“A Friend of the Gutted Stick:” Francis “Babe” Kraus

November 7th, 2019

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

There may have been a time at Hobart when lacrosse and Francis (Babe) Kraus were not synonymous but then too, there was probably the period when ham was not linked up with eggs and tea did not line up with crumpets.
Geneva Daily Times “Press Box Patter,” March 26, 1954

Francis “Babe” Kraus is a local legend to people of a certain age. They may have attended Hobart lacrosse games, been his neighbor, or gone to school with his sons or grandsons. For others, Kraus may just be a name on a trophy. With our current exhibit, Statesmen, Herons, and Lakers: College Sports in Geneva, this is a good time to remember Babe Kraus.

young man in a suitFrancis “Babe” Kraus (1899-1966) was born in Fulton, NY. After one year at Colgate University, he transferred to Hobart in 1921. He was a star athlete in football, basketball, and lacrosse. In spite of never seeing a lacrosse game until he played in one, he was named an All-American in the sport in 1924. Picking up a stick and trying the game in college is a thing of the past. At least in the Finger Lakes, kids begin playing lacrosse around four years old.

After graduating in 1924, Kraus played one season for the National Football League Buffalo Bisons. The season was October and November, against the Rochester Jeffersons, Columbus Tigers, Dayton Triangles, and other Midwest teams. Players were paid by the game, so after the season Kraus returned to Hobart to work.

older man in a baseball cap and jacketKraus held many titles at Hobart over the years. Eventually, he was professor of physical education, and director of athletics. His coaching history included varsity and freshman football, varsity and freshman basketball, and varsity baseball. These were short stints compared to being the varsity lacrosse head coach. He held that job from 1927 to 1966, with a record of 207 wins, 120 losses, and 5 ties. Fifty-seven of his players earned All-American status, a national honor for skill and sportsmanship.

In 1956, the annual North-South Senior All-Stars lacrosse game was held in Geneva, in part to honor Kraus’ 30 years as Hobart lacrosse coach. As shown by the Geneva Times headline, it was much more than just a game. There was a downtown parade, a lacrosse queen beauty pageant, and lacrosse workshops. In addition, there was a dinner dance at the Geneva Country Club in Kraus’ honor.

Geneva Times Headline From 1956 - "15,000 Jam City Streets for Lacrosse Parade;/ Babe Krause Dinner, Queen Selection Tonight

young man in a lacrosse uniform, a man in a suit and tie and a referee

Kraus’ sons Joe (right, class of 1950) and Jon (class of 1955) played for him at Hobart. The college yearbook notes of Jon’s senior year: “To those who know this family it must have given them a mighty chuckle this spring to see Captain Jon arguing with brother Joe as referee while father ‘Babe’ looked on knowingly from his coaching spot.” Kraus’ grandsons continued the family Hobart tradition: Jim (1974), Jerry (1979), Joe and Jamie (both 1980).

In 1965, Kraus was inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame at the old Boswell Field. He passed away the following year after suffering from pneumonia.

Kraus’ name is kept alive locally, regionally, and nationally. The Francis L. “Babe” Kraus ’24 Memorial Award recognizes a Hobart senior for sportsmanship, leadership, and scholarship. The Kraus-Simmons Trophy is contested between Hobart and Syracuse, honoring Roy Simmons Sr., Syracuse’s legendary coach.  Finally, each year the US Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) gives the “Babe Kraus Award” to the Division III College Coach of the Year.

Postscript: What is a “gutted stick”? I found the phrase in a poem quoted in the March 26, 1954 Geneva Daily Times “Press Box Patter” column. It refers to when lacrosse sticks were strung with gut or rawhide.

6 responses to ““A Friend of the Gutted Stick:” Francis “Babe” Kraus”

  1. Jack Bryan says:

    My dad, John Bryan, GHS ’35, mentioned Babe Kraus thorughtout his life. The coach made quite an impression on a young boy and man who grew up on West and Washington Streets. And the same with my two uncles, both Hobart grads after WW II. No one in our family played lacrosse until decades later, but Coach Kraus clearly brought great pride to Geneva.

  2. Jerry Kraus says:

    Thank you for that very nice article about Grandpa Babe and the Family! Remembering Dad and Uncle Jon this Veteran’s Day!

  3. Bill Kraus says:

    Wow, always great to see articles about Grandpa Babe….extra special to include Uncle Joe and my dad Jon.

  4. Joe Kraus Jr says:

    Hello Geneva
    Thanks for the look back in time. Quite a few folks have reached out after this story came out. Jim and I were ball boys at the North South game on old Boswell. We loved the orange slices at halftime. What is a bit ironic is that Grampa Babe died in 1966 when I had just turned 16. We lived in Pittsburgh and we moved back to Geneva to be with Gramma Margo (Margaret B Kraus). There was no lacrosse in Pittsburgh back then. It was in Geneva that the grandsons had the opportunity to learn and play lacrosse- starting at Geneva High.
    Joe Jr GHS 1969

  5. Terri Roberts Egan says:

    My grandparents were friends of “Babe and Margo’s”. When I met Janet Kraus, my grandma was so happy! She shared stories of Babe’s lacrosse days. Unfortunately, Babe and my grandfather both died in 1966. Hobart and Babe are one and the same!

  6. Jane Kraus Current says:

    You all knew him as coach/teacher/mentor. He was my dad. A gentle giant. A humble man. A loving husband and father. Thank you for your remembrance.

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