Chapter 43

Arrival In Boston

The Centre entourage was staying at the Lenox Hotel, built in 1900 at the cost of $1,100,000 by Lucias Boomer, the owner of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It was located at Exeter and Boylston in the Back Bay and was the tallest building in Boston when it was completed. The Lenox was close enough to where the team's and fan's Pullmans were finally uncoupled at the South Station that those who wanted to use their berths for lodging the next two nights would only have a 10-minute walk to the hotel if they wished to convene at Centre's Boston headquarters during the day.

The original plan, when the "Harvard Special" was to be the mode of transportation, was to have the team arrive after breakfast, check into the hotel, and head out to Harvard Stadium for practice. Nowthe later arrival necessitated a change in plans. Uncle Charlie got on the phone with Larry Graver of the Boston Red Sox and was gratified that the baseball executive was extremely accommodating, agreeing to go to Fenway Park, just a mile from the Lenox, and open it up immediately.

The Colonels ate a quick lunch specially rushed by the hotel's kitchen, suited up, hustled onto chartered buses, and amazingly, were on their way to the ball park within a little over an hour after stepping off the train.

Red outside hotel after arrival in Boston

Leaving the Lenox for Fenway Park

After arriving, the Colonels walked around the interior of the 1912-built stadium. Here was where the great Babe Ruth played from 1914 until he was traded to the Yankees after the 1919 season. Tris Speaker spent some of his greatest years at the Fenway.

( During Babe Ruth's years playing at Fenway Park, he was actually one of  the premier pitchers in the American League. His record on the mound there, from 1914-19, was 89-46. His best year was 1916, when he compiled a 23-12 record, with an ERA of 1.75. The "Bambino" became the game's greatest slugger when he began playing full time in the outfield as a Yankee starting in 1920, and became known everywhere as, "Babe." )

Uncle Charlie let the squad stroll around a few moments and then called for them to huddle around him. There were some reporters and others who had heard about the practice and were allowed to watch from the stands, without restrictions.

With the team squeezed in close, the coach almost whispered, "We have some eyes in the stands. We know that Harvard would never send out spies, but there may be some spectators who will tell others about what we plan on offense. Bo, open it up. Call every trick play we've ever run."

Bo did just that. He called reverses which had the back coming around stopping suddenly and fire a long pass back across the field to James, who would have uncharacteristically gone deep. Or, on the same play, the reverse would go from a simple reverse to a double reverse, or even a triple reverse, in which all 4 backs would handle the ball. If a wide-open play had ever been in the arsenal, Bo ran it.

After the offensive display, Uncle Charlie acted like he was surprised that he had discovered anyone in the stands and beckoned to team manager Johnny McGee to go up and ask everyone to leave. Then, in privacy, Centre began its defensive drills, lining up in formations that the team planned on using on Saturday.

Tiny, then Uncle Charlie, would call out predicted Harvard formations and plays, again having the defense assume the proper positions, again drilling their team to "divine" how the upcoming play would develop.

Centre had prepped mentally and physically for a year for the upcoming battle. The Centre coaches felt that the mental preparations were no less important than the physical.

"We must make no mistakes."

"We must out think them."

"Every man in on every play."

Shadows were rapidly covering the field when a kick-off drill was held, and after a few runs-through, Uncle Charlie blew a whistle and signaled the end of what had been a vigorous, but no contact, 3-hour session.

The team boarded the buses for the return to Lenox, grabbed a bite, went to their rooms for proper attire, and then it was off to the Colonial Theatre to see the Ziegfeld Follies.

Program from the "Ziegfeld Follies" production attended by the Colonels. Note the red star at the top of the right page indicating                                                                                                                W.C. Fields.

The Ziegfeld Follies staged a new production each year in New  York City. The Follies production was a combination of vaudeville and a musical stage show. After a few weeks in New York, the show would go on the road, and one of the stops was in Boston. The most famous star of the 1921 presentation was none other than W.C. Fields. ( Note W.C. Fields, red-starred, top right program. )

The Colonial, built in 1900 ( and still operating ) was 7 blocks down Boylston Street from the Lenox, across from the Boston Common, and the team walked en mass from the hotel to the theatre. Like everywhere they went, many strollers recognized that they were from Centre, certainly prompted by the stories and photographs in the numerous Boston newspapers about the upcoming game.

