Mon, Oct. 9, 2006 - [MCC] - Viewed 622 times - Post By Bruce Billingsley
As is tradition during homecoming week, there are a new group of athletes who were nominated and elected into the St. Ambrose University Athletic Hall of Fame.
However, this year was different than most. For the first time since the Hall of Fame was started, teams were inducted, not just individuals.
The school’s first athletic team, the 1892 baseball team, is the oldest group heading into the hall, and is joined by the 1940 and 1950 football teams.
1892 Baseball Team: All available records indicate that a nine man baseball team formed during the 1892-93 academic year was the first athletic team to represent the college in intercollegiate competition.
Rev. J.T.A. Flanagan, the president at that time, was so supportive of the team that he had a baseball field built behind Ambrose Hall. Because travel was much different than it is today, the majority of competition was against teams from town rather than other colleges. Newspapers from that era show that the St Ambrose baseball diamond played host to opponents from Rock Island, Moline, Muscatine, LeClaire and other towns. The newspapers also show that the team had great success, winning most of their games.
The team rarely played games out of town, but Monsignor John Walsh, a member of the original team wrote in 1950: “The team traveled one time to DeWitt in a van drawn by four white horses, and a great celebration was held in conjunction with the event.” As you can imagine, this was probably an all-day event because of the travel time.
1940 Football Team: Coach Mullins adopted a football team in 1940 that had only lost once over the previous four years. However, the coach’s first test would be against Cornell, the team that gave them their loss the year before.
Mullins started four freshmen who, according to accounts, “shocked the vast throng that was present and the red-shirted (Cornell) invaders.” The first-team came on at the very end of the first quarter, and led the Saints to a 14-0 win, avenging their 6-0 loss the year before.
In the second game, Ambrose out-rushed St. Thomas 225-47 en route to a 13-0 win.
The 1940 season also marked the widest margin of victory over a team you might know, Augustana. The Saints drubbed the Vikings 27-0.
After St. Ambrose beat St. Norbert’s, 7-0, to improve to 7-0, the Saints were the only football team in the country to remain unscored upon.
With a chance to be the only undefeated, and unscored upon team, St. Ambrose took on Loras in the last game of the season. The Duhawks had put new sod in earlier in the year, and had only played one other game on the turf, but because of rain, the fact that the field was built with a rock base that didn’t hold water, and other Loras engineering flaws, the game got dubbed the “mud bowl,” and ended in a 0-0 tie, stopping the Bees from a perfect season.
In that magical season, only 2 of their 9 opponents reached the Bees red-zone (20-yard line). Ambrose outgained their opponents 2443 yards to 410 in yards. Nick Kerasiotis was named a little All-American for the second straight season, and Vince Nunamaker was named an honorable mention All-American.
They outscored their competition 134-0 and finished 8-0-1.
Mullins and the 1940 team are being honored because of their incredible accomplishments as the only undefeated and unscored upon team in school history.
1950 Football Team: The 1950 Football Team, the last to be coached at St. Ambrose by Moon Mullins, finished 12-1. This set a school record for most wins in a season. That’s a record that still stands today.
The 1950 team earned conference championships in both the Iowa Conference and the Midlands Conference. Playing in two conferences meant that the team had the toughest schedule in school history, one that was recognized by the national media as the most concentrated of any college in the country that year. The team won their first four games of the season in only 13 days. Several times during the season, the team had two games in the same weekend, with games on Friday and Sunday.
In the November 1, 1950 Chicago Herald-American, Mullins was asked about this team’s tough 13 game schedule. He replied, “That is entirely too many. I would not want to go through it as a regular stint. Obviously, it could not have worked out at all, if we didn’t have a fine bunch of boys on the squad who really like to play football.”
Tackling this schedule with such success shows the character of the people at the time. Art Michalik is a good example of the type of players on this team. He went on after graduation to play for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, earning rookie of the year honors in 1953.
Both of these football teams were coached by a legend, Larry “Moon” Mullins.
Mullins was a fullback on Knute Rockne’s undefeated national championship teams at Notre Dame in 1929 and 1930. After several coaching stints, Moon ended up at St Ambrose in 1940. He left to become an assistant coach at Florida State, then was a Navy preflight instructor during World War II. After that, he returned to take over the football program from 1947-1950. Mullins was a firm believer in ironman football, with players expected to play both offense and defense.
He left St Ambrose a second time to become the Athletic Director at Kansas State University.
Molly (Shurr) Palmer: Molly (Shurr) Palmer is the only women’s volleyball alumni to have participated in a national tournament as both a player and as a member of the coaching staff. During her playing career, SAU was 119-55, the best four year span since records were kept (after 1981). Her teams won four consecutive Midwest Classic Conference Championships and continued for a fifth while she was an assistant coach.
Molly is near the top of most of the career statistical categories. She is second on the career kills list with 1510 kills and ranks in the top 10 all-time in kills per game, digs and Ace Serves.
Molly was a two year team captain under current coach Bruce Billingsley and was twice named the Midwest Classic Conference Player of the Year. She was a two-time All-American and was twice selected as an NAIA All-America Scholar-Athlete. Coach Billingsley describes Molly as “a true leader, on the court, in the classroom and in everyday life. She is the kind of player that makes everyone around her want to work to be better.”
Dr. John H. "Jack" Sunderbruch: Dr. Jack Sunderbruch was first inducted into the Hall of Fame 25 years ago. We are honoring him again for exemplifying the key characteristics that St Ambrose athletics represents. Through his lifelong commitment to serve others, his total dedication to his craft and his commitment to the community, Dr Sunderbruch led a truly impressive life that would be difficult to emulate.
He was a consistent figure on the St Ambrose sidelines for over four decades. His generosity to freely give his time, efforts and treasures touched virtually every student athlete that came into contact with the good doctor.
Even though he was an initial Hall of Fame member, we felt compelled with his passing this past year to honor him with a special recognition, honoring him this second time. So, while he cannot be here physically with us tonight, we know his spirit lives on and is strong in St Ambrose Athletics.