Some Things Are Meant To Be

Sept. 3, 2005

By Brianne Mallaghan
Special to

On June 23 of this past summer, Dr. James P. Walsh celebrated his 75th birthday. But that was not the only milestone to be proud of. June 23, 2005, also marked the 25th year of service Walsh has contributed to the Holy Cross athletics training staff and it solidified a bond, more than 50 years strong between Walsh (Class of 1952) and the school itself.

While Walsh will tell you that landing a job in Worcester, Mass., 53 years ago was just happenstance, those associated with both him and Holy Cross will tell you that it was a blessing.

"Dr. Walsh has always been a great asset to our training staff," said head athletic trainer Anthony Cerundolo. "He is so involved and very helpful. He is always there if we need him."

Holy Cross head orthopedic physician, Dr. Phil Lahey (Class of 1969), who has known Dr. Walsh for the better part of 35 years and has worked with him for more than 26 years, could not agree more. "Dr. Walsh has made a tremendous commitment, both personally and professionally, to Holy Cross. He has treated the Holy Cross athletes like part of his family in all the best ways and has made an invaluable commitment to Crusader athletics."

After receiving his degree from Holy Cross in 1952, Walsh went on to earn a medical degree from Georgetown University in 1956. Following his graduation, the Waterbury, Conn., native landed an internship at St. Vincent's hospital in Worcester, before being stationed in Korea from 1957-1959 while serving in the Army.

But spending two years oversees proved extremely beneficial for Walsh. During his residency in 1960, Dr. Walsh traveled back to Korea and worked as a civilian at the Saint John of God clinic. He spent four years at Saint John of God and then came back to Worcester and completed his residency before opening up his own practice at the Vernon Medical Center on Winthrop Street, where he specializes in general medicine.

It was not until 1978 that Holy Cross came knocking.

Dr. Walsh received a phone call from Joe McDonough, who was the assistant athletic director at the time, regarding the position of head of sports medicine at the school. "Mr. McDonough said he wanted me to meet with Dr. Paul Shannon, who was the orthopedic surgeon at the time, and Jack Scott, who was the school's head athletic trainer," explained Walsh. "I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the issue, so I agreed."

Little did Dr. Walsh know, however, that the topic of conversation at their meeting would be about everything but the job. "We met at a restaurant on Millbury Street and had a lovely dinner and a nice dessert, while talking about everything under the sun. Afterwards, they said, `Have a good night, we'll see you.' And I said, `I thought we were going to talk about the job,'" Walsh said, laughing. "They replied, `Well you are going to take it aren't you?' and I said `Yes, sure.' So that was the extent of the discussion."

Dr. Walsh's role at the time was as the director of sports medicine. Among other things, he coordinated the medical physicals of all of the school's athletic teams and handled problems such as illnesses, colds and flu ailments, while providing medical coverage for both home and away events.

"Jim Walsh is the most caring doctor I have ever known," said Dr. Lahey. "He has cared and continues to care more about Holy Cross athletics than anybody and he deserves a lot of credit for what he has done for the athletes and the school."

These days, Dr. Walsh acts as the training staff's medical advisor and still plays a very active role in the medical treatment of all the school's athletes. He specifically concentrates on the medical problems of the football and men's basketball teams, while offering help regarding medical issues for all other athletes on an individual basis. He makes himself available to see student-athlete patients at both Holy Cross and also at his own office.

A typical day for Dr. Walsh consists of hospital visits beginning at 5:30 a.m. Once he has completed his rounds at the hospital, he has office hours from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., followed by a trip to a few local nursing homes to visit patients.

But Dr. Walsh is able to set aside time for things other than work. He spent his birthday traveling in Korea and China, celebrating the opening of a new hospice hospital in Northern China. "There was a gathering for my birthday in Korea where I used to work and then we got on a plane to China," said Walsh. "Thirty-two of us - brothers and priests involved with the order and some lay people who work in the Saint John of God clinic - went over there for three days to celebrate the opening of the hospice."

Dr. Walsh even does his fair share of traveling with the teams. "I am almost always with football and I travel with basketball about ninety percent of the time," said Walsh. "Basketball is a long season, and I still need to make a living with my practice," he said laughing. "But it keeps me going."

And despite the fact that his position with the athletic training office no longer requires him to be present at the games, Walsh says he goes to the games because he enjoys them. "I have never played sports, but I have always liked sports and it is nice to be around the kids because we have a pretty good bunch. Being there, it is just a fun time. I call the games my `mini vacations,'" he said.

In fact, Dr. Walsh said he has only missed two or three football games over the years. And this season, he plans to be at all of the games - home and away.

Aside from his medical ties with the football team, Dr. Walsh may be known best for his game day attire. He can easily be identified as the man on the sidelines who always sports a suit and tie. "People always ask me why I never wear a jacket on the sidelines, especially in the cold. But what they do not understand is that the wind down on the field is not a factor," explained Walsh. "And when I am constantly walking up and down the sidelines, I do not get cold. It is just not as cold when you are moving as it is if you are just sitting there in the stands," he said.

Mystery solved.

As a student at Holy Cross, Dr. Walsh witnessed a great deal of success in the athletic arena. He was there for the school's only national championship in baseball (1952), and was around for the buzz the basketball team generated with an NCAA championship in 1947 and a National Invitation Tournament title in 1954.

And now as a fan of Holy Cross athletics, Dr. Walsh hopes someday that same success can be repeated, although he is wary about making any predictions. "I am not a football expert. I am not a basketball expert. I am just hoping the teams get better every season and win a few more games."

Walsh said he chose to go to school at Holy Cross simply because of the number of people from his hometown that attended school here at that time. That, also, some may say, could just be happenstance. But call it what you will, Holy Cross was lucky to have found Dr. James P. Walsh. After all, some things are just meant to be.