Chapter 22

After the Game

Bruce Dudley of the Louisville "Herald" watched from the press box as the two teams, surrounded by their adoring admirers, began to wind around the north side, end zone bleachers toward the locker room. He hustled down the stairs, weaving in and out, and barely beat the first arrivals as they came through the door.

Later, in the early evening, Dudley bent over his typewriter and then wired his impressions back to Louisville for publication.

Boston, Mass. Oct. 23

Success is not so much in winning, but in playing well the hand you have.

The truth of this assertion never was more emphasized than in the Centre-Harvard conflict which Centre numerically lost by 31-14, but in which Centre, by its exhibition of courageous manliness, won the hearts of all and merited everlasting gridiron glory.

The little college in the Kentucky Bluegrass which President Woodrow Wilson told a meeting of the Princeton alumni "has turned out more men who have reached fame than Princeton, with all its years and members,is triumphant in defeat. It won everything today but the game, and the game was lost because courage could not overcome such a number of superior physiques which Coach Fisher had in his Crimson hoard. But Centre kept the faith. It fought a heroic fight which roused the sold-out stadium crowd to the heights of enthusiastic admiration. It heightened Kentucky's star in the Grand Old Flag. It upheld the fine traditions of Kentucky's manhood. It battled as nobly as any band ever led by Daniel Boone. But why yearn for victory when Centre's triumph over hearts is more lasting and more to be desired?

At the conclusion of the contest, Harvard men remained on the field to shake hands and praise every Centre man, and as soon as the Crimson players redeemed their street clothing, they impulsively hastened to the Centre dressing room and again praised the men individually for their lion-hearted work. Arnold Horween, a very big factor in Harvard's success, carried the game ball to Bo McMillin and asked him to accept it with the admiration of Harvard.

Bo, with eyes bubbling with tears, thanked the Harvard captain for such an unprecedented spirit of sportsmanship, but said he could not accept a ball that Centre hadn't won.

"Well, let me tell you this then," said Horween, placing his arm around McMillin. "You are the best quarterback who ever walked into that stadium."

"If you hadn't been in the Harvard line-up, we might have won, Bo replied.

Prominent Harvard men and football officials flocked into the Centre locker room to shower praise on the athletes.

Coach Bob Fisher was one of the first to arrive.

"Boys," he said to the Kentuckians, "I consider you at the fore of the greatest football players who ever trod a gridiron. I want to tell you that you had me worried sick throughout the contest. I want to express the appreciation of all Harvard for your worth. You have shown Harvard that you are true-blue gentlemen and a foe of the rarest merit. Harvard invites you to an annual date on its football calendar. This is how much Harvard thinks of you.

Fisher shook hands with Bo. "You are the greatest quarterback I've ever seen. I hope to see you up here next year. "

"This is my one hope, replied Bo. "And next year, we'll give you a better fight." 

"It was plenty hard enough for me today," vouched the great mentor.

Tiny Maxwell, who weighs about two tons, puffed into the dressing room. "Boys, I want you to know you played the cleanest, squarest, fightingest game I ever refereed, he said. ''I'm for you and for you strong. Today's game will live as one of the most courageous struggles in football."

Percy Haughton, the great, former coach of the Crimson, rushed in and asked for McMillin.

"You are the greatest quarterback in the world," he told Bo. "In no battle did Napoleon handle his men more brilliantly than you handled Centre today. Centre has the greatest offensive team that ever launched an attack against Harvard. "

"Pooch" Donovan, the legendary trainer for Harvard, came into the dressing room to speak to the Colonels' players.

Harvard Trainer, "Pooch" Donovan

"I've seen nearly every great squad over the years, and this team ranks up there with the very best. I congratulate you, each and every one of you, for your fine showing. "

A great crowd of Harvard students massed outside of the Centre locker room and stood patiently for almost an hour to pay their respects to the beloved warriors. When the Kentuckians came out, they were given an ovation never before paralleled in college athletics. All were deeply affected by such a touching and unusual tribute. How many times in the history of athletics have hundreds and hundreds of  victorious students been so impressed with the merits of the losing team that they have  stood  for an hour to cheer the defeated?

