retiring his jersey number, 10, in 2002.)

In an excerpt from the book, Swezey describes how McEneaney urged his teammates to victory during a key game against the University of Maryland:

‘We Were Ready to Tear the Locker Room Door Down’

At halftime Vincent Paterno, covering the game for the Diamondback, the Maryland student newspaper, sat in the narrow press box and listened to the conversations of the writers around him. All seemed confident that Maryland would win.

“The numero uno T-shirts Cornell fans wore,” he would write in the June 3 editions, “looked as apropos as a McGovern-Eagleton button.”

Underneath the main set of stands, Moran went to work. He had been offered the large locker room in the basement of Marvel Gym across the street—the one used by visiting football teams.

In a nod to the Big Red’s underdog status, Moran opted instead for the tiny visitors’ locker room underneath the main set of stands at Brown Stadium. (Maryland, as the higher seed, was given the Brown football team’s home locker room.)

Cornell coach Richie Moran with players in the mid-1970s
Moran served as head coach from 1969–97. (Photo courtesy of Larry Baum)

With little ventilation, the air inside was heavy and still; Dave Bray ’77 recalled thinking back to his childhood and being inside a silo.

While players sipped Coca Cola, the preferred halftime energy drink, from wax cups, Moran went to the lime-green chalkboard and described two plays he wanted to run in the second half, the white Xs and Os and arrows chalked alongside the usual litany of phrases the coach had calmly written ninety minutes before the game.

Moran also reminded the team of all the work it had done, all the mile, two-mile, and three-mile runs up and down the hilly campus in Ithaca even amid snow and ice (called “sweat hog runs”) and all the practices in frigid Ithaca’s early spring weather; the late nights in the polo barns playing box lacrosse games while much of the rest of the campus was sleeping or studying.

“I think that’s why he gave every [workout] a name,” Frank Muehleman ’78 says now. “So he could refer to it when he needed to use it as motivation, reminding us of the sweat hog runs. ‘You guys have worked your ass off, nobody has worked harder than you, now go out and take this game.’”

Moran also took a shot at Maryland coach Buddy Beardmore, his close friend, saying Beardmore used to carry Moran’s sticks to and from practice when the two were teammates at Maryland. It wasn’t true but it was meant to give the Cornell players a boost, a little levity.

Moran’s audience, in the stifling heat, shifted nervously. Despite Moran’s effusiveness, they were unsure. Jon Levine ’76, scoreless in the first half, slipped on a different pair of cleats.

Cornell lacrosse player Eamon McEneaney ’77, on the field
McEneaney on the field. (Photo courtesy of Larry Baum)

“I was just trying anything to bring a little luck,” he says now. Muehleman recalled his days at Sewanhaka High with McEneaney, on teams that cruised through the regular season only to fall in the playoffs. “This is just like high school,” Muehleman thought at halftime. “We’re going to get all the way and then lose again.”

McEneaney, the ultracompetitive athlete, carried with him a burden: On the morning of May 29, 1976, he had yet to win a championship at any level, in any sport. Whenever his lacrosse teammates wanted to tease the ultracompetitive attackman, the cudgel they most often used was to remind him of that fact.

That Cornell was losing to Maryland would have been particularly galling to McEneaney.

Three years earlier he had told Beardmore that rather than accepting a full scholarship to Maryland, he would attend Cornell, working several summer jobs to do so, and would win a national title. What McEneaney remembered most about the moment was Beardmore’s laughter.

Moran remained at the chalkboard, collecting his thoughts. The tiny room was steamy and silent. Then a voice broke through, high-pitched, with a Long Island accent. It was McEneaney.

“It was unusual,” Dan Mackesey ’77 said later, “because Eamon didn’t normally talk much at halftime. But he became pretty animated in that locker room.”

McEneaney began calmly, almost like a professor conducting a class. “What are we going to do about this, guys?”

Without waiting for an answer he continued, words flying at a rapid pace.

