Centre Firms Up Its Starting Line-Up And Travel Squad
Tiny Thornhill had used the first 4 games of the season to experiment with various combinations of starters in the line. The backfield talent was so deep that Uncle Charlie could substitute freely without weakening the team. But the situation with the line was critical if Centre were to pull off the unexpected. Tiny thought it would be the performance of the front wall which would make the difference in the outcome.
Claude "Tiny" Thornhill, line coach
In the week leading up to the game, Tiny finalized his lineup. He decided to start Red Roberts in the line. Red could play as a tackle or fullback as well as an end.
James "Red" Roberts-Somerset, Ky.
Unless Red was needed for a short-yardage plunge, the big fellow would stay at left end.
Bill Shadoan had worked his way into a starting position at right guard. It was only his 5th game as a member of the Gold and White, but his prior experience of playing service ball had allowed him to quickly learn Tiny's system.
Bill Shadoan-Somerset, Ky.
Thornhill moved Bill James out from tackle to end. James had filled out to a solid 180 pounds, and his speed was essential to keep Harvard from successfully running end sweeps. He would start at right end. Red Roberts would sometimes switch positions with him depending on the play called as he did in the second half on October 29.
Bill James-Fort Worth, Tx.
The steady Ben Cregor would play in his regular position at left tackle.
Ben "Baldy" Cregor-Springfield, Ky.
Minos Gordy would start at the right tackle position.
Minos "Cajun" Gordy-Abbeville, La.
George "Buck" Jones would start at left guard.
George "Buck" Jones-Dallas, Tx.
Ed Kubale would round out the starting lineup at center.
Ed "Kube" Kubale- Fort Smith, Ar.
This was the line which would start. It was powerful.
Position Starter Weight
Right end Bill James 180
Right tackle Minos Gordy 182
Right guard Bill Shadoan 196
Center Ed Kubale 177
Left guard George "Buck" Jones 213
Left tackle Ben Cregor 180
Left end Red Roberts 215
Centre's line would average 191½ pounds which would be the equal of Harvard's. Tiny was confident that he could send in Frank Rubarth, who weighed 175, or Richard Gibson, at 180, and they could adequately hold their own in the trenches.
Dick Gibson-Louisville, Ky. Frank Rubarth-Gatesville, Tx.
( The various accounts of the line-ups had varying weights listed, and they may be more than a few pounds off. For instance, Red Roberts was noted to weigh anywhere from 215 to 225, and "Buck" Jones from 200 to 213.)
The only question mark about how the line would perform was due to experience. Gordy, Jones, Kubale and Shadoan were all freshmen, as were Rubarth and Gibson.
Could a team with 4 freshman starters in the line, as well as the top 2 subs, be expected to play competitively, and what would their reaction be when they ran out onto the field and saw 50,000 people in the stands?
Tiny Thornhill said simply, "Time will tell, I suppose. But I have all the confidence in the world in my men."
Tiny later said that the fact that Red Roberts and Ben Cregor were in their fourth year at Centre, and Bill James his fifth, "will have a steadying influence on my first year men."
( Bill James was in his 5th year due to the fact that the 1918 season was declared "unofficial" by the SIAA because of the Great War and the Spanish Influenza pandemic which resulted in the shortening or total cancellation of many team's seasons. Centre played only 4 games in 1918, two against service teams, and its players were given another year of eligibility. )
The movement of Red Roberts into the line allowed Terry Snowday, who had alternated between end and the backfield, to play halfback full-time. ( Snowday's name was originally spelled Snoddy but pronounced Snow-day. He had it legally changed. If you see a Snoddy listed on scorecards or write-ups, it is Terry Snowday. )
Terry Snowday- Owensboro, Ky.
Of course, Bo was a permanent fixture at quarterback.
Alvin Nugent "Bo" McMillin- Fort Worth, Tx.
Army was just as permanent at right half.
Norris "Army" Armstrong- Fort Smith, Ar.
Tom Bartlett and Hump Tanner gave the fullback position great depth.
Tom Bartlett- Owensboro, Ky.
