James J. Fitzgerald, E30 — Baseball, Basketball, Football - 2020 Inductee

Introduction of Jim Fitzgerald, presented by Brandon Linton, Tufts Head Men's Basketball Coach

The 1920’s are commonly referred to as the “Golden Age” of American sports. College football came of age in the 1920s, and college basketball was on the ascent. Baseball had established itself as the “national pastime”, and Babe Ruth was the most famous athlete in America.

Tufts had its own sports heroes in the 1920s. As part of our inaugural Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame class 2018, we inducted a Jumbo legend from the 1920s -- the great Fred "Fish" Ellis. And tonight, we are excited to honor one of Fish’s contemporaries and a fellow multi-sport star at Tufts -- Winchester's own, Jim Fitzgerald.

As the head men’s basketball coach at Tufts, I’m pleased to know that Jim was a proud member of the Jumbo men’s basketball team….but I’ll have to concede that football and baseball were definitely where Jim achieved his notoriety.

Standing 6-foot, 3 inches tall, weighing 220 pounds and affectionately known as "Big Reds", Jim started at tackle – on both offense and defense – for three years at Tufts. He was a team leader on Tufts’ undefeated football team in 1927, one of just three undefeated football teams in school history. Jim was named an All-American by the United Press International for his performance that season.

As a reflection of his athleticism and versatility, one of Jim’s finest moments on the football gridiron came when he made a remarkable 53-yard “drop-kick” field goal at the Tufts Oval on November 20, 1926 against the University of Massachusetts. Fish Ellis encouraged Jim to kick it, and that 3-point drop-kick complemented the 6 extra-point kicks Jim converted that day to help the Jumbos to a 45-13 victory. With the drop kick no longer part of the modern game, Jim’s incredible 53-yard kick has etched his name in the Tufts Athletics history books forever.

For all of his successes in football, Jim was arguably an even better baseball player. His very successful career at Tufts earned him an opportunity to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the championship Osterville team, and he led the league in home runs and runs batted in one summer. In 1929, Jim was offered a $10,000 contract by the Detroit Tigers and a $5,000 contract by the Boston Red Sox. However, Jim turned down those offers, choosing instead to finish his civil engineering degree at Tufts and take over the family construction business.

As Arthur Sampson of Boston Herald once wrote about Jim, “Most of the rival football players who faced “Fitzie” on the line of scrimmage knew who he was by the time the game was over, and most of the rival pitchers who tried to throw a fast one by him learned who he was by the time the ninth inning rolled around. He always made a big impression on everyone with whom he happened to come in contact.”

A town selectman in Winchester for three consecutive terms who gave back so much to his community, Jim lived in Winchester his whole life until passing away in 1987.

So tonight we're very proud to honor another local hero from the Golden Age of Tufts Athletics, Jim Fitzgerald.