Chapter 47

Game Day, October 29, 1921

The Colonels were allowed to sleep in relatively late on the morning of the game. It wasn't until 9:30 that they assembled in the dining room for breakfast. The weather forecast in the previous evening's papers had called for rain, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the air was crisp with barely a breeze. It looked like it was going to be a perfect fall day for a football game.

After breakfast, the dining room was sealed off for another skull session. Once again, the coaching staff emphasized the game plan.

"It's going to be simple. We'll run."

"Nothing fancy. None of our trick plays. We'll hold our cards close to our chest the first half."

"Defense will win this game. We'll play typical hard-nosed Centre defense. We'll substitute in the line. If you get taken out, it will be to rest you for later. They won't wear us down this year."

"All of our student body, all of Danville, all of Kentucky, all of the South, will be following this game. We are playing for football fans all over the country."

Again, the coaches drilled that, "Centre plays like gentlemen. We play hard, but we play clean, just as our opponents will play."

The Chief wrote in big, bold letters on the chalkboard, speaking the words as he wrote.




Then the session broke up and the members of the team were free to spend the rest of the morning strolling around the city. There was no particular destination, just a chance to unwind before heading to the Stadium.

The Colonels had that look like they had before the 1919 game with Virginia in Charlottesville. It was their "game face."

Howard said there were a lot of Centre people and sportswriters in the Lenox lobby, but as the team came out of the dining room, the fans and writers seemed to sense that this wasn't the time to be chummy, or to ask questions. They clapped politely and let the guys leave the hotel.

Howard trailed along behind them but stayed about half a block back. The members walked to a big park down the street which I found out the next year when I came to the game is the Boston Common.

The Boston Common

They found benches and sat, or just milled around. Occasionally, a few of them would gather together and say a few words. But there was no laughter or horsing around.

Uncle Charlie, Chief Myers and Tiny Thornhill came on down to the park, but the three of them stayed alone, and they talked awhile, like they were making plans, but they left the players with their thoughts.

Army, the captain, walked around, huddling with a couple of the guys and they'd talk a moment, and then he would seek out some of the other players, and say a few words, and move on again.

It was obvious, Howard said, that each member of the squad was simply concentrating on the game which was just a few hours away. He told me later that he felt if quiet determination would win a game, Centre would have to be victorious. He'd been around the team for over a year, and he'd never seen them, or anyone for that matter, so serious and intent on winning.

I told him what I had felt when Bo spoke about "First Down, Kentucky!" How Bo had said he wished the book had been written a year later, because then it would end with Centre winning. Howard said he had that same feeling when he watched the team in the park. He felt that there was no way they could lose the game.

Around noon, the team stopped again in the Lenox dining room for a light lunch of roast beef, dry toast and hot tea, ordered by the Chief. Red Roberts said, "Chief, you trying to starve us? How are we going to beat Harvard being all hungry and stuff?"

The meal was the favorite pre-game menu of the Chief.

"Red, you can eat after the game. I want you to be so hungry that you'll eat up Harvard."

"Aw, Chief, geez louise."

After the meal, everyone gathered up their gear and headed to the buses. Unlike last year, there was no police escort, no banners draped on the sides of the buses, and no attention from Bostonians as they drove west toward the Stadium.

Game time was 2:30 even though the tickets had 3:00 printed on them. The previous week's Penn State game had ended in near darkness, and the Harvard Athletic Association had moved the kickoff up by half an hour.

                                                                                    3:00 on the ticket but the kickoff at 2:30

Every newspaper in Boston had repeatedly printed the new starting time, and from the size of the crowd beginning to converge on the Stadium by 1:00, it was obvious that the word had gotten out. This year, the tickets being used and programs being sold had "Centre" as Harvard's opponent rather than the "Center" spelling used in 1920.

As the big horseshoe began to fill, the air was filled with the sounds of music from the three bands which occupied different sections of the Stadium.

The New York Newsboy's Band, 200 strong, had been brought up on an overnight boat by the Harvard Athletic Association and occupied a section of the newly constructed end zone bleachers

The 50-member Harvard Crimson Band marched into the Stadium wearing red sweaters, white flannels, and sailor hats. As they entered onto the field, they struck up, "Soldiers Field."

Harvard Crimson Band

Many of the Crimson fans, old grads and students alike, stood and sang the familiar lyrics.

O'er the stands in flaming Crimson,
Harvard banners fly.
Cheer on cheer like volleyed thunder
Echoes to the sky.
See the Crimson tide is turning
Gaining more and more,
Then Fight! Fight! Fight! For we win tonight
Old Harvard forevermore.

The Centre "5" marched in playing "Dixie," and their peppy jazz rendition brought a quickened pace to the crowd filing into the huge facility.

Daniel, who used only the one name in his bylined articles, penned his impressions for the New York "Herald."

It was a crowd which in size, brilliance, color, and enthusiasm, rivaled that seen at one of the "Big 3" contests. Nearly half were women, and they gave to the assemblage a prismatic quality which only feminine attire and floral splendor can give.

The reds and blues and greens of the prevailing fashion in feminine millinery made those thousands look like fields of colorful poppies and of waving rhododendrons.

