Selected by: Dave Anderson ’51, Bob
Gamere ’62, Maureen Milliken ’83, and Dan Shaughnessy ’75
to start an argument? Try asking, “Who are the top
10 Holy Cross athletes of all time?” We posed the question
to four of our alumni experts. See how their choices stack
up against those of our readers.
(tie) John S. Provost ’75
This Quincy native enjoyed a host of honors during his
four years as a Crusader free safety. The Walter Camp Football
Foundation chose him First Team All-American and the United
Press voted Provost the New England Major College Player
of the Year. The New England College Coaches picked Provost
as most outstanding football player in the region; he was
also recipient of the Coca-Cola Gold Helmet Award.
Provost led the country in interceptions with 10 in 1974, and finished his college
career as the all-time leader in interception return yardage with 470. He placed
second on the all-time national list of career interceptions with 27. He was
selected to play in the East-West Shrine game and in the All-America Bowl Game
in Tampa, Fla. Provost earned All-East and All-New England titles for three years.
#10/11 (tie) Albert “Hop” Riopel ’24
Known as “Mr. Holy Cross,” Hop Riopel began
his outstanding athletic career in grammar school. He brought
that prowess onto the field and onto the court at Holy
Cross, where he earned 11 varsity letters.
Upon graduation, Riopel was offered a position with the New York Giants, but
turned it down. Instead, he assumed coaching duties at Milford (Mass.) High School,
where he led both the basketball and baseball teams to several state championships.
In 1933, he became the freshman baseball, football and basketball coach at Holy
Cross. Eventually, he filled the role of varsity coach in all three sports. In
addition to his coaching responsibilities, he acted as football scout for the
Crusaders. Riopel served as coordinator of athletics at Holy Cross for 33 years.
#8/9 (tie) Gordie Lockbaum ’88
During his career at Holy Cross, Gordie Lockbaum consistently
broke records at the school, in New England, and across
the nation with his spectacular running game. His expertise
earned him the title “Back of All Trades—tailback,
cornerback and throwback.” He set five NCAA records,
two New England records, seven Holy Cross season records
and six Holy Cross career records.
Lockbaum placed third in Heisman Trophy voting, the highest finisher for a non
1-A player. This National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame scholar-athlete
was also selected to play in the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Classic and
the Blue-Gray game. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as defensive back,
and made the Kodak AFCA First Team All-America as a receiver.
Sports writers bestowed their praise on Lockbaum with several prestigious awards,
including the Associated Press’ First Team All-America specialist and First
Team All-New England running back, the United Press International’s New
England Co-offensive Player of the Year and USA Today’s Massachusetts College
athlete of the year.
#8/9 (tie) Togo Palazzi ’54
Togo Palazzi enjoyed an illustrious career with the Crusader
basketball team, serving as co-captain of the 1954 Crusader
squad that won the National Invitational Tournament Championship.
His outstanding play during the series earned him the
Noted for his rebounding skills, Palazzi ranks second only to Tom Heinsohn in
career rebounds at Holy Cross. He was twice named All-American. Together with
Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, he became part of the Crusader-Boston Celtics connection
in the 1950s. In 1954, the Celtics chose Palazzi in the first round of the draft.
In the 1970s, Palazzi served as assistant men’s basketball coach for eight
years. Subsequently, for five years he was head coach of a very successful Holy
Cross women’s basketball team.
# 7 Jon N. Morris ’64
Jon Morris’s performance on the field earned him
the rating as one of the greatest linemen in the history
of Holy Cross football. He was a three-year starter and
linebacker, with an incredible ability to open up holes
in the offense that amazed spectators.
In 1963, he was team captain and made every All-New England
and All-East team assembled that year. As a senior, he
was also selected Holy Cross’ top lineman in nine
out of 10 games and made the “Who’s Who in
American Colleges’’ list.
After graduation, Morris became a starter and All-Pro center for the New England
Patriots as their offensive captain.
#5/6 (tie) Ronald K. Perry ’80
Ronnie Perry Jr. excelled on the baseball field and basketball
court, as well as in the classroom. He was named Academic
All-American three times, and won an NCAA Post-Graduate
Scholarship. In 1996, he was inducted into the GTE Academic
All-American Hall of Fame.
