COLORADO SPRINGS. Lessons taught by playing high school sports span the generations. On Feb. 4, several generations of Pirate athletes gathered at the St. Mary’s High School gym to honor two of the school’s outstanding basketball teams as well as cheer on the current Pirate basketball teams. That afternoon the 1933-1934 and 1960-1961 basketball teams were inducted into the St. Mary’s High School Exemplary Sports Team Enshrinement.
The 1933-1934 team brought home the league and state titles that season, both firsts in the history of the school. Finishing the season with 26 wins and only 2 losses, the 1934 Pirates wrapped up the year with the most successful record in the history of St. Mary’s sports programs.
The 1934 yearbook remembers the season this way, “A string of 25 victories was interrupted only by losses to Cathedral and Cheyenne, each game being lost by a one-point margin.” Team members were Danny Rogers, Thomas “Foose” Albin, James Udovick, Tim Rogers, Joe Barron, Bill “Chick” Collins, Swede Woods, and Jimmy “Scully” Welsh.
Twenty-seven years later, two more Welsh family members — Mike and Richard — joined Joe Trujillo, Lefty Stecklein, Bill Pfalmer, John O’Connell, Don Martin, Richie Jewett, Jim Flynn, and Dick Elliott on the 1960-1961 Pirate team that would again bring the state parochial championship title to St. Mary’s. The 1961 team was the underdog of the tournament that year, not expected to make it past the semi-finals. But they played three solid games, including an overtime win against the pre-tournament favorite, to earn the state title. They finished the year with a record of 24-4, which is the third best in school history.
For Mike Welsh, who lives in South Carolina, and Richard Welsh, who lives in Texas, attending the induction ceremony on Feb. 4 was a way not only to remember their 1961 team’s success, but also to honor their father. Mike and Richard, who are twins, were both seniors in 1961.
Mike Welsh said his father rarely talked about his basketball days at St. Mary’s or his other life experiences. But he did shoot baskets in the back yard with his sons and once told them about the team’s lost opportunity to play in a national tournament.
“He and his team were all part of that World War II generation that never talked about what they’d seen and done,” Mike said. “But he did tell us that after the 1934 team won the state parochial title, they were invited to play in a national parochial school tournament in Chicago, but Monsignor (William) Kelly (superintendent of schools) wouldn’t pay for the trip because of the Great Depression.”
Richard Welsh said he has great memories of his state championship season, including learning they wouldn’t have to play Regis Jesuit High School in the final.
“When we heard that Regis had lost and we wouldn’t have to face them in the final, we knew we had it,” Richard Welsh said. “We had great team chemistry and when we played our best no one could stop us. It was just one of those teams that when we played you sensed something wonderful was going happen.”
Joe Trujillo, who was a junior on the 1961 team, also attended the ceremony. For him, some of the best memories of the 1961 season involved playing for Coach Ed Murphy.
“Coach Murphy was such a fun man to play for,” Trujillo said. “He made you take responsibility and held you accountable, but he was one of those coaches that you never wanted to disappoint. We had a lot of motivation to do our best.”
The 1934 and 1961 basketball teams joined the 1956 St. Mary’s hockey team and the 1962 football team as the first members of the Exemplary Sports Team Enshrinement, which was established in January 2016 to ensure the history and tradition of the school, as well as the contributions of its sports teams, are celebrated. The hockey and football teams were inducted during the Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony in October 2016.
Attending the February ceremony were six players and 13 family members and classmates of the 1960-61 team, and 12 sons and daughters, along with five grandchildren and five other family members representing the 1933-1934 team. The basketball teams were inducted between the varsity boys’ and varsity girls’ basketball games on Feb. 4. This allowed the past players to check out this year’s teams, which both delivered wins that day.
“During the boys’ game, several of us were trying to figure out who would win if our 1961 team could play this year’s Pirate team,” Mike Welsh said. “We came to the conclusion that this year’s team would win, partly because there was no three point line when we played.”
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School.)