Chapter 15

Transylvania comes to Danville October 16
but Harvard is on Everyone’s Mind

Uncle Charlie and the Chief had always taught their players that you prepare for the upcoming game, not for some opponent in the future. They abandoned that philosophy now that Harvard was only two weeks away. All plans were now being made with Harvard in mind. Even though Transylvania was next, the last three games between the two old rivals had seen Centre win by a cumulative score of 149-3 and the boys from Lexington were not in Centre's league now. The coaches felt that they could concentrate on the Crimson from Cambridge, and not the Crimsons from Transy.

To emphasize how seriously Centre took the Harvard game, Dr. Ganfield and the athletic committee authorized Uncle Charlie to hire two new line coaches prior to the Transylvania game. The Chief was a great help, but now Moran needed more specialized coaching, especially in the line, and a former University of Pittsburgh, All-American guard ( 1916 ), Claude "Tiny" Thornhill, arrived on campus along with a former Georgetown (D.C.) lineman and team captain, Daniel  G. O'Conner, class of  1917, who had been recommended to Uncle Charlie by the legendary Jim Thorp.

Newly hired line coaches, Daniel G. O'Conner, top left, and Claude "Tiny" Thornhill, middle top, with Coach Uncle Charlie Moran, far right, and Athletic Director Chief Myers, sitting. 

The arrival of the new line coaches allowed Uncle Charlie the time that he needed to expand the offensive arsenal. The team worked on running interference after a pass, with the goal to have at least 7 men downfield after a completion, each with an assigned player to block. On Tuesday, October 12, the second team was equipped with crimson jerseys and simulated the Harvard attack. Uncle Charlie had received reports that Harvard had utilized a formation called the "revolving shift," and wanted to prepare his team so that the unusual lineup wouldn't catch his defense off guard.

The "shift" consisted of a Harvard lineman coming to the line of scrimmage and suddenly shifting to the opposite side of his line, resulting in unbalanced line, with four players to either the left or right of their center, while two men remained on the opposite side. The Colonels' defenders were placed according to whether the "shift" was to the left or right, and they quickly caught on to their positioning, shifting with their opponent's line shift.

"Shift left," Moran would instruct the Colonels, and his linemen would hop quickly over to the left of center. "Ben, you and Bill, slide over to your right if they shift in the opposite direction."

Then the second team went on the defense, and Bo took over the offense. Uncle Charlie had the team go into its passing drills, with several new patterns introduced. Lefty Whitnell, the speedy back from Fulton, Kentucky, was going to sub at halfback, and he and Bo worked on a play again that he and Lefty had used in scoring the last TD against Kentucky in the 1919 game.  

Lefty Whitnell

Lefty would dash down exactly 15 yards and cut sharply left. Bo would throw a bullet just as Whitnell cut out and the halfback would haul it in. Then, they'd run the same pattern but Lefty would do a little head fake like he was going to cut out, then would fly as fast as he could and Bo would hurl a high spiral, and again, his fleet back would reach out and pull it in. It was the same play that Bo and Lefty had combined on against Kentucky the year before which had eased the margin over the 50 point spread.

The only difference this year was that, "We'll set up the long pass by first running the cut-left before we go deep," said Uncle Charlie.

When the rest of the team had left the field after a hard, 3-hour practice, Lefty and Bo ran the two plays over and over until they were confident that they had the timing down perfectly.

"We can put some points on the board with that combination," Bo said as they finally trotted off the field to the dressing room.

During the week prior to the Transy game, there was a diversion which interrupted practice. It had to be awfully important for Uncle Charlie to let it take any time away from the team's preparations, and was.

United States Senator Warren Harding, Ohio Republican, was running for president against another Ohioan, Governor James M. Cox. Harding was heavily favored nationally, but the race in Kentucky was neck and neck, and Harding's advisors felt it would be politically astute if their man were to come to Danville and do a little campaigning, mainly consisting of having a photograph made with the Colonels, the biggest attraction in the Commonwealth.

Harding, and his wife, along with Republican United States Congressman King Swope, and a large contingent of reporters and photographers, disembarked from the Southern Railroad station and were transported to Cheek Field where a platform had been constructed for the event.

The Colonels had suited up in their game uniforms and clustered around the candidate as he effusively praised "the Wonder Team, the best football team in all of America." 

Presidential candidate Senator Warren Harding, center, with hands clasped, making campaign stop at Centre in October, 1920. On Harding's immediate left is Centre President William A. Ganfield. Red Weaver is far left with Bo, wearing his helmet, next to Weaver. 

On cue, the players let out a "Hip, hip, hooray, hip, hip, hooray for Harding."

When the cheer ended, the students sitting in the wooden bleachers opened up with, "Hip, hip hooray, hip, hip, hooray for Cox."

As Harding tried to give his speech about a return to "normalcy," he was again interrupted by the students who cheered for Cox.

Harding stopped in mid-sentence and admonished the students for their behavior. The team seemed greatly amused by the whole spectacle.

The next day's "Advocate" defended the student's behavior, feeling that they had acted "in a gentlemanly way."