On the basketball court, Perry had an average 23 points per game his freshman
year, making him the best in the country among first-year players. As a senior,
he was named All-American and became a third-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics.
Perry was the greatest scorer on the court in the history of Holy Cross.
Perry brought his athletic prowess to the baseball diamond, as well. He was named
All-American and drafted by both the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.
Perry has also been inducted into the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame.
#5/6 (tie) Ronald
S. Perry ’54
As an undergraduate at Holy Cross, Ronald S. Perry ’54,
earned the coveted title of All-American 1952 and a spot
in the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame. He is thought
to be the only athlete to be a member of national championship
teams in two major sports— basketball and baseball.
In 1952, he pitched the Crusaders to an NCAA World Series baseball title, and
two years later he captained the basketball team in the National Invitational
Tournament. He is a two-time winner of All-East honors on the court with 992
points, while maintaining a pitching record of 23-2 at the same time.
Perry’s athletic accomplishments continued after graduation, this time
as director of athletics at Holy Cross for more than 30 years. During those three
decades, he guided Crusader athletics toward regional as well as national prominence.
He led the football team to a national ranking in nine of 12 seasons. Under his
direction, the basketball team made 11 post-season appearances and visited the
NCAA and National Invitational Tournaments. He took the hockey team to nine ECAC
playoffs in 15 years. The Crusaders golf team won NCAA championship invitations
three times under his leadership. He also brought the women’s basketball
team to a Division I standing and gained NCAA Tournament berths five times in
Under his leadership, the Reverend Francis Hart Recreation Center was constructed
in 1975, bringing a basketball arena, ice rink, swimming pool, racquetball, handball
and squash courts and a crew tank to the school. His improvements to the physical
plant extended to the football stadium and running track.
#4 Louis F. Sockalexis ’97
This full-blooded Penobscot Indian, son of the tribe’s
chief, took Holy Cross by storm in 1895, when he brought
his strong bat and throwing arm to an already successful
baseball team. His sensational play led him to an offer
from the Cleveland Spiders and a short, but impressive,
career. Sports writers at the time dubbed him “Chief,” “Sock” or “Chief
of Sockum” as he continued to wow fans.
In 1915, the Cleveland Spiders changed their name to the Indians as a tribute
to Sockalexis, the first full-blooded American Indian to play major-league baseball.
Forty years later, he was honored as the first choice for induction into the
newly created Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sockalexis’ amazing accomplishments on the baseball diamond also inspired
the creation of a fictional sports character, Frank Merriwell. Bangor, Maine,
boasts an arena named in his honor, as well.
#3 Dr. William T. Osmanski ’39
Dr. Bill Osmanski’s spectacular efforts on the football
field earned him a spot in Ripley’s Believe It or
Not. In high school, he scored a touchdown the first time
he carried the ball in the first play of the first game.
Amazingly, he repeated this unusual feat four years later
as a freshman at Holy Cross.
He was chosen MVP in the College All-Star game in 1939. He became a first-round
draft pick of Chicago Bears owner George Halas, and played for that team for
six years. During his professional career, he earned the All-American title twice
and was named All-Pro his first year with the Bears.
In addition to a remarkable football career, Osmanski earned his dental degree
and set up a successful practice in Chicago. He combined his love of the game
and his dental expertise to develop mouth guards for football players. During
a two-year stint in the Navy, Osmanski coached football teams in the States before
heading to the Pacific.
#2 Tom Heinsohn ’56
Tom Heinsohn holds the College’s career and single
season rebounding records and has been called the greatest
rebounder in the school’s history. He averaged 23.3
points per game as a junior and set a record in his senior
year by raising that average to 27.4 points per game.
Heinsohn was named to almost every All-America team while playing for the Crusaders.
His skill on the basketball court was matched in the classroom, where he made
the dean’s list for scholastic excellence in his last four semesters.
The Boston Celtics took note of his basketball prowess and claimed him as a territorial
pick in the 1956 NBA draft. As a rookie, he helped the Celtics to a double-overtime
victory that earned Boston its first NBA Championship. Heinsohn was named Rookie
of the Year in 1957 and assisted the Celtics in winning eight NBA titles during
his nine-year career.