It was a perfect afternoon as could be for a football game, with just a bit of tang in the air, and for the onlookers, the afternoon was ideal-perfect.

Not a cloud flecked the blue. Across the Charles, back on the distant horizon, there lay the lazy haze of Indian summer, wisps of smoke curled here and there in the calm of a glorious afternoon.

Richard Ernst ( 1858-1934 ), Centre, board member, class of 1878, United States Republican Senator from Kentucky ( 1921-27 ), poising with his son, William, prior to the beginning of the game. Ernst lost his reelection bid to Alben Barkley.   

The Colonels hauled their duffle bags filled with gear out of the buses when they pulled up to the locker room. A throng of fans, many wearing gold and white chrysanthemums, cheered them on as they made their way into the building.

The visitor's dressing room was spotless. It smelled a bit like tincture of benzoin, a solution applied to the skin to make tape used on ankles more adhesive. The wire lockers were opened with each of their doors standing at the exact same angle. Inside, folded on a shelf at the top, was a large, fluffy, white cotton towel with a small bar of soap placed on top of it.

It was quite a contrast to the haphazard appearance of the Colonels' locker room back in Danville, even after Uncle Charlie had urged his players to "tidy up the place."

The team stripped off their clothes and began their pre-game ritual. Nearly all had some superstition-fed manner of getting into their uniforms. A couple put on their undershirt, shoulder pads and jersey before getting to their stockings. If they'd dressed a certain way and had a great game, they'd try to follow the same pattern, gaining just that bit of confidence that the repetition might give them.

One player had to put on his left stocking first, then right. He had reversed the sequence once and felt he'd performed poorly, and vowed never to make that mistake again.

Red Roberts always finished his preparation by standing in front of a mirror and carefully wrapping a white silk scarf, ordered by the team from A.G. Spalding, around his head, getting it just right so that his ears would be covered and protected.

Red and his silk scarf, leading Bo, a familiar sight over the years 

As the Colonels were suiting up, the Harvard players were doing the same. The coaches were circulating around the locker room, reminding their men to be alert for trick plays, certain that Uncle Charlie had a wide-open game plan in mind.

"Pooch" Donovan, the longtime trainer at Harvard, had his assistants going around the room rubbing water on the Crimson's moleskins once they had gotten into uniform. As the water dried, the material would harden, giving added protection, plus make opponents pay a little more of a price when they made a hit below the waist.

"Pooch" Donovan

Just as in 1920, Uncle Charlie and the Chief had received multiple telegrams from Kentucky and from alumni and fans throughout the country wishing the team success. Occasionally, a wire would be personalized, and the coaches would walk over to the recipient and read it to him.

"Captain Army-Lead the Colonels to victory on the field of battle."

"Bill James- Friends in Fort Worth will follow heroic Centre. Wish you best."

After the team was totally suited up, it was time for the speeches to begin. However, there were few of the "rah, rah" types of addresses that usually preceded a game. Uncle Charlie was fairly subdued in reminding the team that several of the players who could have graduated had instead returned specifically for this opportunity, and now, "the time has come."

The Chief again gave a short history of his quest since arriving in Danville in September of 1903.

"I dreamed from the first moment I came on the Danville campus that someday I'd be involved in making Centre be known not only in Kentucky, but all across the South and now all over the nation, as the home of the finest young men, and the greatest, fightingest group of football players who have ever played the game. Today, we're going to prove to the world what Centre men are made of."

Army stood up and began the chant.


Over and over, the same refrain.


Finally, the captain motioned for silence.

"We all know our assignments. We all know that if all eleven of us play as one, as we have been taught to play, we can win."

Army continued, "Here's what I'm telling you, and you can be certain of it. If we hold them scoreless in the first quarter, we will win."

As Army was speaking, the officials for the game were in a nearby room getting dressed.

W.J. Crowley from Bowdoin was the umpire. The head linesman was E.C. Taggert from Rochester, and the field judge was W.J. Crowell from Swarthmore. Also from Swarthmore was Robert J. "Tiny" Maxwell, working as the head official, the referee.

Maxwell's nickname was the antithesis of his actual physical dimensions. He was a giant of a man, standing 6' 4" and weighing in at well over 300 pounds. Despite his immense size, he was nimble on the field and one of the most respected football officials of his time.

Maxwell had played football first at the University of Chicago under Alonzo Stagg, and later transferred to Swarthmore in Philadelphia where he was a star guard. "Tiny" had been the editor of the sports page of the Philadelphia "Public Ledger" since 1916.

After dressing, Maxwell walked toward the Centre locker room and heard a loud voice as he neared the door. He stopped and heard one of the Colonels, in good form, giving the pre-game benediction. The huge referee signaled for his fellow officials to come near, and they listened as the prayer ended with a loud "amen" shouted in unison, and then they were nearly bowled over as the team, led by Army, came barreling through the door, tears streaming down every face, pumping their fists in the air, and screaming, "Go Colonels!"

Maxwell turned to the members of his crew and said, "Well, I guess that proves it. They really do pray before a game. There's no denying it."