John Porter "Hump" Tanner- Owensboro, Ky.
Tom Bartlett, Bo McMillin, Hump Tanner, Army Armstrong
The last Centre practice on Cheek Field was begun at 2:00 in the afternoon of the 24th. The reserves were supplied with red jerseys and both Centre's offensive and defensive formations were run in a simulated game, over and over. The session lasted until it was literally too dark to carry on. Only well known locals were allowed to watch.
Then, after showers, the team assembled in the gym for a marathon skull session. Every conceivable Harvard formation was diagrammed. Moran drilled and drilled, as did the Chief, who had just gotten in from his job in Chicago, and Tiny Thornhill. They wanted the Colonels to be so sharp that they could anticipate the upcoming Crimson plays from the way their opponents lined up.
Only after the skull session was over did the squad learn who was going to be on the trip to Cambridge.
George Joplin captured the moment when he wrote:
Twenty-six players will be taken on the big jaunt, but as yet, the names of the lucky ones have not been announced by Coach Moran. The official party will consist of thirty-two. Tonight, after the final preparations, the names of those men who will make the trip will be posted in the dressing room. Many a valiant warrior's heart will be cast into the deepest gloom when he fails to see his name on the honor roll, while others will secretly rejoice. The lucky ones will sympathize with the less fortunate, and the one who stays at home will smile bravely and say that he is glad the other is going. Not a man of them would give anything but to battle for Old Centre.
One player who knew he wouldn't be going was Lefty Whitnell who had caught the pass which resulted in the second touchdown for the Colonels in the 1920 Harvard game. Lefty's 80-yard reception was deemed to be the most spectacular play ever witnessed by the famous sportswriter, Grantland Rice, in his coverage of the 1920 Centre-Harvard game for the New York "Tribune."
Ed "Lefty" Whitnell-Fulton, Ky.
Lefty had run into some problems with his studies which had made him ineligible to play. He'd continued attending practice, hoping that he could pull up his grades enough to be able to get back into the action.
It wasn't to be. The faculty, just as in the issue of allowing the students to be excused from classes to make the trip, wouldn't budge regarding Lefty. It was a major disappointment for the speedster from Fulton, Kentucky.
The Harvard 1921 game travel squad was posted after the skull session. Most already knew they were going and were packed and ready for the early Wednesday morning departure.
Norris "Army" Armstrong- Fort Smith, Arkansas
Thomas G. Bartlett- Owensboro, Kentucky
Don Beane- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
George Chinn- Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Ray Class- Middletown, Ohio
Herbert "Covey" Covington- Mayfield, Kentucky
Ben W. "Baldy" Cregor- Springfield, Kentucky
Royce N. "Andy" Flippin- Somerset, Kentucky
Richard "Dick" Gibson- Louisville, Kentucky
Minos T. "Cajun" Gordy- Abbeville, Louisiana
James E. "Jimmy" Green- Louisville, Kentucky
A. Hope Hudgins- Amarillo, Texas
William N. "Bill" James- Fort Worth, Texas
George R. "Buck" Jones- Dallas, Texas
Dewey Kimbel- Louisville, Kentucky
Edwin "Kube" Kubale- Fort Smith, Arkansas
Clifton W. "Hennie" Lemon- Mayfield, Kentucky
Alvin Nugent "Bo" McMillin- Fort Worth, Texas
Joseph "Chick" Murphy- Columbus, Ohio
Slim Newell- Dallas, Texas
James B. "Red" Roberts- Somerset, Kentucky
Robert Frank Rubarth- Gatesville, Texas
Hall Terry Snowday- Owensboro, Kentucky
John Porter "Hump" Tanner- Owensboro, Kentucky
William P. "Bill" Shadoan- Somerset, Kentucky
Robert L. "Case" Thomasson- Newport, Kentucky
In multiple contemporary articles in the Danville, Louisville and Lexington papers, these are the 26 players who were listed as being in the group which went to Boston on the train. Also, in the official program for the game, only these 26 are listed.
