“I’m Coach Mac’s brother.”
When I introduced myself to Jason Brennan at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland Jan. 19, he carried his Uncle Mark’s crosier and a confused expression.
Back in December, I had spent a leisurely morning at the Frederick home of his parents, Paul and Patricia, gathering background for a feature on Bishop Mark Brennan’s roots
. Paul is Bishop Brennan’s only sibling. We had already established a pretty good rapport when he mentioned that their three children, Jason, Lyn and John, had all played athletics at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick.
I noted that when my brother, Kevin, a career educator, took his calling in the 1990s from Anne Arundel County to Frederick County, his first coaching job there was the boys’ soccer team at TJ.
“I know your brother,” Paul Brennan said. “He coached Jason.”
A photo of the Brennan Brothers shows the future bishop on the right.
Much of the remainder of the interview kept returning to our shared interests and acquaintances. Paul spent about 30 seconds discussing his own professional career with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (his last 25 years there spent managing a wastewater treatment plant in Damascus), and was more eager to talk sports. The Brennan brothers attended St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C., where Paul played football and baseball.
The Brennan Brothers played baseball growing up.
“John Thompson was in his first year (1966-67) there when I was a senior,” Paul said, of the coach who would go on to become the first black man to lead an NCAA basketball champion, at Georgetown University in 1984.
The Brennan brothers are separated by 27 months. My brother, Kevin, is 22 months older than me. (We weren’t the closest bond of brothers in our house, incidentally, as Don and Tim are separated by 11 months, “Irish twins” born in January and December 1947). Paul Brennan described an idyllic youth with his big brother stretching out from the Glassmanor Apartments in Oxon Hill, along the border of our nation’s capital and Prince George’s County, of games of whiffle ball and two-hand touch. All of those happened at my home, which included one of the first regulation basketball hoops in Brooklyn Park. The photo below is from 1971, when I was called up to the Brooklyn Park High varsity for the District V tournament because I looked good in lay-up lines.
While the Bees came within just 47 points of winning the district final and playing at the state Class B semis in Cole Field House, Kevin and I rarely lost a game of 2-on-2 against the other family combos based at St. Rose of Lima Parish.
When I asked Paul Brennan his thoughts on his brother becoming a bishop, he got emotional and struggled to find words to describe their bond. I understand his sentiments. A young Father Mark Brennan baptized his nephews and niece, and now officiates at the weddings and the baptisms of their children. My brother, Kevin, was the Best Man at my wedding, 33 years ago. I am godfather to his oldest, Esther.
When I related my meeting with Paul Brennan to my brother, Kevin remembered Jason Brennan as a hard-nosed player and natural leader.
Like father, like son, like brothers.
February 02, 2017 10:31
By Paul McMullen
All things for a reason.
That was the prevailing sentiment among several hundred at Loyola Blakefield April 16, when the school held a fundraiser for a merit scholarship fund that honors Jerry Savage, its former basketball coach and athletic director. Marquette University coach Steve Wojciechowski, a Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Famer who led Cardinal Gibbons to the 1994 title and is one of the fellow Jesuit institution’s most prominent faces, was initially advertised as the headliner for the benefit, but then the NCAA objected and the Dons went to their bench. “Wojo” is a great success story, but because he was not allowed to make it, Loyola Blakefield alums, as well as the friends and family of Savage, had the chance to hear some poignant and powerful stories from three of their own.
It was my pleasure and honor to moderate a panel that included Snuffy Smith ’60, Pete Budko ’77 and Tony Guy ’78. Retired from coaching, Snuffy became the first commissioner of the BCL, and indirectly explained the appropriateness of the league’s Player of the Year award carrying the Savage name. Smith was a University of Baltimore freshman in the 1960-61 season, when Savage was a senior at Mount St. Mary’s and concluding a record-setting career. Savage still had game in the early 1970s, when Budko and Guy entered Loyola Blakefield and made a good high school program great. The Dons won four straight BCL tournaments from 1975-78, still the only program in the league’s 45-year history to achieve that feat.
Budko and Guy traded one tradition for another, as they chose two of the nation’s five most storied college programs, North Carolina and Kansas, respectively. Budko related his injury-wracked senior season with the Tar Heels, which ended with Dean Smith putting him on the floor for the first time in months in the NCAA final, against Indiana. Who had replaced Budko in the North Carolina starting five? “Sam Perkins,” he answered. Guy’s name association was even more impressive. Asked to describe a time when he leaned on what he had learned from Savage, Guy told a story from his freshman year at Kansas, when a Michigan State star lit up Tony and the Jayhawks. “I guarded Magic Johnson as a freshman, Michael Jordan as a senior, and everyone in between,” Guy said. “There wasn’t anything I heard at Kansas that Jerry hadn’t already said. We came to Loyola as basketball players and left as much more than that. The expectation was excellence.”
Guy found a home in Kansas, where he has worked for State Farm for 30 years. Budko runs his own business development corporation in New York.