It was late in the afternoon, the sun setting behind the locker room, when the weary Colonels carried their duffle bags of equipment to the team buses. Just before Uncle Charlie boarded, he saw Coach Fisher rushing up, accompanied by a distinguished looking gentleman.

"Coach Moran, I want you to meet Mr. Frederick Moore. Mr. Moore is a Harvard man and quite a supporter of our football team."

Moore was a wealthy businessman who served as the graduate manager of the Harvard Athletic Association. The 50-year old Moore could hardly contain himself.

"Harvard wants to play Centre next year, even if we have to go to Danville for the game."

Uncle Charlie could only imagine what any team from Harvard would think when they ran onto a scruffy field and saw the patched together wooden bleachers which contrasted so starkly with the classic lines of Harvard Stadium.

"Don't fail to reserve a date for us," continued Moore. "We want to see more of the Centre College team. If Centre doesn't come back next season, we'll be sick at heart. We'll give you a choice contract and if necessary, Harvard will travel to Danville for the game. We must play your boys again. They've won our admiration and respect, and furthermore, they've taught us a lot about football."  

Bo's desire to return the next year was a big factor in Harvard wanting Centre to appear the next year.

Coach Fisher continued the conversation. "Mr. Moore is correct. Our game with you has made our team. We are right on edge now for any eleven in the country. The game was a wonderful experience for us and we must play you again. We will come to Danville if you'd like, or we'll play you here if that's what you wish. But we must have another contest."

The Harvard men's comments were extraordinary. Harvard just didn't venture far from home when it played. Since 1900, the Crimson team had taken the field 187 times, and only 28 of those games were on the road, and of those, the only trip of any significant distance was the January 1, 1920, Rose Bowl game.

Program for Harvard's only post-season game ever, the January 1, 1920 Rose Bowl game after the 1919 season

Other than the Rose Bowl, Harvard's other games away from home were in the East, with the most distant being the two 425 mile trips to Annapolis to play Navy.





West Point, NY



New Haven, CT



Princeton, NJ



Philadelphia, PA



Annapolis, MD


To be willing to travel over 1000 miles by train all of the way to Danville, Kentucky, demonstrated just how seriously Harvard wanted to meet Centre again, and the degree to which the college was willing to go in order to assure that Centre would put the Crimson on the schedule.

Uncle Charlie later told the Chief about the conversation with Frederick Moore and Coach Fisher. They both had to chuckle at the thought of Harvard and the team's fans rolling into Danville.

But while that possibility may have amused the two, what they found gratifying was that Centre would be back. An offer had been made, and from that moment on, the Colonels' mentors began to envision how the next visit could result in victory for the Gold and White.

The evening after the game the Centre team members were the guests of the Harvard Club for dinner. They changed into their best attire and most walked the several blocks to the club, a four story brick structure built in 1912, on 374 Commonwealth Avenue.

Harvard Club as the Colonels saw when they entered the evening following the game

One bus ferried the coaches and their wives and the cripples from the game. The two Reds were on the bus. Red Weaver's knees were terribly tender. Red Roberts was walking with a cane borrowed from a fan at the Arlington. George Chinn had his injured shoulder protected by using a sling.

As the Kentuckians entered the foyer, they were met by the club manager and led into the elegant foyer, and then into the most beautiful room any of them had ever seen, Harvard Hall, a four-story banquet and dining room with mahogany paneling halfway up the height of the walls, exquisite marble fireplaces, and majestic silver chandeliers.

Harvard Hall in the Harvard Club ready for dinner

The Colonels were met by spontaneous applause by over 400 members who were standing as they entered. Soon they were surrounded by Harvard alumni who wanted to shake each of the player's hands and know their names.

