- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Lacrosse rules in Maryland; therefore, it seems fitting that the US Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame should be located there.

What more appropriate spot for lacrosse aficionados is there than Baltimore’s Homewood

Field, the 10,000-seat stadium where traditional lacrosse power Johns Hopkins plays its games?

Overlooking Homewood Field is the national headquarters of US Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body. Tucked into the headquarters is the US Lacrosse Museum and Hall of Fame, worth a visit by anyone who plays the sport, has children who play the sport or just wants a history lesson.

“Our goal is to convey the history of the sport, which very well could have been the first team sport in the world,” says Josh Christian, director of museum services.

Mr. Christian is referring to lacrosse’s roots in American Indian culture. A large part of the museum is devoted to the sport’s origins, which can be traced at least to the 17th century among tribes in the eastern half of the United States and Canada.

The museum exhibit explains that historians call early lacrosse the “Creator’s Game” because it was played, according to American Indian legend, to ask a higher power for things such as a fruitful harvest or victory in war or to perform medicinal rites. It also was used to solve conflict, to develop strong young men to perpetuate the race, or to prepare for war.

A large mural at the museum shows the action from a game featuring Creek and Choctaw Indians, who were settling a dispute over rights to a large beaver pond. The mural shows the intense action and fierce competition of the tribes.

The museum also chronicles oral legends handed down by various tribes. Those stories feature descriptions of teams with 100 to 1,000 participants, goals a half-mile apart and games that went on for days.

The American Indians’ history with lacrosse is brought into the modern era. Highlights include team photos of the Carlisle Indian Lacrosse team, circa 1910, and the Rochester Iroquois team of 1938. There also is a display of various stick types used in the 1800s as well as a modern-day photo essay chronicling the American Indian art of making wooden sticks. Visitors will learn how the hickory was split, dried, steamed, carved, sanded and strung — a nearly yearlong process.

From its tribal roots, lacrosse moved into modern athletics, particularly on the East Coast. The museum has lots of memorabilia, such as a turn-of-the-century Harvard uniform, samples of old canvas helmets and photos of games played at Homewood Field in the 1920s.

There also is information tracing lacrosse’s Olympic history and the development of box lacrosse. Box lacrosse is a form of indoor lacrosse that got its start in the 1930s, when promoters were looking for a way to fill empty hockey rinks in summer.

Moving into more recent times, a portion of the museum is devoted to the impact lacrosse has had on women’s sports. A timeline captures such highlights as the 1928 team from Maryland’s Bryn Mawr School, the first school in the United States to field a women’s team; the 1951 women’s touring team that traveled via the Queen Mary to play in England; and longtime University of Maryland coach Cindy Timchal, who led the Terrapins to an unprecedented seven straight NCAA titles from 1995 to 2001.

Ample space, of course, is devoted to modern men’s lacrosse. A small display shows the evolution of sticks, helmets and jerseys into the state-of-the-art gear used today. Other displays feature highlights of the U.S. Men’s National Team and important coaches in lacrosse history.

Interesting memorabilia includes an autographed team jersey and a 1962 Sports Illustrated cover featuring Johns Hopkins coach Jerry Schmidt. There also is a section devoted to Henry Ciccarone, Hopkins coach from 1975 to 1983 and winner of three straight NCAA Division I titles, from 1978 through 1980.

More individuals are honored in the Hall of Fame section, a small room featuring plaques of US Lacrosse’s 293 honorees. A group of new inductees will be chosen this summer, Mr. Christian says.

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