When the S.S. President Roosevelt departed the New York harbor in the summer of 1928 with all the U.S. Olympics competitors aboard, her passenger list included a large Baltimore contingent — the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team.
- The Baltimoreans and Hopkins alumni filled the dock as the ocean liner sailed.
- Lacrosse was not a well-known sport then and the Olympic committee allowed lacrosse as a demonstration sport, a trial balloon to test whether the sport would catch on. That spring, lacrosse teams competed for the honor to represent the U.S. overseas at the Ninth Olympiad.
On a wet June 23 afternoon at the old Baltimore Stadium, Hopkins beat the University of Maryland at a game called the largest patronized lacrosse contest to date.
- The Hopkins team sailed July 10 for the Ninth Olympiad aboard the SS President Roosevelt, which had been chartered for the summer.
- The ship docked at Amsterdam and was the live-in quarters for all the teams throughout the Olympic games.
- Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who would later appear as Tarzan in films, and General Douglas MacArthur, who represented the American Olympics Committee, were also aboard.
Lacrosse was so little known that the American team had only two competitors — Canada and Great Britain. On Aug. 5, 1928, Hopkins beat Canada, 6-3 at the Amsterdam Olympics Stadium before a crowd of 40,000. “Amazed laughter arose from the spectators at what they considered undue roughness,”
- The Sun reported. The next day the American-Hopkins team lost to the British, who were then defeated by Canada. “All three were about where they started,” said The New York Times.
- America’s Lacrosse team sails to Europe for the Olympics aboard the SS President Roosevelt. The athletes are “dressed up for the parade” – July 28, 1928.
The SS President Roosevelt was a passenger liner of the United States Lines that was involved in a famous heroic rescue of the crew of the British ship Antinoe in the Atlantic Ocean in January 1926.
SS President Roosevelt.
The captain of the ship, George Fried, was given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan in honor of his heroism.
Helen Keller aboard the S.S. President Roosevelt with Polly Thomson, Anne Sullivan Macy, and Captain Van Beck, 1932.
Newspaper photo announcing the departure of the U.S. Olympic team to Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1928, aboard the S.S. President Roosevelt.
General Douglas McArthur and aide on board the S.S. President Roosevelt, July 1928. Sailing with the U.S. Olympic team to the 1928 events in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Johnny Weismuller and Tom Biddison on board the S.S. President Roosevelt, July 1928.
A watercolor of the SS President Roosevelt which served the US Lines from 1922-39.
- The SS President Roosevelt and her sister the SS President Harding were typical ships of the 535 class (Harris Class Transports) which were created for trooping and cargo duties during WWI by the US Shipping Board through the Emergency Fleet Corporation.
- They never saw service in the war (WW I) — they were created for although both vessels were around when hostilities broke out “over there” once more.