The evening’s rewards included visiting with Savage’s peers, like Nappy Doherty and Bucky Kimmett, and some Loyola Blakefield alums I hadn’t seen in decades. The latter included the Welsh brothers, Marty and Pat. A football and lacrosse star, Pat was one of the Baltimore metropolitan area Athletes of the Year I selected for The Evening Sun in 1984.
Those guys are part of a substantial legacy, one that I hope Loyola Blakefield alums never take for granted. I related a story about Jim McKay ’39 leaving me spellbound with his ABC reporting on the terrorist attack on the Israeli quarters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. What I didn’t share was how Tim Pierce ’60 and Murray Stephens ’63 brought Jesuit standards to the swim club they founded
, one that produced the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps.
“Men for Others” was not a slogan for Savage, but an ethos. In retirement, he gave countless hours to the Baltimore Catholic League he helped found in 1971. He took ill at the 2015 BCL tournament and died a few months later
. I last saw him in February 2015, at Mount St. Joseph, where the Gaels were hosting No. 1 Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I wasn’t seated five minutes when Jerry entered the gym and supplied copies of the BCL standings. It wasn’t the first time he helped me out on a story. His wife, Pat, was one of my voices in a 2009 article
about Notre Dame of Maryland’s Renaissance Institute.
Pat Savage, center, with, from left, Tony Guy, Snuffy Smith, Paul McMullen and Pete Budko. (Photo Courtesy Loyola Blakefield)
April 20, 2016 11:46
By Paul McMullen
If you read about sports or listen to sports talk in Baltimore, chances are you get information and opinion from a guy with a link to the Catholic Church.
I just wrote about the parental sacrifice of Jim Duquette
, a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley, former Orioles’ VP and now an analyst on the MLB Network. In 2012, when it came time to raise awareness of kidney disease through his organ donation to his daughter Lindsey, WJZ-TV was there, thanks to his friendship with sports anchor Mark Viviano
. Mark is a regular Mass attendee at St. Ignatius on Calvert Street, and one of his brothers is a priest in Missouri.
Jim Duquette and his daughter Lindsey. (Bill McAllen| Special to the Review)
(Disclosure: Duquette, Viviano and I made up three-fourths of a team in the marathon relay at the 2008 Baltimore Running Festival.)
Sticking to the airwaves, Jim Hunter, veteran voice of Oriole radio and TV, is a parishioner of St. Mark, Fallston. Scott Garceau of 105.7 The Fan is a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Hydes. Scott will again do the play-by-play on WMAR Ch. 2’s Thanksgiving Day telecast of the Turkey Bowl. Patrolling the sidelines and telling human interest stories will be WMAR anchor Jamie Costello, a parishioner of St. Isaac Jogues in Carney.
The Turkey Bowl rivals have plenty of representatives in the business. Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports “NFL Insider,” is a 1992 graduate of Loyola Blakefield. His competition includes ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, who went to St. Francis of Assisi School in Mayfield and spent his freshman year at Calvert Hall before his family moved to Carroll County. Dan Connolly, who covers major league baseball for The Sun, is a 1987 graduate of Calvert Hall.
Jeff Zrebiec, the lead football writer for The Sun, is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland. Kevin Van Valkenberg, a senior correspondent for ESPN the Magazine, worships in Baltimore. He was married at Corpus Christi and had his children baptized by Monsignor Rich Bozzelli.
There are others, too many to mention, in a chain that links back to Loyola Blakefield grads Jim McKay and Vince Bagli defining TV sports nationally and locally, respectively. Why is that connection so strong? Very simply, Catholic schools turn out good communicators. I was reminded of that a few years ago, when I taught Sports Media at Towson University. In a 400 level class, some students had trouble producing a coherent 800 words on a topic. The three guys from Calvert Hall ate up those assignments.
November 17, 2014 12:39
By Paul McMullen
Do you like to visit flea markets?
Favor Antiques Roadshow over Monday Night Football?
If so, you would have had a blast helping us put together the special edition marking the 225th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which was established Nov. 6, 1789.
I had the pleasure – along with Assistant Managing Editor George Matysek; Emma Welcher, our former social media coordinator; and Jessica Marsala, one of our freelance writers – of sifting through some of the thousands of Catholic Review photos stored at the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Roland Park, in search of gold. We wistfully left the attic of the archdiocese, knowing that we couldn’t share all of the old gems we came across.
On the third of my four trips there, I indulged myself and went to a box marked “R,” in search of news from Feb. 9, 1967, the day the roof collapsed on 120 schoolchildren and adults attending a weekday Lenten Mass at St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn. The photo here was like a lightning bolt to the brain, reconnecting some old synapses. You can see a city fire or police officer in a white cap, taking in the damage from the choir loft.
It was in that loft, during an Advent Mass in December 1960, to the left of the clock that is stopped at 8:10 a.m., where Sister Esperance, my first-grade teacher, gently urged me not to sing so loud. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as Leonard Cohen’s “drunk in the midnight choir,” but evidently I could not carry a tune.
I was not deterred, however, as friends and family who have endured my attempts at karaoke will attest.
November 05, 2014 03:46
By Paul McMullen