Perhaps what the Navy lacrosse team needed was Joe Bellino, whose mere presence on an athletic field seems to turn Army to jelly. Unfortunately for the lacrossers, Bellino was at West Point last Saturday helping to win the baseball game 3-0. Army also lost at track and golf, but the pretty girls—weekend dates—who fluttered about the academy gained Army at least a tie for the day.
The baseball game was Bellino's final appearance as a member of a Navy team, and he departed in glory, doubling home the first run and scoring the second. Chuck Davis, a tall, brawny left-hander, pitched the shutout, the third straight year he has beaten Army. After the game the Army coach congratulated him. "Glad to see you graduate," he added.
Bellino, of course, also graduates this week. Four days later he will marry Ann Tansey, a girl from his home town of Winchester, Mass. After the honeymoon Joe will play in two all-star summer football games, then return to Annapolis, where he will be an assistant football coach. When the season is over he will be assigned sea duty aboard a destroyer.
This was not a great baseball season for Bellino. His throwing arm had been injured in the Orange Bowl game when he made that marvelous somersault catch of a pass for Navy's second touchdown. He had to switch from catcher to the outfield. At bat, Bellino was given a variety of soft pitches, high and wide. "We'd draw crowds at every game," said Bellino recently. "A lot of people came to see—well, to see me hit, I guess." So Bellino swung at bad pitches. Even so he hit .274 and led the team in home runs and runs batted in as Navy won 24 games and lost only two.
A great responsibility goes with being a Navy hero, and during his career at Annapolis, Joe Bellino fulfilled it with modesty and maturity. The social demands made on him before this Army game would have disturbed many athletes. He was almost never alone. Brass wanted to shake his hand. Old grads told him old stories. One little boy wanted to snap his picture. "You'd better move your hand away from the lens, son," Joe told him patiently. "You'll have a fine picture of your finger."
After the game it started to drizzle. The stands emptied and the two teams left for the dressing rooms. All that remained was a cluster of children out near the pitcher's mound. In the middle stood Joe Bellino, signing autographs.