All things for a reason.
That was the prevailing sentiment among several hundred at Loyola Blakefield April 16, when the school held a fundraiser for a merit scholarship fund that honors Jerry Savage, its former basketball coach and athletic director. Marquette University coach Steve Wojciechowski, a Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Famer who led Cardinal Gibbons to the 1994 title and is one of the fellow Jesuit institution’s most prominent faces, was initially advertised as the headliner for the benefit, but then the NCAA objected and the Dons went to their bench. “Wojo” is a great success story, but because he was not allowed to make it, Loyola Blakefield alums, as well as the friends and family of Savage, had the chance to hear some poignant and powerful stories from three of their own.
It was my pleasure and honor to moderate a panel that included Snuffy Smith ’60, Pete Budko ’77 and Tony Guy ’78. Retired from coaching, Snuffy became the first commissioner of the BCL, and indirectly explained the appropriateness of the league’s Player of the Year award carrying the Savage name. Smith was a University of Baltimore freshman in the 1960-61 season, when Savage was a senior at Mount St. Mary’s and concluding a record-setting career. Savage still had game in the early 1970s, when Budko and Guy entered Loyola Blakefield and made a good high school program great. The Dons won four straight BCL tournaments from 1975-78, still the only program in the league’s 45-year history to achieve that feat.
Budko and Guy traded one tradition for another, as they chose two of the nation’s five most storied college programs, North Carolina and Kansas, respectively. Budko related his injury-wracked senior season with the Tar Heels, which ended with Dean Smith putting him on the floor for the first time in months in the NCAA final, against Indiana. Who had replaced Budko in the North Carolina starting five? “Sam Perkins,” he answered. Guy’s name association was even more impressive. Asked to describe a time when he leaned on what he had learned from Savage, Guy told a story from his freshman year at Kansas, when a Michigan State star lit up Tony and the Jayhawks. “I guarded Magic Johnson as a freshman, Michael Jordan as a senior, and everyone in between,” Guy said. “There wasn’t anything I heard at Kansas that Jerry hadn’t already said. We came to Loyola as basketball players and left as much more than that. The expectation was excellence.”
Guy found a home in Kansas, where he has worked for State Farm for 30 years. Budko runs his own business development corporation in New York.
The evening’s rewards included visiting with Savage’s peers, like Nappy Doherty and Bucky Kimmett, and some Loyola Blakefield alums I hadn’t seen in decades. The latter included the Welsh brothers, Marty and Pat. A football and lacrosse star, Pat was one of the Baltimore metropolitan area Athletes of the Year I selected for The Evening Sun in 1984.
Those guys are part of a substantial legacy, one that I hope Loyola Blakefield alums never take for granted. I related a story about Jim McKay ’39 leaving me spellbound with his ABC reporting on the terrorist attack on the Israeli quarters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. What I didn’t share was how Tim Pierce ’60 and Murray Stephens ’63 brought Jesuit standards to the swim club they founded, one that produced the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps.
“Men for Others” was not a slogan for Savage, but an ethos. In retirement, he gave countless hours to the Baltimore Catholic League he helped found in 1971. He took ill at the 2015 BCL tournament and died a few months later. I last saw him in February 2015, at Mount St. Joseph, where the Gaels were hosting No. 1 Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I wasn’t seated five minutes when Jerry entered the gym and supplied copies of the BCL standings. It wasn’t the first time he helped me out on a story. His wife, Pat, was one of my voices in a 2009 article about Notre Dame of Maryland’s Renaissance Institute.
Pat Savage, center, with, from left, Tony Guy, Snuffy Smith, Paul McMullen and Pete Budko. (Photo Courtesy Loyola Blakefield)