The Crimson had been met with a loud cheer from the Harvard student body and fans as they sprinted out onto the field right at 2:00 for their warm-up. An equally enthusiastic greeting erupted when the Gold and White, wiping away tears, trotted to the far end of the field to go through their drills.

The fan situation for Harvard was rather complicated. The Stadium was universally filled with spectators who pulled for the Crimson when they played Princeton or Yale. But the loyalties were somewhat clouded when other teams came to Soldiers Field, especially when the opponent was a decided underdog. There were students from many of the numerous local colleges, especially Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College and Boston University, who cheered for anyone other than Harvard. There were also Harvard graduate students who had come to Cambridge and never felt they were really part of the Harvard "family." And finally, there were many in the stands who had grown quite attached to the Centre College Colonels in 1920 due to the little school's audacious, clean and courageous play.

Centre lined up and began running pass plays. The coaches wanted Harvard to feel that the Colonels would play as they had the year before. Bo would fling passes left and right, short and long, passes to the flanks, passes across the middle.

Uncle Charlie couldn't help but to glance down toward the Harvard end of the field and observe some of the Crimson coaches watching his team's drill.

John Harvard, top left, indicating that Harvard felt Centre was still going to employ a bag of "tricks" offensively

Trick plays?

Army kept telling anyone close enough to hear, "Hold them scoreless in the first quarter and we'll win this game."

At 2:27, Tiny Maxwell asked the team captains to come to the 50-yard line for the flip of the coin.

Army and Richard Keith Kane were both natural leaders who had the respect not only of their teammates, but also the coaching staffs of their colleges.

The two captains, Harvard's R. Keith Kane and Centre's Norris "Army" Armstrong

Army had a somewhat more humble but no less impressive background than Keith Kane. He was born in Texarkana, Arkansas but raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas and went to the public high school there. Army was a four-sport man at Centre, having played football from 1917-21, baseball from 1918-21, basketball during 1918-21 and was the captain of the 1920-21 team, and ran track in 1918 and 1920. He was class president in 1917-18 and was on the social committee in 1920. His fraternity was Beta Theta Pi.

Army, not "Armie"

Kane was the quintessential Harvard man. Handsome, just as Army was, he was born on July 3, 1900, in San Francisco. He prepped at St. George's in Middletown, Rhode Island and listed his home address as 5 Champlin Street in Newport. 

During his first year at Harvard, he had been on the freshman football team and crew, and was on the varsity football team in 1919-21. Kane was crew captain in 1920-21, class president during his junior year, and First Marshall of the class of 1922, analogous to the class president.

Kane was vice president of the Harvard Union 1921-22, and involved in the Institute of 1770, the umbrella organization for the social and performing activities of the Hasty Pudding Club, of which he was a member. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

During the war year of 1918, Kane had been stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station from July 29, 1918 until September 6, 1918.

In Danville, Lexington, Somerset, Louisville, Georgetown, and other cities across the state, the first announcement that the game was ready to start for the "play by play" was greeted with cheers.

Over the wires came the starting line-ups dutifully written down on the pre-prepared boards in each Kentucky city which was "carrying" the game from Western Union. The positions were down the center of the rectangle and there were columns for the names of the starters and their weights. Below the line-ups was the horizontal board measured off in 10-yard increments where the plays sent in by wire could be chalked in after they were received.




Janin ( 185 )

Left end

Roberts  (219)

Ladd  (184)

Left tackle

Cregor ( 179 )

Hubbard (190)

Left guard

Jones  (200)

 Kernan  (185)


Kubale  (177)

Brown  (205)

Right guard

Shadoan  (196)

Kunhardt  (190)

Right tackle

Cregor  (179)

Macomber ( 178 )

Right end

James  (176)

Johnson  (167)


McMillin  (170)

Rouillard ( 170 )

Left half

Snowday ( 172 )

Chapin ( 166 )

Right half 

Armstrong ( 158 )

Gehrke ( 170 )


Bartlett  (155)

The two captains shook hands and referee Maxwell showed them a shiny, 1921 uncirculated Morgan silver dollar, obtained specially by Tiny to use in starting the game. ( The Morgan was reintroduced for just one year, 1921, after having been produced annually from 1878 to 1904.)

"This is heads. This is tails. I'm going to ask you, Captain Armstrong, to state your preference, and I'm going to flip the coin and let it fall on the ground."


"Heads it is. Do you choose to kick or receive?"

"We'll receive."

In all of the cities across Kentucky carrying the game by wire, the news was greeted with cheers as the announcers shouted, "Centre receives."

"We receive!"

"They have to kick to us!"

People who until the last couple of years had never heard of Centre, or knew little about the college, now referred to the Gold and White as "we," or "us."

The entire block on Danville's Main Street from Third to Fourth Streets was filled with excited fans who had congregated to hear the play by play. They met the news that the Colonels had won the toss with shouts, and many patted others on the back.

"It's a good start!"

"Bo will have the first shot!"

At exactly 2:30, Harvard teed up the ball on its own 40 yard line. It was game time, the culmination of a year of planning by the Centre coaching staff and players.