Tom Boswell has seen a lot of hall of fame ceremonies and met a lot of hall of famers. And we’re not just talking SSSAS Hall of Fame. Since November 1969, when Tom got his first byline in The Washington Post—or perhaps even earlier, when he was on the sports staff of the St. Stephen’s newspaper, The Deacon—he has had “ink in the blood.” He has met or spoken to, he thinks, more than half of the hall of famers ever inducted into Cooperstown.
Since 1997 Tom has presided over the induction ceremony of every member of the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School Hall of Fame. In 2015, the seventh such ceremony will be his last hurrah behind the microphone at SSSAS. “I have met everyone in the SSSAS Hall of Fame at one time or another and many of the athletes they coached,” he says.
Tom would put the SSSAS Hall of Fame up there with, and maybe even above, any hall of fame because of the excellence of the athletic program and how it furthers the mission of the school. “The intensity and commitment of the school, with high academic standards and ethics, has no match,” he says. “Very few other schools live up to those standards, and this has continued to be the case over the years.” What impresses him more is that “SSSAS has probably raised the level of athletics while at the same time it has raised the standards in other areas, academic and artistic, without anything falling out of line. In any meaningful confrontation between academics and athletes, sports always has to give way. I remain as impressed by my experience of sports at St. Stephen’s during my time, and by what I have seen firsthand of SSSAS sports over the last four decades, as any institution to which I’ve been exposed.”
It was of course Tom’s style to want to share his thoughts about the Saints over the phone rather than respond to questions via email—on a Sunday, in his spare moments between covering the Redskins game and catching a plane for the World Series opener. He always has a few moments for the school that is the focus of his true loyalty and love.
“I was tickled. I very much appreciate the induction,” Tom says. “I’m genuinely honored. And I’m also very glad about the ‘honorary.’ That makes it okay (for me to enjoy it). If I’d been a terrible athlete in school, I’d just say how glad I was to make it through the back door. But I tried hard to be as good as I could be, which ended up being average. So I feel like I’m nosing in among the people I tried to compete against, and while I sometimes did okay, I knew they were much better. When you compete, the difference matters. Twenty or 30 years ago, some baseball writers my age occasionally came to ballparks early in the afternoon to shag balls in the outfield or take batting practice and see if they could reach the Monster (at Fenway). That bothered me. They didn’t belong out there. I’ve never stepped across the foul lines. I don’t think it’s mythological or symbolic or any other nonsense. You just earn the right to be out there.”
Where Tom is NOT average is telling an incredible sports story, full of life lessons, thrills, disappointments, and triumphs. He recalls one from his own days as a high school athlete for the Saints: It was the IAC Championship game at Landon. He was playing third base. He usually played first. Bottom of the ninth. The Saints had a one-run lead. Bases were loaded. The batter hit a fly ball toward the third base line. At that time there was a hill near the foul line, and the third baseman had to tag out near the stands before pursuing the ball or else would fall down that steep hill going full speed. Tom tagged out and made a great catch to get the first out. Feeling like he “could really play third base now,” the next ball was hit right to him, a grounder. Instead of going for the force-out at home, Tom had dreams of “ending the inning and getting the championship right there” by tossing it to future Hall of Famer Guy Smythe ’66 for the 5-4 double play. Those dreams faded while the ball went right through Tom’s legs. “My greatest accomplishment was not crying on the bus on the way back from the game,” he says.
Tom Boswell, a recent inductee into the Hall of Fame of the Society of Professional Journalists, D.C. Pro Chapter—only the second sports writer in that organization’s history to be inducted—will be a 2015 honorary inductee into the SSSAS Hall of Fame; the first sports writer in our school’s history to be inducted. A fitting order to things since, for Tom, our school has always come first.
HONORS & AWARDS
Best sports journalism, 1981, the American Society of Newspaper Editors
Society of Professional Journalists, D.C. Pro Chapter Hall of Fame Inductee