Teammates nicknamed him “Tommy Gun,” a reflection of his astonishing
shot-making flexibility. He demonstrated agility and exceptional body control
on the court. Off the court, his talent for humor earned him the unofficial title
of “resident team jester.” His antics served to loosen up the rest
of the team before an important game.
The 1964-65 season was Heinsohn’s last as a player. Four years later, he
returned to coach the team. In 1972-73 he won the NBA Coach of the Year Award
and the following year his team won the NBA Championship. Heinsohn’s coaching
style reflected “guerrilla warfare.” His strategy was to keep the
pressure on the other team at all times, control the tempo of the game and play
with unrelenting intensity.
During his eight full seasons as a coach, Boston won five Eastern Division titles
in a row and took two NBA Championships. Heinsohn was elected to the Naismith
Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986 and received the Jack McMahon Award
for an individual who has made a special contribution to the NBA coaching profession
#1 Bob Cousy ’50
Mr. Basketball,” “The Houdini of the Hardwood,” “The
Cooz”—call him what you will, Bob Cousy has
single-handedly changed the way basketball is played today.
A broken right arm at the age of 13 forced him to learn
to dribble and shoot with his left. This ambidexterity
led to the famous behind-the-back dribble. Although not
the creator of this move, he did help to popularize it
while at Holy Cross.
He earned the All-American title four consecutive years at Holy Cross and became
one of the biggest names in college hoops. In his senior year, the Crusaders
won 26 straight games and finished second in the National Invitational Tournament.
Cousy’s acquisition in 1950 proved to be a lucky break for the Celtics,
who ended their season with a winning record. In his third year as an NBA player,
Cousy began to establish his legend. His expertise as a point guard drove and
inspired the team. His sharp peripheral vision and amazing dribbling skills kept
the ball away from defenders long enough for his teammates to develop successful
plays. Cousy played a key role in the Celtics operation, as they dominated the
basketball scene from 1959 through 1966. Cousy played in 13 NBA All-Star games,
where he earned the MVP title twice. He has been inducted into the Basketball
Hall of Fame and named to the NBA’s 25th, 35th and 50th Anniversary Teams.
In 1974, an Associated Press poll selected him one of the top five basketball
players of all time. Recently, the Boston Globe chose the top 100 athletes of
the century and ranked Cousy number eight.
After his retirement from the Celtics organization at the age of 35, Cousy landed
the head coaching job at Boston College. In the next six years, he guided the
team to four seasons of 20 or more victories and two appearances in the NCAA
regionals and one in the NIT finals. He went on to coach the Cincinnati Royals
and even returned to the court as a player for seven games during the 1969-70
season. He also led a U.S. All-Star team to a six-game win over the Russian Olympic
Cousy began a broadcast career in 1974 and became the first Hall of Famer to
be named president of that institution. He has co-authored five books, including
the acclaimed text on the game, Basketball Principles and Techniques. His post-basketball
activities also include a film career with cameo appearances in Blue Chips and
Cousy has devoted many hours to the Big Brothers of America Program, earning
the 1965 “Big Brother of the Year” Award from President Lyndon Johnson.
His community service efforts continue in the local area with the establishment
of the Bob and Marie Cousy Scholarship Fund at Becker College. Cousy received
an honorary degree from Holy Cross in1998.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dave Anderson ’51 notes, “Of
all the Holy Cross Athletes, Bob Cousy is not only head and shoulders above the
others, but legs and sneakers above. No other Holy Cross athlete has provided
the impact on his sport that Cooz did, not only at the Cross but also with the
Celtics in so many of their NBA championship seasons. The College has never had
another like him, and may never in the future have another like him.”
Here are the results of our winter issue readers’ poll
of the top 10 Holy Cross athletes of all time:
10. (tie) Gil Fennerty ’86 (37 votes)
10. (tie) Paul
Harney ’52 (37 votes)
9. George Kaftan ’49
8. Gordie Lockbaum ’88 (46 votes)
7. Louis Sokalexis ’97
6. Ron K. Perry ’80 (57 votes)
5. Owen Carroll ’25
4. Ron S. Perry ’54 (112 votes)
3. Tom Heinsohn ’56
2. Bill Osmanski ’39 (168 votes)
1. Bob Cousy ’50
Members of the Holy Cross
Athletic Hall of Fame: