Former baseball player honors his 1952 championship team
By Rebecca Smith ‘99
Few teams have set as many records as the 1952 Holy Cross national championship baseball squad. Not only are they the only team from the Northeast to capture the crown, they are the only club to use the same position players—with no substitutes—in every game. What’s more, the team’s starting pitchers went the full nine innings in each series game; and MVP James “Jim” O’Neill ’52 became the only pitcher to win three tournament games.
Compared to today’s game of designated hitters, pinch runners and relievers, these players kept it simple—and it paid off. After finishing the regular season 15-2, the Crusaders were invited to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., where they defeated Missouri to win the national title.
Holy Cross Hall of Famer and former second baseman Paul Brissette ’54 is so proud to have been a part of this illustrious team that he gave the College $100,000 in its name.
According to Brissette, one of the major goals of The Ron Perry/1952 NCAA Champions Baseball Fund is to establish continuity in the program, specifically in the coaching position.
“This fund allows us to increase our expenditures in two areas that are most critical to competitiveness: coaching salaries and recruiting,” explains Athletic Director Richard Regan ’76. “We’re fortunate to have a member of our national championship team provide us with this legacy.”
Brissette named the fund in honor of his team’s achievements as well as those of teammate and friend Ronald Perry ’54. Perry is believed to be the only athlete to play on a national championship teams in two major sports—baseball and basketball. Perry later served 26 years as the College’s athletic director.
Himself a three-sport athlete at Holy Cross, Brissette believes firmly in the importance of athletics.
“By playing on a team, you learn to work together,” he says. “Teamwork, fair play and sportsmanship are valuable lessons that enable you to succeed in all aspects of life.”
Brissette is a testament to his belief. After graduating, he played baseball professionally in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. He went on to a distinguished career in broadcasting, during which time he owned or operated more than 30 TV stations. Brissette currently serves as chairman of the board at Piedmont Television.
Last April, a 55th reunion of the championship squad took place on Fitton Field between games of a doubleheader. The crowd saluted the eight surviving teammates—and a banner was raised to memorialize the team’s accomplishments.
Brissette has fond memories of the ceremony—but even stronger feelings for his fellow players.
“The fellowship formed by our team has lasted more than 50 years,” he says. “When we get together, we don’t talk about our success in life, we talk about what we did back in ’52!”
Thanks to Brissette’s meaningful contribution, a new generation of Crusaders is poised to set records of its own.
“It would be outstanding if other alumni followed Mr. Brissette’s generous lead,” says Greg DiCenzo, the College’s head baseball coach. “By funding this endowment, donors can help bring the program back to the championship level.”