Ray VanGiesen ’31, former Statesman lacrosse player and Hall of Famer, is featured in this month’s Lacrosse Magazine as the “oldest living lacrosse player.”
The author, Bill Tanton, writes, “Ray told me of his plans to go to the Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) at West Genesee (N.Y.) high school game on May 20. It’s only fitting that Ray be there. He started lacrosse at Fayetteville High in 1932 before the school combined with Manlius.”
The full text of the article about VanGiesen follows.
His Space, Editorial
Bill Tanton • May 2010
Who is the oldest living lacrosse player? First of all, it’s not me. Nobody born in the 1930s is even close to being the oldest.
It’s certainly none of the 568,021 people playing lacrosse in the U.S. now. It’s not John Mart, the 65 year- old Briton who always shows up in goal at the World Championships.
The oldest is not Charley Hartigan or any of his teammates on his Hartford, Conn., club team heading for senior competition at Manchester. Charley’s only 56. That’s almost a half century younger than the actual oldest living player.
Don’t forget, once a lacrosse player, always a lacrosse player. Therefore, any geezer who once played and is still around is eligible. And the winner is – drum roll, please – Raymond W. Van Giesen, of Fayetteville, N.Y.!
Ray is 104. Really.
I phoned him recently, and he sounds pretty good. Considering. He was born Jan. 25, 1906.
That was quite a year. Teddy Roosevelt was president. Einstein came up with his theory of relativity. Football legalized the forward pass. The San Francisco earthquake killed 452 people. Europe saw its first airplane fright. And Ray Van Giesen came into the world. And he’s still in it.
Ol’ Ray still loves lacrosse, too. Still follows the game. Follows it better than some lacrosse people half his age, or one fourth.
Ray told me of his plans to go to the Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) at West Genesee (N.Y.) high school game on May 20. It’s only fitting that Ray be there. He started lacrosse at Fayetteville High in 1932 before the school combined with Manlius.
Ray has a buddy up there, a younger fellow named Tom Hall, who sometimes drives the oldest living lacrosse player to games. Tom Hall is 69. He recalls picking up Ray at East Side Manor, where he lives, to go to a game a few years ago.
“I pulled up in my van,” Tom Hall said, “and when I opened the door to the back seat, Ray dove in head first. He had to be 97 then.”
Ray said this about Tom Hall: “He gets me in and out of a lot of things.” In truth, Hall and Ray Van Giesen have spent most of their lives in exemplary roles in education and athletics – playing, coaching, officiating, teaching, serving as school principal, even superintendent of the school district. Tom, who went to Cortland, won 11 national awards for officiating.
Ray Van Giesen is a Hobart man. He’s in Hobart’s Hall of Fame. Entered in 2002. Played lacrosse and football. Graduated in 1931. Made All-America a couple times. Team captain senior year. Hobart has one of the richest histories in lacrosse. Started playing in 1898.
Ray’s coach was Babe Kraus, the legend of all legends at Hobart. The Babe coached the Statesmen longer than any man has ever coached one college lacrosse team – from 1927 through 1966.
“Babe Kraus was a wonderful man,” Ray told me. “You never got bawled out.”
Kraus didn’t have to make a single phone call to recruit Van Giesen (were there telephones in ’06?). Ray didn’t play lacrosse in high school. He played baseball. After graduation, he didn’t go to college for four years.
“I was a farm boy,” he told me. “I had to work on the farm. We had a great crop of potatoes.”
At 6 feet and 170 pounds, Ray was good size for the day. Today you don’t see a lot of 170-pounders playing defense in college, but Van Giesen was hard-nosed.
“In those days, all we did the first 15 minutes of the game was knock each other down,” he said.
There weren’t that many colleges playing lacrosse then. Hey, there weren’t that many colleges. Hobart played some of the same opponents it plays today Colgate, Cornell, Syracuse, Army. And, of course, there were the Onondagans.
“The rules in lacrosse were different then,” Ray told me. “There were no boundaries. We were playing the Onondagans in my senior year, and one of the Indians picked up the ball and ran down the street with it. We never saw him or the ball again.”
Ray admires today’s style of play. He marvels at the stick work and finesse. He says the game is more open.
“I couldn’t play now,” he admitted.
“I’m too old,” he said.