There's a joke around the Georgetown University campus that the 100th season of baseball on the Hilltop is now in its fifth year. But no matter how long Hoya baseball enthusiasts try to prolong their centennial celebration, they could not prevent one notable era from ending this week.
Tommy Nolan, baseball coach for 20 years and a faculty member since 1956, headed into retirement after Georgetown closed its 104th baseball season Monday with a 13-8 loss to Randolph Macon.
"I'll tell you, I'm sorry I have to go," said Nolan, 65, who came to Georgetown in 1956 as basketball coach. "No one has ever brought it (retirement) up to me. I just can't give the service I used to. I find I can't do it anymore. I run out of gas. I used to keep those players running, hit 400 files to the outfield. School pays me pretty good money.I don't think they're getting their money's worth. I'm glad they let me stay this long."
While most coaches rely on winning records as a means to longevity, Nolan, with a career mark of 141-265-1, has remained at Georgetown because of his value as an educator. Indeed, while he admits to an inner desire to win, he says his greatest pleasures come when his players go on to do well, often in the fields of "law, medicine and the foreign service." Georgetwon finished 5-13 for this season.
"I think these things are important," said Nolan, a life-time resident of Washington, who now resides on W Street in Georgetown. "You can't play baseball for more than four years unless you go up to the (major) leagues. I'm really proud of the academics here."
Despite the record, Nolan says his teams have always been "competitive" and his squads have learned from their losses "If they don't know how to lose after they come here, they never will because we lose our share of games," he said. "That's what we mean by competitive. We got out there hoping to win every game, but know we can't because of our shortcomings."
Nolan has had to build his team without the aid of any extensive scholarship money. Except for a five-year period which ended in 1974 where he received three tuition scholarships, Hoya baseball received no significant financial aid at all. Nolan has been out-spoken about the lack of scholarships, though he emphasizes his opinions were not in the form of criticism.
"I see where the Hoya (a student newspaper) said I was 'blasting' the administration," said Nolan, who taught for 15 years in D.C.'s public school system, including 10 years as head of the physical education department at Anacostia High School. "I wasn't blasting the administration. I was just pointing out a few facts. I've been a little disappointed because I couldn't get more players (on scholarship). But I never wanted to go anywhere else. I've had 22 years of fine relations here."
Nolan, who played baseball and basketball for three varsity seasons before graduating Georgetown in 1938, was a member of the school's only undefeated baseball squad that played more than three games when the Hoyas went 10-0-1 in 1937. He would have liked the same for some of his teams. "I'd love to be able to every year have 12 scholarship players to form a nucleus," he added. "But the school's doing their job. They're putting kids out in society who are ready to take their place in society. That's why they went to school - not to play baseball. I think a lot of schools out there forget that."
Nolan doesn't plan to remain idle during his retirement. "I'm at the point of no return now," he said. "I don't suppose I have that many years left. I'm 65. I'll travel a little bit with my wife (Elizabeth), see some of the things we haven't had a chance to see. And I play golf."
He won't maintain an office at Georgetown, but Nolan said, in an almost hopeful manner, that he would volunteer his time if his replacement (yet unnamed) requested help. "I'll tell you something," he said. "At 65, I'm still enthused about this university. I'll never be able to give back what it's given to me if I live to be a hundred."