Lacrosse players running out onto the field in the mid-1970s
Moran later compared watching the Big Red players take the field for the 1977 NCAA title game in Charlottesville, Virginia, to seeing wild horses run free—recalling, “It gave me chills.” (Photo by Cornell Athletics)

If the players had stared at the ground for Moran’s words, they looked up to hear their teammate, the Ivy League Player of the Year, the All-American attackman and starting wide receiver who worked three summer jobs to afford Cornell when he could have been in the more spacious home team locker room, playing for Maryland and receiving free tuition, with at least one NCAA championship wristwatch already in his possession.

McEneaney continued speaking, his teammates slowly nodding their heads, when he reached his crescendo: “The team that wins this game,” he roared, “is the team that loves each other more. And we love each other more than Maryland.”

The team that wins this game is the team that loves each other more.

Eamon McEneaney ’77

“After hearing him,” Gary Malm ’77, BS ’78, says, “we were ready to tear the locker room door down to take the field.”

Moran, with his own motivational speech at the ready, quickly decided to say nothing. He simply waved the team onto the field.

Moran later said that the people in the stands seeing Cornell emerge so early might have thought the coach had dismissed the players because he was angry.

“That wasn’t the case,” he says now. “I just didn’t need to say anything more after what Eamon said.”

Excerpted from We Showed Baltimore: The Lacrosse Revolution of the 1970s and Richie Moran’s Big Red, by Christian Swezey, a Three Hills book published by Cornell University Press. Copyright © 2022 by Cornell University. Included by permission of the publisher.

Top image: Men’s lacrosse plays before a packed Schoellkopf crowd in the mid-1970s. (Photo by Cornell Athletics)

Published April 8, 2022; updated April 25


Comments

  1. Stuart E Weiner, Class of 1977

    I’m looking forward to reading the book. I was there during that time—an incredible team. Cornell was, and remains, special. CAS ‘77

  2. Cindy Fuller, Class of 1978

    My roommate and I were moving into a summer sublet apartment on East State Street while the ’76 Cornell/Maryland game was going on. I refused to get out of my mother’s car until Cornell had won.

  3. Peter Chametzky, Class of 1980

    Great teams, great coach and players. Eamon was amazing. I entered in fall of 1976. I remember him coming to U-Hall 4 to hang with a freshman lacrosse player, Tim Guba, who lived on our hall. Great guy, class act.

    • Richard Stein

      RIP Steve Sanford. #33 co-captain mid early 1970s leader, cow doctor that always followed his own path

  4. Rick Box

    Those guys were and still are a tight group. Had a lot of fun with them

  5. Billy Allen, Class of 1975

    Proud to call Chris Kane and Richie Moran my friends. always admired Eamon as a player and competitor

  6. Dave Wohlhueter

    I knew many of these terrific players and they were warriors! Richie was my best friend on the Big Red coaching staff, and we are still very close! Hail to the leader who always told me , “Cornell With Love!”

  7. Brendan Ryan

    I’m glad Eamon McEneaney is getting some attention again. It’s a blessing.

  8. Phil Sheldon, Class of 1977

    My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were working a gig for Cornell Catering when the ‘77 championship game was played. The guests didn’t get the best service from us, as we spent a lot of time huddled in the back room listening to the game on the radio. Will never forget it!

  9. geoffrey+hewitt, Class of 1979

    so I showed up in 1978 for graduate school at the Hotel School not even knowing the powerhouse Cornell Lacrosse had become ; it turns out both of the best players were Hotelies Mike French and Eamon ; I met Mike at intramural BB in the graduate league ; I was the tallest one on the team ; he turned to me and said give me the ball and we will win ; He ran like the WIND and for sure we won almost every game ; still love BIG RED lacrosse today and now watch Duke and UNC because I am retired and now live in NC

  10. Julie Bentz, Class of 1976

    I covered varsity lacrosse for the Sun from 1974-1976. Coach Moran was at first [justifiably!] dubious about a girl from Chicago covering his team. I was delighted when he acknowledged that I’d done a good job previewing the playoffs.

  11. Nora Burke Klippstein, Class of 1977

    U Go Girl!!!

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