Kentucky was indeed a toss-up state. Cox garnered 456,497 votes to Harding's 452,400. King Swope was voted out of office in the eighth distract, losing to Ralph Gilbert by a margin of slightly over 3000 ballots cast.

Of even more importance than a mere presidential candidate traveling to Danville was the return of Howard Reynolds, the Boston "Post" sports editor, who had sent a telegram to the Chief advising him that he planned to come to Danville as soon as the World Series between Brooklyn and Cleveland, which he was covering, concluded in Cleveland.

Reynolds boarded a train after the Indians won the seventh game on October 12, and headed south. He switched from the New York Central to the Southern in Cincinnati, came through Lexington, and arrived in Danville the morning of the 13th

Howard Reynolds had a lot invested professionally in the upcoming October 23 game between Centre and Harvard. It was he who had first promoted intersectional games, and Reynolds and Eddie Mahan had personally validated Centre as a worthy foe for the Crimson, not only athletically, but as a college which ran a clean and honorable program.

Reynolds planned on sending daily stories back to his paper in order to build even more interest in the upcoming contest. Ticket sales had been brisk. It didn't appear that more publicity was really needed, such was the public's desire to see the little David appear against the Goliath of college football in its big horseshoe stadium. His dispatches also included news about how those in Kentucky felt about the upcoming clash.   

However, Reynolds didn't just want the game to draw a big crowd. He wanted it to be an absolute sellout, and to that end, he was willing to spend 10 days promoting the Colonels. Reynolds felt that if Harvard had a big payday from the Centre game, it would make other programs in the East see that at least from a financial standpoint, intersectional games were attractive, and the athletic committees of Yale and Princeton would want to get on board, as well as colleges such as Columbia and Pennsylvania.

Reynolds was on a mission, but no more so that the Centre College Colonels, the student body, and the fans throughout the state.

The "Harvard Special" was taking shape. Dr. Ganfield announced that all students who wished to go to the game would be excused from classes. They would have to make up the work missed, but they wouldn't have any penalties from their absences. Also, the Monday after the game was announced as an official school holiday.

Reports started coming in about Louisvillians who were going to come by train to join the "Special" when it arrived in Lexington from Danville. People wondered just how that whole enterprise was going to be run. 

The "Harvard Special" organized by the Southern Railroad

The schedule detailed a trip of exactly 4 days. The Colonels' team was to have its own "Special Coach." 

Explanations were printed in various Kentucky papers.

The Southern Railroad was to be in charge. The rolling stock was to include the engine and coal car which would be owned by the Southern. The railroad was going to hook on a baggage car. The "Special" was to be an all-sleeper train and those cars would be supplied by the Pullman Company. Dining cars were always operated by the railroad, not by the Pullman Company. 

The Southern would operate the train from Danville to Lexington where an additional car from Lexington would be connected. The "Special" would then be hauled to Cincinnati, still under Southern steam, where the New York Central tracks originated. The Southern engine and coal car would be disconnected and the NYC lines would take over powering the cars. The entire rest of the trip from Cincinnati to Boston would be over the New York Central's tracks, or one of its subsidiary lines.

The number of Pullman sleepers originating in Danville was eight with one being dedicated to the team, so with the baggage car and 2 dining cars, there were eleven units. Another sleeper was going to be added in Lexington full of Lexingtonians. Therefore, the entire train had 12 cars total. The Pullmans were 14 or 16 section cars. A section could accommodate 4 people if 2 people shared each upper and lower bed. 

A "section" could sleep 4 

During the day, the seats would be in a daytime configuration. At night, a porter would slide the two lower seats together to make a lower bunk, comfortable for a couple, and pull an upper bunk down which would have been folded into the wall during the day. Then he'd draw curtains down so that each section would have some privacy.

Getting ready

The total number of passengers on the "Harvard Special" was right at 400, so an average of a little over 40 passengers would occupy each car, with some of the sections having only two occupants which would have made sleeping more comfortable. Of course, if one chose to sleep alone, there would be a surcharge added to the $110.00 round trip fare which included meals.

Besides the "Special," plans were being made in New York City by the Centre Alumni Association to get the college's fans to Boston. Rooms were reserved at the team's hotel, the Arlington, and special cars were booked on the "Merchant's Express" of the New Haven Railroad, which was to leave New York at 4:00 P.M. and pull into Boston at 9:10 P.M., allowing the alumni time to hustle to the Arlington to meet friends for a late dinner and perhaps some bootleg libations. ( Prohibition, due to the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, went into effect on January 16, 1920.)

Besides the New Haven Railroad, plans for other modes of transportation were being firmed up. The Eastern Steamship Line's "Great Northern," was to leave the dock in New York late in the afternoon on Friday, October 22, and tie up the next day at Boston's harbor in plenty of time for the afternoon game.

For those who wished to be transported from New York by automobile, it was announced that several "touring cars" were going to be made available which could carry seven passengers each. The vehicles were going to take the Old Boston Post Road which went through New Haven and Providence. The distance was 226 miles. The drive time was 9-10 hours, if there were no flats.