What followed was a night the entourage from Danville would never forget. The menu included oysters, clam chowder, Caesar salad, prime rib, asparagus, corn pudding, and wonderful, freshly baked breads, topped off by bowls of ice cream and chocolate eclairs.

Following dinner, a welcoming speech was made by the Harvard Club president who spoke about how the Colonels had gained the admiration of, "all of the Northeast for your quality of play and sportsmanship."

Then the members stood and belted out a hardy, "Hip, hip, hooray for Centre."

Dr. Ganfield rose and thanked the hosts for having invited the team to the Club for such a wonderful evening. "From the minute we left the train, until this very moment, we have been treated with courtesies by everyone in Boston."

Bo was asked to say a few words, but instead, beckoned to his teammates to stand and together they returned the member's cheer with a "Hip, hip, hooray for Harvard."

It seemed an appropriate way to end the evening. After another round of handshakes, the team filed out of the Harvard Club, returned to the Arlington and packed for the return to South Station. It was a weary group of young men who made their way to their Pullman. They were saddened by their loss, gratified by their play, and absolutely in awe of the reception that they had received during their 34½ hours in Boston.

The "Special" pulled out of the station at midnight. Most of the travelers headed for their berths. A few made their way to the dining car and recounted the events of the day.

The train retraced its earlier route, back through Massachusetts, past Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and finally braked to a halt the next morning on a siding on the tracks of a New York Central subsidiary, the Buffalo and Niagara Railroad.

Sunday, October 24, was spent at Niagara Falls, first climbing up to the observation deck overlooking the American Falls, and then later taking a boat ride which came so close to the falling, roaring waters that the passengers were covered with mist.

Several of the more adventurous players took a gondola ride across the Falls, transported by a dangling cable.

Gondola ridden by some of the more daring Colonels

Five hours after leaving the "Special," following lunch and the obligatory purchasing of souvenirs and postcards, the Colonels re-boarded in the early afternoon and the big steamer pulled the train back onto the main line for the ride back toward Kentucky.

It was during the evening that Uncle Charlie and the Chief finally had time to analyze the statistics from the game. Thad McDonnell had gotten them from the official scorer prior to leaving the stadium.

Centre gained 133 yards through the air to only 13 for Harvard, but Harvard had a big advantage on the ground, running for 276 yards to only 129 for the Colonels. The overall offensive total for Harvard was 289 yards while Centre picked up 262, a mere 27 yard advantage for the Crimson.

It was in penalties that Centre had a definite, unfortunate margin over Harvard. The Colonels were penalized a total of 129 yards to only 48 for their opponents. There were no infractions for roughness. Centre played a clean game. Rather, the penalties were for holding and, due to the eagerness of the Colonels, many yards were marched off for jumping off sides.

Howard Reynolds and Grantland Rice wrote that the difference in the two teams was in the line play, particularly from the tackles. Sully Montgomery and Bill James had played their hearts out, both going the entire 60 minutes without any substitutes to give them a breather. They were worn down as the second half progressed, and many of the Crimson gains were power runs right over their positions. They were simply outmanned, not outfought.

Both Reynolds and Rice had ventured that if the tackles on the two teams had switched sides, the game may very well have had the score reversed, with the Colonels coming out on top. Certainly the skill positions in the backfield and at the ends found comparable talent on both squads.

All in all, Moran and Myers were proud of their team's performance. They felt it had been a great football game and their boys had handled themselves well both on and off the field. They had reacted as they had been taught. They had lived up to their responsibilities as Centre men.

The Kentuckians slept through the state of Ohio, had breakfast in the dining car between Cincinnati and Lexington and were eager to complete the last leg of their marathon adventure, the less than hour run from Lexington to Danville's Southern Railroad station.

The players and fans were no more eager for the "Special" to arrive than those who were waiting at the station.