1948 St. Rose team’s impact still felt today


Bob Seggerson - Guest Columnist



The 1948 St. Rose team were: kneeling L-R Bob Pearson, Joe Lawler, Walt Auers, Joe Bourke, Coach Fred George. standing L-R Pat Canavan, Bob Connelly, Tom Williams, Johnny Mulcahy, Johnny O’Connnor, Tom Stolly, Jim O’Neill

The 1948 St. Rose team were: kneeling L-R Bob Pearson, Joe Lawler, Walt Auers, Joe Bourke, Coach Fred George. standing L-R Pat Canavan, Bob Connelly, Tom Williams, Johnny Mulcahy, Johnny O’Connnor, Tom Stolly, Jim O’Neill


Photo provided

The photo appeared on the front page of the Lima News on Sunday, April 4, 1948 and was taken just moments after the Lima St. Rose High School basketball team had been defeated in the class B state championship game. I discovered it while doing research for a column and was immediately captivated by the look of exhaustion and disappointment, mixed with pride, etched on the faces of the 11 young players following their difficult loss. As I studied the photo, it suddenly struck me that many of those youthful athletes would go on to have a profound influence on my life and coaching career. I was four days old the day that photo appeared in the newspaper.

Great teams leave more than a legacy of athletic achievement. Because they are often stocked with leaders, they can have a positive effect on a community long after their athletic glory days have faded. In today’s world, our young generation often joins the growing diaspora looking for more lucrative opportunities found in larger metropolitan areas. In the post-World War II era, almost all of the St. Rose boys stayed close to home and used their talents to positively impact Lima for decades.

Only a few years after this photo was taken, Tom Stolly graduated from Ohio State University and returned to Lima to work in his family’s insurance business. Before work each morning he volunteered to drive a school bus, wheeling around Lima’s neighborhoods to pick up a hoard of baby boomers and delivered them to St. Charles School. I can still hear the horn honking outside our home at 505 N. Kenilworth as Stolly patiently waited for all nine Seggerson kids to pile out of our house, in intervals, and board his bus. Each day at 3:00 he climbed back on the bus and delivered the crew of kids back to their homes before returning to work. When I began playing organized basketball for the first time, as a fifth grader, Tom Stolly was my first coach. A couple decades later, his son Steve was the starting center and captain on one my teams.

Six of the players in the photo had sons that I had the opportunity to coach. If you count sons, grandsons, nephews and cousins, the number multiplies exponentially. You can discover the same genetic chain of gifted athleticism repeated in communities all over west-central and northwest Ohio.

Johnny Mulchay (66), who was named to the first team all-tournament squad, became a fixture in the leadership of Lima’s CYO basketball program. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Lima Central Catholic Hall of Fame for his service to LCC. His son Steve was one of the finest point guards I ever coached and was named the Lima News Player of the Year in 1986. Recently, John Mulcahy’s four granddaughters, Meghan, Erin, Mary Kelly and Bridget were the key pieces in the T-Bird’s three consecutive golf state championships.

Tom Williams, the only surviving member of the team, continued his basketball career at Ohio State University where he was named Captain of Buckeye squad his senior year. He returned to Lima and joined his family’s business. Williams spent many years coaching youth basketball and is beloved by several generations of players who developed under his watchful eye. In my second year as head coach of LCC I asked Tom to serve on my staff as my top assistant. It was one of the smartest moves I made in my coaching career. His son, Ron, played on several great teams in the early 80’s and, after graduating from Wittenberg, he joined my staff and served as my right hand for over twenty years. Tom Williams’ grandsons, Jake and Thomas, were key members on two LCC state championship basketball teams.

Johnny O’Connor (#55) raised his family in Lima and built his home in the same north side neighborhood as Mulcahy and Williams. O’Connor was an entrepreneur and had his hand in everything, including numerous charitable causes and athletic projects. The day after I was named the varsity coach at LCC, in 1978, O’Connor was in my office and asked me if there was anything I needed. I looked out my office window and noticed the bank-boards on the outdoor basketball court were in poor shape and mentioned it to him. Within the week O’Connor had built and hung new baskets. His son Mike was a great player for me and made a memorable game winning shot in the post-season tournament in the early 80’s that propelled a tradition of great tournament runs. He was also a long-time assistant on my staff and along with his teammate, Ron Williams, became a foundation for our basketball program. John O’Connor had four grandsons who played at State for LCC. Sean was a member of the 2000 squad. Ty was a key player on our 2010 state championship team and two other grandson’s, Aiden and Ethan, were members of 2014 and 2016 state championship teams.

Pat Canavan and Joe Lawler also had sons that suited up for teams that I coached. Bob Pearson became a mailman but passed away at a young age. Walt Auers and Bob Connelly moved from Lima and had successful careers. Joe Bourke remained a bachelor but the Bourke name resonates in the athletic history of the school. Coach Fred George moved on to a very successful coaching career at John Carroll University.

Jim O’Neil was a cheerleader for the 1948 team in an age when girls were barred from the activity. His son, Jim, is one of the original founding orthopods at Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio. He became a valuable confidant and the first person I contacted when one of my players went down with an injury.

I can draw a line that passes through every great LCC basketball team over the past sixty-five years and make a connection to the young men in the photo that appeared in the Lima News on that Sunday in 1948. The legacy of those boys went far beyond their contribution to athletic success. They became leaders in their church, school and neighborhood communities. They provide an example to current day athletes that the best way they can thank those who helped them reach their dreams is to pass it on to the next generation.

https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/01/web1_IMG_1998.jpg
The 1948 St. Rose team were: kneeling L-R Bob Pearson, Joe Lawler, Walt Auers, Joe Bourke, Coach Fred George. standing L-R Pat Canavan, Bob Connelly, Tom Williams, Johnny Mulcahy, Johnny O’Connnor, Tom Stolly, Jim O’Neill
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/01/web1_thumbnail_IMG_1678.jpgThe 1948 St. Rose team were: kneeling L-R Bob Pearson, Joe Lawler, Walt Auers, Joe Bourke, Coach Fred George. standing L-R Pat Canavan, Bob Connelly, Tom Williams, Johnny Mulcahy, Johnny O’Connnor, Tom Stolly, Jim O’Neill Photo provided

Bob Seggerson

Guest Columnist

Reach Bob Seggerson at bseggerson@lcchs.edu

Reach Bob Seggerson at bseggerson@lcchs.edu

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