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Harvard game, it was almost forgotten that the Colonels had a game with Transylvania on October 16.

The last scrimmage which contained any contact was held on the 14th. The few locals who were allowed to watch noticed a significant change in the lineup. Bo was nowhere to be seen, and Hump Tanner was running the offense.

Uncle Charlie announced that Bo "has a little bit of a cold. Nothing serious, but I gave him the day off." Actually, Bo had gone to Cambridge to watch Harvard play Williams College. Uncle Charlie knew that Bo wasn't needed in the Transy game. The Centre coach knew that nobody in the country was more astute about sizing up an opponent than Bo.

From now till the game with Harvard, it was going to be more mental preparation than physical. The Centre staff planned to run plays, but the players were told "absolutely no contact!"

There were long chalkboard sessions. Line coaches Thornhill and O'Conner had played multiple times against Eastern teams and understood their style. A board was set up outside so that they players could sit in the stands and watch as formations were drawn up, and defensive or offensive plays were devised, hopefully for every Harvard strategy.

"We can't fumble and win."

"We can't have penalties and win."

"We have to not only be tougher physically, we have to be tougher mentally."

"We have to play smart."

"We can't make mistakes. We have to play a perfect game."

The Chief continuously fired up the team with stories about his Fort Worth North Side teams.

"We were better each year. The boys and I had a dream. We saw it. We envisioned it. We willed ourselves to be the best team in North Texas because we believed! No group of young men ever worked as hard as our team. We worked and we achieved! I've told you over and over- if you work- and you have- you'll become something. You'll become the champions of all football. You can go up there and beat Harvard. I know it!"

Then the Chief spoke from his heart, his voice now much more subdued.

"But boys, no matter how the game comes out, I'll be as proud of you as anyone could possibly be. Because, I'll know you gave it your all. You fought for Old Centre. You fought for all of Kentucky. You fought for the pride of football players all over the South."

If the weather gods had wanted to design a perfect day for a football game, Saturday, October 16, in Danville, Kentucky, could forever serve as a model. There was just a slight chill, a gentle breeze, and only a wisp of an occasional cloud in the blue sky. The trees around the campus were barely beginning to turn, and soon there would be a palette of colors which made the fall so beautiful and anticipated in the Bluegrass.

While the weather was perfect, so was the Colonels' performance against an outgunned Transylvania squad. Many in the stands had come from the surrounding counties to see the team that was going to meet Harvard seven days hence. Some had never seen a game and didn't really understand what was taking place on the field below. But they cheered when others cheered, certain that something good had happened for the Gold and White, their team now.

Also sitting in the stands, marveling at how a team with such a rickety wooden stadium had become so accomplished, was Harvard quarterback coach, W.B. Felton, who hoped to see exactly what the Crimson could expect to see in Cambridge the following Saturday afternoon.

Later, Coach Felton went to the Centre dressing room and thanked Uncle Charlie and Chief Myers for the hospitality that had been extended to him during his stay in Danville.

"But I expected to see a football game," he said, as he shook Moran's hand. Of course, Felton knew that Centre wasn't going to show but basic football. The Colonels didn't need to play any other way in dealing with Transy. Centre had been such an overwhelming favorite that bettors couldn't find anyone to cover their wagers no matter how many points were given. The only bets during the afternoon were on how many first downs Transy may make.

Hump started at quarterback in Bo's absence. The game wasn't as close as the 55-0 margin would indicate. Centre played 26 men and led 17-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 at the half, ran it up to 38-0 after three periods, and then tallied two T.D.'s and a field goal during the final quarter to end up, 55-0.

Comment in the story indicated that "Coach Moran used only 'straight' football plays...." as Centre knew Harvard scouts were in the grandstand.

Again, the Colonels were very democratic in their scoring with Roberts, Army, Snowday, Hump, Uncle Charlie's son, Tom, and Whitnell, all crossing the goal.

Red Roberts and Tom Moran each made good on a field goal.

The fans were really getting into Red Weaver's steak. The All-American was a perfect 7 for 7, and now he had extended his consecutive string to 70. After each kick, the crowd would shout out the total.

64! 65! 66! 67! 68! 69!

And finally, 70!!

For a period of the game, Moran instructed his team not to even try for a first down, but to run two plays into the line and punt so that the Colonels could practice their defensive formations.

Transy didn't register one first down. The only time Transylvania was able to get the ball into Centre's territory was when their quarterback, A.B. "Happy" Chandler, intercepted a pass and got it back past midfield. However, on the very next play, Chandler himself was intercepted and the Colonels again had possession.

( "Happy" Chandler had quite a career. He was a United States senator, twice Kentucky's governor, and served as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, helping integrate the game by championing the Brooklyn Dodgers' efforts to add Jackie Robinson to their roster in 1947. )

Centre was now 3-0, the record that they wanted going into the Harvard contest. The winning streak reached 22. The Colonels' tough defense had given up only the 2 first downs that Morris Harvey picked up on passes. The combined score of the three opening games was 241-0. Not a bad start, but of course, everyone knew that the opponents hadn't been major powers.