Tom Masterson: Crimson's Fastest Draw
They Call Him Bat
Oh when the west was young
There lived a man named Masterson.
He wore a cane and derby hat,
They called him Bat,
BAT MASTERSON! --Theme song from the Bat Masterson Show.
When he began playing football for the Rosedale Jets at the impressionable age of seven, Tom Masterson acquired the nickname "Bat" from his TV-watching teammates. Eleven years later when he arrived at Harvard and suited up for freshman football, backfield coach Ralph Ceseri began calling him Bat on the first day of practice and from then on so did his teammates.
The first day of freshman football practice was a crossroads in the career of Bat Masterson for another reason. All through high school he had played either safety or cornerback. However, when the freshman gridders began to group themselves by position, Masterson noticed there were eight players at safety and a covey of cornerbacks. "There were only three guys at adjustor so I lined up there," he recalls nonchalantly. Three years later, as a senior, Bat Masterson is the starting adjustor for the Crimson eleven.
Adjustor is a hybrid position, known as monsterback in the midwest, which requires a player equally adept at guarding against the pass and run. Masterson always lines up on the strong side opposite the opposing team's tight end, which means most of the power running plays come his way, though he is also responsible for picking up the tight end on passing plays.
While growing up in the Rosedale section of Queens in New York City, Masterson commenced his career with the Jets and matriculated through three years of Long Island Midget football and a year in the Pop Warner league before St. Francis Prep high school. The school's most famous alumnus is none other than Vince Lombardi--though Harvard star Rich Szaro, now a field goal kicker for the New Orleans Saints, also attended St. Francis.
St. Francis is a perennial parochial school kingpin and in Masterson's junior year his squad went 9-0 and was ranked eighth in the nation. Masterson managed to do most of his homework while riding the three subways to school in the morning and another subway to football practice at Prospect Park in Brooklyn in the afternoon.
Masterson's namesake of television is William Barclay "Bat" Masterson. The original Bat Masterson was a frontier lawman fabled for his panache as a dresser and highstakes gambler. Born in Iroquois County, Ill. in 1853, Masterson became deputy sheriff of notorious Dodge City, followed the gold rush prospectors to Deadwood, S.D., and then went to enforce the law at aptly named Tombstone, Ariz. at the behest of Marshall Wyatt Earp. Masterson closed out his career as a sportswriter for the New York Telegraph.
Harvard's Bat Masterson has also been involved in his share of life or death brushes while working as a lifeguard at Jacob Riis Park in Brooklyn. Guarding the 300,000 Brooklynites who flocked to Riis Park on one single July afternoon last summer can be just as harrowing as fingering a sixshooter at sunset on Dodge City mainstreet. One one occasion, for example, Masterson and three fellow lifeguards had to rescue fifteen drowning teenagers who tried to swim out to a sand bar.
Masterson's father is a lawman himself, having served on the New York City police force for 23 years, rising to the rank of sergeant. When Masterson was a junior at St. Francis, he and his father attended the Harvard-Yale Game. "My father asked me 'do you think you could be down there?'," Masterson recalls, "and I really couldn't imagine myself in that position."
Last year, Masterson returned to the Yale Bowl and found himself in just such a position. What's more, he came up with an interception in The Game. If any of his old friends from Rosedale were watching on TV, they must have thought it was a re-run of the Bat Masterson Show.