It was, "Bo McMillin, good luck on Saturday!"

"Red, you can win this year!"

Bo, always conscious that Army was the team captain, would rarely fail to introduce his good friend to the well-wishers.

"I want you to meet our leader, the captain of the team, Mr. Army Armstrong."

At the theatre, everyone sat together except for Hump Tanner, Red Roberts, and Terry Snowday, according to George Joplin, who was sending stories back to the "Messenger."

The three pulled a string somewhere and drew front row seats.

As the Colonels found their seats, a murmur went through the crowd.

Howard was at the "Ziegfield Follies." He said that people began to whisper and nod, and sort of point when the guys came in, and he could hear, "Centre" and ''football."

Pretty soon, it became obvious that everyone knew who was there. The performance was ready to start and the lights went off and it was a great show. Howard was a banjo and mandolin player who was later in the Centre "Six," and he knew music and appreciated it. ( The Centre "5" was expanded to 6 members the next year and was called the Centre "Six.")

At the intermission, W.C. Fields came out onto the stage and asked the crowd­- Howard said it was a full house-to remain seated, that there were some special guests there that night, and said he was pleased to introduce the famous football team, the Centre College Colonels from Danville, Kentucky.

And he signaled to the team to come forward, and everyone, everyone stood and cheered as the players went up on the stage.

Howard said he'd never been so proud to be a part of Centre College. People whistled and clapped and he said you could just tell how much they loved the team.

After the show was over, people lined up along the sidewalk and street and cheered the team as they left the theatre to walk back to the hotel. Everyone, team and fans alike, was smiling and waving to each other.

The Boston papers seemed to be in a major contest to see which could provide more information about the October 29 game, and especially to provide their readers insight into the colorful aspects of the Colonels.

The "Post" ran a cartoon featuring Bo.

Frank Merriwell was a fictional college hero who excelled in everything, including sports

In different poses, the following appeared:

(1)  A famed novelist has written a novel about Bo.
(2) As a disciplinarian, Mr. J. Caesar had nothing on Bo.
(3)  As he plunges through the line, it has Bo shouting, "Outa the way."
(4)  As he plunges through the crowd, it reads, Bo on the way to his first football game, and he's been going through the opposition like that ever since.

The "Post" had a sports columnist who had been writing bits all week preceding the game.

About the most cruel cut of all from a Harvard standpoint would be for Centre to trim Harvard Saturday- but not a chance, say the Crimson rooters.

Talk with any Harvard man nowadays and all you get is what the Crimson is going to do with the Tigers and Elis in the upcoming games, but the way that the fans are warming up to the Centre College game Saturday, one would hardly think that there are any such contests as the Harvard-Princeton and Harvard-Yale games.

Despite Harvard being an odds-on favorite to beat the Praying Colonels, there are not a few who are grabbing up all the short-end wagers. They figure that Bo McMillin and his crowd are going to have a better chance than many will admit for them to win the game.

There were several entries written by Bob Dunbar, the sports columnist in the Boston "Herald."

One must wonder how Bo McMillin feels when he reads about himself in Ralph D. Paine's "First down, Kentucky!" The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Company, and is delightful reading for anyone who cares about quick, lively and colorful gridiron romance. Bo's the hero, and if he wants to increase the sale a few thousand per cent, let him lead his Colonels to victory.

Uncle Charlie Moran, the National League umpire, would feel more at home if they played the Harvard-Centre game at Braves Field.

I know of several of my friends who quite foolishly told that they have tickets for the Centre game. They are traveling around in alleys or taxicabs to keep clear of acquaintances who want to go to the game but can't get a ticket.

On October 28, the "Globe" ran a 4-column wide photograph of the Colonels taken at Fenway Park, with the team lined up as they would start the game. Uncle Charlie had allowed photographers and reporters in Fenway before asking them to leave so that the team could continue the session without possible prying eyes. 

In the backfield, hands behind their backs, were Terry Snowday at right half, Bo at quarterback, Uncle Charlie wearing his ever-present hat, standing between Bo and his left half, Army, and Tom Bartlett at fullback.

