Former Calvert Hall lacrosse players reunite for their coach, Dick Edell. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)
They'll gather on Saturday at a teammate's home in Phoenix, more than 50 Calvert Hall alumni who played lacrosse for the school's first championship teams nearly half a century ago. There will be hugs to give, stories to tell and tributes to share. Mostly, though, the aging players will huddle around their embattled coach, Dick Edell, who led the Cardinals to the top.
Edell, 73, suffers from inclusion-body myositis, a debilitating and incurable muscle disease that has left him in a wheelchair. But even a recent bout with pneumonia won't keep the Hall of Fame coach from reuniting with his Calvert Hall teams of 1970 through 1972.
Then 26, Edell took a humdrum lacrosse program, which had never hit .500, and made it a power. That first year, the Cardinals went 7-7, losing four times by a single goal. In 1971, they won 10 of 11 games and shared the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship. The following year, Calvert Hall — 10-0 in league play — won the title outright and then, in a ballyhooed showdown of undefeateds, edged Towson, 11-time Baltimore County champion, 11-10 before 6,000 fans.
Maryland coach John Tillman had the toughest job in Division I men's lacrosse this season, and he rose to the occasion in helping the Terps win the national championship.
Then Edell was gone, a victim of a budget crunch at the school which axed his position as a physical education instructor. But there were even better days ahead for Edell, who would coach at the University of Baltimore, Army and, finally Maryland where, in 18 years, his teams won three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and reached the NCAA championship game three times.
Edell has long cherished memories of his years at Calvert Hall, those who know him said. His players, who’ve never gathered for an inclusive reunion, will share those remembrances Saturday at the home of Franz Wittelsberger. More than 50 are expected to attend, including a sprinkling of adversaries: former Loyola coach John Stewart and several players from rival Gilman — a testament to the esteem in which Edell is held.
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, the coach posed “an impressive figure walking onto the field,” said Wittelsberger, 63, a four-time All-American attackman at Johns Hopkins. “He was an amazing coach and a tenacious motivator who demanded the best of us. He was a yeller; he’d scream ‘WITTELSBERGER!’ in that high-pitched voice of his. He hollered so much that, after a few games, I realized that by halftime, he’d lost his voice. He’d just mouth my name in the second half.”
Though demanding, Edell was “the first coach I ever had who was personable, whom you could feel comfortable with off the field,” said Tom Murray, 64. “He wasn’t that much older than us. We want him to know now how much he still means to us, and to thank him for implementing a winning program at Calvert Hall and being a great role model.”
Despite Edell’s illness, the reunion promises to be an upbeat occasion, said Bob Lacy, who has visited his old coach at his home in Glenelg.
"You feel good when you leave him," said Lacy, 63. "The way he has handled this (disease) is beyond anything I've ever seen. He has coped with it for almost 20 years. He was a rough and tough coach, but I've never known anyone to be so humble and holy and happy in dealing with this illness. It's inspiring."