Yet, there is a photograph taken in Fenway Park, published in the Boston "Post" pictorial section on October 28, with 28 players dressed out in uniform. In the photo, Weldon Bradley from Dallas and Leslie Combs II from Lexington, Kentucky are shown and listed in the caption.
Photo taken at Fenway Park, Boston, where the team practiced on October 27. Les Combs is on the back row, 7th from left, between Ben Cregor and Army Armstrong. Weldon Bradley is 6th from right, also on the back row, between Bo and Red Roberts.
Also, on October 27, an article in the Boston "Herald" named 28 players, and Bradley and Combs are included.
Since they weren't in the original list, it must be concluded that they were last minute additions, or paid their own way on the train, brought their gear, and were allowed to suit up.
Whatever. When the players are mentioned as being in uniform for this historic game, Combs and Bradley should be listed, because they were definitely there.
( Les Combs became renowned as the founder and owner of Lexington's Spendthrift Farm in 1937. He organized the syndication of "Nashua" in 1955 for $1.25 million and was the breeder of "Majestic Prince," the 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. He was a long-serving member on the board of Churchill Downs. He and Red Robertson were both class of 1925 and Phi Delt fraternity brothers and remained close all of their lives.
In 1963, the Centre College Alumni Association established the Distinguished Alumni Aware for the purpose of honoring alumni who had given outstanding service to Centre and/or to humankind. Les Combs was the recipient of the award in 1973. )
Letter from Les Combs to Red Robertson, "Yours in the Bond" fellow members of Phi Delta Theta and of Centre's class of 1925, written on stationery of Combs' world-renown Spendthrift Farm
Along with the team, others in the official party were the Chief and his wife, Uncle Charlie, Tiny Thornhill, Swede Anderson, the team trainer, and the student manager, Johnny McGee. Also going along was Roscoe Conklin Breckinridge.
( It was 1950 before the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated dining cars on railroads- the Southern Railroad included- were illegal. Roscoe was known to travel with the team to various locations. Apparently, there was no problem once the train crossed over the Ohio River. The ride from Danville to Cincinnati would have been made under the segregation policies of the Southern Railroad. )
In Cambridge, Coach Fisher was telling the press on October 24 that his team was "shot to pieces" after the Penn State game.
However, despite Fisher's professed worries, in actuality, Harvard was feeling more confident as the week progressed leading up to the Centre game.
A story in the Boston "Globe" stated:
Captain Keith Kane and "Tabby" Grew were back in the Harvard varsity lineup yesterday afternoon with the result that the "A" team went through the workout with more "pep" and confidence of any of the sessions thus far this week.
At present, the Crimson coaches are worrying more about the Princeton encounter next week than about Saturday's battle with McMillin and his confreres. The Kentucky Colonels have a reinforced line and are expected to put up a stiffer defense than they did last year, but out at Harvard, there is confidence that the daring visitors will be sent back to the Bluegrass on the short end of the score.
Harvard isn't expected to try to run up the score against the Danville invaders. Coach Fisher and his assistants are anxious to have every man ready for the trip to Princeton.
The Kentucky boys are sure to be putting up their best every minute of the game, and if the Crimson regulars can get a respectable lead in the first half, the second-sting men will be given the opportunity to get their bruises of the fray during the second half.
Back in Danville and throughout the state, plans were again being made to "broadcast" the game.
Stout's movie theater was "running in a wire" and planned to charge 25 cents. Dr. Stout, the owner, had Lefty Whitnell lined up to call out the plays from the stage.
Louis Mannini was going to describe the plays from the front of his news stand on Main, and his service was free.
The brokerage house, W.L. Lyons, planned to have the game come in over its ticker tape, and again, there would be no charge to "listen" to the game.
Similar arrangements were made all over Kentucky, with both Louisville and Lexington planning several locations to "carry" the game. The Louisville brokerage firm advertising the coverage of the game it was going to provide featured Bo but mistakenly designated him as the team captain. Actually, the captain was Army Armstrong during 1921.
A notice about the game being carried by wire in Georgetown, Ky. at the Farmers Bank.
