File Photo: The Hoya Georgetown baseball surrendered its on-campus home in 2001, moving to Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, Md. A March 2001 contest is shown above, with the ICC in the background.

Not a lot of people on campus know it, but baseball is Georgetown’s oldest intercollegiate sport and was for decades one of its most successful. Today, there is little physical evidence of Georgetown’s storied baseball tradition. After 130 years on the Hilltop, baseball moved off campus in 2000 after Georgetown’s field was paved over to make room for Lot T.

What many students do not realize is that Georgetown has a long list of baseball accomplishments, including intercollegiate championships, an undefeated season, victories over major league teams and, as recently as the 1980s, appearances in the collegiate playoffs.

Georgetown has also produced several great baseball players, including a World Series-winning pitcher, an NCAA batting champion, and a total of 43 major leaguers. Georgetown’s baseball program also boasts a member in the football Hall of Fame. Former Steelers owner Arthur Rooney Sr. was a pitcher for the Hoyas in the team’s glory years.

Baseball was the first organized team sport at Georgetown, beginning in the 1860s when a number of intramural “nine” teams played on what is now Copley Lawn. The two most successful squads, the Quicksteps and the Stonewalls, built a fierce rivalry that lasted through the end of the century. The game bore little resemblance to modern baseball. Players had no need for gloves as they used a large, soft ball that was thrown underhanded to batters.

Georgetown played its first intercollegiate game in 1866 against Columbian College, now known as George Washington. Georgetown was playing an official varsity schedule against regional college teams by 1870 and has fielded a varsity team for all but three years since 1874.

Georgetown made its first significant impression on the collegiate baseball scene in 1895, when the team went 12-2 and outscored its opponents by an average of 16-4. By the turn of the century, Georgetown had one of the most elite baseball teams in the country. The program earned its first intercollegiate championship in 1899 and finished second to Princeton for the title the following year.

In its early years of prominence Georgetown routinely defeated baseball powerhouses such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Penn. Virginia was perhaps Georgetown’s biggest rival in the early 20th century as the two schools competed annually for dominance in the southern region.

The Hoyas also played several exhibition games against the Washington Senators of the American League, including a dramatic 13-7 victory in 1902. Georgetown’s other major league opponents included the Philadelphia Athletics and the Brooklyn Superbas.

In return, Georgetown provided the majors with dozens of players. The most successful alumnus in terms of professional accomplishments was Guy “Doc” White. At Georgetown, White’s highlights included an 11-strikeout performance in the 1899 championship-clinching victory over Virginia, and setting a long-standing collegiate record in 1900 by striking out the first nine batters in a game against Holy Cross.

White went on to play 13 seasons in the majors, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, and won the deciding Game 6 of the 1906 World Series. White retired in 1913 with 189 wins and a career earned run average of 2.68.

Baseball went on hiatus during World War I, but Georgetown recovered shortly thereafter for some of its best seasons. From 1921 to 1923, Georgetown put together a 38-game winning streak that included an undefeated season in 1922. Coach John D. O’Reilly led the team to its second intercollegiate championship that season, as their only setback came in a loss to the Senators in an exhibition game.

The 1930s saw Georgetown continue its success, but the Hoyas struggled through much of the next four decades. Notwithstanding a modest streak of winning seasons from 1947 to 1951, the Hoyas had trouble fielding teams that could compete on an annual basis. The team went 20 years without a 10-win season until they reached that plateau again in 1971.

The program’s dry spell was in no part due to coaching. Tommy Nolan, who spent 40 years on the Hilltop as a student, coach and professor, became the head baseball coach in 1959. By the time he retired in 1978, Nolan was recognized as one of Georgetown’s great figures, respected as much for his achievements off the field as those on it.

Nolan, who also coached basketball for three years, compiled a career record of just 141-265-1 but made the best of a difficult situation. Throughout his tenure Nolan fielded teams with hardly any scholarship players. Georgetown had difficulty fielding a full roster throughout the 1970s, and on occasion would have to delay games to wait for the pitcher to get out of class. Nolan equated much of baseball’s struggles with the demise of Georgetown’s football program after 1950, as by his estimate 60 percent of the football team also played baseball.

Ken Kelly replaced Nolan as head coach in 1979 and oversaw Georgetown’s baseball resurgence. Kelly’s team struggled in his first two seasons at the helm but put together the program’s first 20-win season and first winning record in years with a 20-18 campaign in 1981.

Georgetown emerged as an ECAC South contender in the first half of the 1980s, compiling a 100-75-2 record from 1981 to 1984. The Hoyas qualified for their first-ever postseason appearance in 1983 and reached the finals of the ECAC South playoffs. Georgetown built on its success the following year, setting a school record for wins with a 31-17 season. The Hoyas again played in the ECAC Tournament, and came within one win of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

A major contributor to the Hoyas’ success during the early 1980s was Steve Iannini. Regarded by many as the best player in Georgetown history, Iannini was a second-team All American as a centerfielder and hit over .400 in his four seasons. In his junior year, Iannini won the 1984 NCAA batting title with a .470 average. He graduated as Georgetown’s all-time hits leader with 311 and went on to play several seasons with the Oakland Athletics. After an arm injury prematurely ended his professional career, Iannini returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach.

After a string of successful seasons, Georgetown’s baseball program took what appeared to be a major step forward when it joined the Big East in 1985. The Hoyas had winning records overall in their first two seasons in the Big East, but the success was short-lived. Georgetown had a difficult time competing against its conference opponents, due in part to baseball’s non-scholarship status. In 19 years of Big East play, the Hoyas’ record is just 99-312-1, for just a .240 winning percentage.

With the team playing its home games in Bethesda at Shirley Povich Field, baseball lacks the exposure of many other varsity sports at Georgetown. Yet the program is steeped in tradition and has been one of Georgetown’s most successful sports. While the chances of the Hoyas competing for a national title in near future seem slim, Georgetown hopes to continue improving its play in the Big East and to continue adding to baseball’s storied history, even if it takes place in Maryland instead of on the Hilltop.

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