The line, crouched in position, had Bill James at right end, Ben Cregor at right tackle, Bill Shadoan, right guard, Ed Kubale at center, George Jones, left guard, Minos Gordy, left tackle, and Red Roberts, left end.

Bo was smiling, a confident smile actually, while the rest had a rather serious demeanor.

October 27 workout at Fenway Park

Bob Dunbar, writing in the "Herald."

What do you think? Has Centre a chance? Will Harvard take a beating in preference to using some of the men they want to save for the Princeton game? These and a lot of other questions are winging their way through a host of autumnal haze today as they have been for the last week. The analysts of the game tell us that Centre is an over-rated team, and that a Harvard system, which refused to deviate a bit from its general plan to win the Princeton and Yale games, regardless of the results, just naturally will flatten the Praying Colonels. I will tell you what I think about that in the Monday "Herald."

The newsprint continued, providing unparalleled coverage for a little previously unknown college in Danville, Kentucky, "wherever that is."

On that same day, there was a cartoon which revealed that Harvard was making plans to have a defensive plan against any possible passes or trick plays which Centre may have in its arsenal.

Uncle Charlie was interviewed after the practice session at Fenway Park. Amongst his comments printed, were:

We have a stronger team than last year. Our line is improved considerably, and this was a department where we were weak in 1920. Many of the boys are playing together through another season, and this means they are more experienced and cooperate better in team play.

I am indebted to Eddie Mahan for Bill Shadoan, one of our new linemen. Eddie told Bo about Shadoan playing tackle on his service team over in France and that the youngster lived in Somerset, the home town of Red Roberts, and the town where Bo played before enrolling at Centre. Of course, there was only one college for him to attend, so he came to Centre and has worked himself into a starting position in our line. He's a good one.

Bo was cornered after the Fenway workout by one of the many reporters who had been assigned to get any tidbit available regarding the Colonels. He was asked about the additional weight he carried when compared to when he was last in Cambridge for the 1920 game.

I wasn't well when I came up to play last year. I had been captain of the team for 2 years and worried so much about things in general that my weight went down to 152 pounds. I don't have the cares of the captaincy this year. My great friend Army is our captain. I am weighing 170 and feeling considerably better now. This is my last year at Centre and I want to make it a good one. I just love to play football, and I plan to follow it up after I graduate by taking up coaching.

Ed Cunningham of the "Herald" wrote about "4 Cubs" in the Centre line.

There are quite a few changes in the Centre team. Four freshmen are playing in the line, and they are shoulder to shoulder- Bill Shadoan at right guard, Ed Kubale at center, George Jones at left guard, and Minos Gordy at left tackle. They have replaced the veterans who were lost- Red Weaver, the All-American center, Montgomery, a tackle, Robb, a guard, and King, an end.

Red Roberts was asked about the knee injury which had hampered him in the 1920 game.

"It's just a memory. I'm in fine condition."

Cunningham stated: The big redhead looks great after spending the summer shoveling coal on a Southern Railroad freight engine.

Another cartoonist for the "Post" was featured across the whole 8 columns of page 24 in the sports section of the paper on October 28, the day prior to the game.

Boston "Post" - October 28

There were several panels. 

( 1 ) Centre introduces itself to Boston and learns that little Johnny ( Harvard) will be "pleased to play with you tomorrow."

( 2 ) Bob Fisher warns a Harvard player not to take "this big boy for a boob."

( 3 ) A fan is trying to capture a ticket with a net and "there's few of 'em loose."

( 4 ) Fans discussing bets on the game with uncertainty who to bet on.

( 5 )  A Princeton Tiger and Yale Bulldog lamenting that "those Centres are stealing our stuff." 

A Boston "Evening Transcript" cartoon, by Gene Mack, occupied 3 columns and featured Bo running along with a recollection of the TD pass to "Lefty" Whitnell in the 1920 game. There was a drawing of Red Roberts captioned: Last year's favorite is playing the line, and great portrait of "Capt.Armstrong.

In the lower right hand corner, Mack had drawn a little square replete with a band blasting out, "Dixie.

Boston "Evening Transcript" October 28