On Tuesday night, October 25, there was a huge and enthusiastic pep rally beginning at 7:30 at the courthouse on Main Street in Danville. Like the previous year, there was a makeshift stage and the whole area was flooded with spotlights. The crowd was estimated as exceeding 1,000. The girls from K.C.W. were there along with the Centre student body and a considerable number of the citizens of Danville and Boyle County.
Boyle County courthouse in Danville just down from the campus
George Swinebroad, Jr. led the cheers.
Fight! Gold and White.
Fight! Gold and White.
Fight! Gold and White.
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Old Centre Fight!
Old Centre Fight!
Old Centre Fight!
Fight with all your might!
Halfway through the pep rally, an enormous cheer began at the back of the crowd and then resonated throughout the entire throng as the Centre team walked en mass toward the stage. Uncle Charlie, the Chief, and Tiny Thornhill followed Army, with Bo walking behind the team captain, and the rest of the squad trailing Bo.
The team had left the skull session and walked the few blocks to spend several moments at the rally. There was so much enthusiasm that they could hear the cheers floating through the cool night air toward the campus as they left the Boyle-Humphrey Gymnasium.
As the players stood on the courthouse steps and waved to the crowd, the chant, "Speech, Speech, Speech," rang out. No one stepped forward. Those on the steps who had been there the year before remembered the predictions of how they were going to beat Harvard.
Chief Myers motioned to George Swinebroad to come over and explained why there would be no comments, and the cheerleader put a finger to his lips to quiet the crowd.
Swinebroad shouted into his megaphone, "The Chief said the team would save their speeches until they've returned from Boston," and after a pause, "until they've beaten Harvard!"
The roar was deafening, echoing off the walls of the buildings around the old courthouse.
In Boston and the surrounding area, the odds given on the game were anywhere from 3-1 to 10-6 in Harvard's favor. Writers from all of the Boston papers forecast a Crimson win. Those same columnists predicted a wide open game like the battle of 1920, just as Centre hoped the Harvard coaching staff would expect.
A story in the "Post" was typical.
Reverting once more to the dope, it can be said that the crowd will again expect the following things to take place. There will be a current of forward passes by Centre-long ones, middle-sized ones, and short, sharp ones over the line. There will be a wonderful open field showing by Bo McMillin once he gets clear of the Harvard ends. There will be a series of trick plays by Centre that are designed to catch the Harvard front wall unawares. And there will be some first-class line bucking by Armstrong and Snowday when Centre effects to play the orthodox game.
At least the last sentence was factual.
Another story again related how the crowd would feel about the Colonels when they entered the Stadium.
Of the sell-out crowd which will watch the game, one half will be for the Bluegrass boys, not because they love Harvard less, but because they love Centre more. The reasons are multiple. Centre is perhaps the smallest college that has ever attacked a member of the "Big 3." Its entire team is absolutely the salt of the earth. In Bo McMillin, they have in their lineup a young man who transcends any star since the days of Eddie Mahan. He is surrounded by plucky, intrepid chaps who would take broken bones for the honor to win. That is why this hostile team finds welcome in the heart of the cold, codfish zone.
In his opinion of how the teams compared and how the game may unfold, another writer analyzed what he expected to see on the field.
Centre is rated to achieve about as much as it did against Harvard a year ago. The Colonels scored on the Crimson twice and had the Fishermen netted for the entire first half. But in the second half of the game, their power curled up before the Harvard drive because the team was well worn out from so gallant a battle in the first half.
Centre is better equipped for Harvard in the matter of substitutes. The entire first string will not have to fight against fresh understudies from the Harvard bench, and Centre has no doubt learned a lot about the principles of defense that was their downfall last year. They were buzzards for scoring, but not so good at checking an assault.
Allowing, however, for Centre's improvement in its power of resistance; allowing also for the flash of its stars and the fervor that animates those boys when they step out for a gridiron conflict; allowing for all those increased virtues, the chances for Centre are still below par. The reason is that Harvard "arrived" in its game with Penn State last week.