Washington & Lee- November 19, 1921
The Louisville games in 1919 with DePauw, and 1920 with Virginia Tech, were so successful that Centre decided to reserve a date for the city each year.
The 1921 opponent was Washington & Lee, from Lexington, Virginia, the ninth oldest institutions of higher learning in the country, tracing its founding to 1749.
There were several reasons that Centre and W&L were an attractive match-up for Louisville.
They were both liberal arts schools, founded by Scots-Irish pioneers. They were situated in similar little towns which were much more sophisticated than their size would have indicated.
They both had relatively large alumni organizations in Louisville. W&L had long been a favorite college where Louisvillians sent their sons.
Both schools were small, but W&L had 749 students in the fall of 1921, making the college nearly three times larger than Centre.
Both were all male.
Both were admired for their willingness to take on the "big boys," and to do so successfully.
Coming into the Centre game, W&L was 5-2 with the following record:
W&L 41 Randolph Macon 0
W&L 27 Emory and Henry 0
W&L 13 Rutgers 14
W&L 33 Morris-Harvey 0
W&L 3 Virginia Tech 0
W&L 7 West Virginia 28
W&L 41 Roanoke 0
The two schools had one common opponent in Virginia Tech, with Centre beating Tech 14-0 in Danville, while W&L won in Blacksburg, 3-0. If the home field is worth a touchdown, then the game would have seemed to be an even match. However, the Colonels were certainly playing at a much higher level than they were earlier in the season.
In the week leading up to the game, a faculty member at W&L decided to do a little research on slang expressions used on his campus and in Danville. He wrote James Hewlett, English professor at Centre, and asked him to help.
Professor James Hewlett
Hewlett had his students write down their favorites, compiled them, and sent them over to W&L.
JELLY BEAN- one who does nothing but rush girls
CHISELING- edging in on a party
STICK- an unpopular person
SAP- a person with no brains
BEANERY- a place to eat
KNOCKED ME FOR A PLENTY- flunked me
BURN MY CLOTHES- exclamation of surprise
TEAR MY SOCKS- can't believe it- ( a favorite of Red Roberts )
OIL CAN- a poor sport
SPANISH ATHLETE- a user of bull
JILLIN- a large number
DOUGHPOP- a knockout
SQUIRRIL- one who attends all dances
FLING A PARTY- act as host
FUSSING- pay attention to the fair sex
JAZZ PUPPY- one who likes jazz
TO HEEL- to trick somebody
KNOWS HIS EGGS- efficient and well-informed
HOT AS A FIRECRACKER- efficient socially
FLAT TIRE- a person of low estimation
DEAD LAY- a sure thing
CERT- yes, of course
PUT THE WEIGHT TO HIM- get the best of him
TAP YOU- I'll bet you all you have
PASS OUT- to be overcome by something
For W&L, to have a shot at Centre was the highlight of its season. Prior to leaving Lexington for Louisville, there was a huge pep rally which filled the rather modest stadium at Wilson Field. The coach, W.C. Raftery, told the students that his team understood Centre's offense well enough that he felt the Generals could adequately shut down the Colonels. He also said that he felt that Herb Covington was more of a threat than Bo. Why, was never explained, and whether the comment made its way back to Danville isn't known.
The team and student body then moved en masse to continue the rally at the railroad station where the team boarded a Pullman for a short ride south down a spur line to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad's main southern line to Clifton Forge, Va. where they joined the northern mainline which went to to Lexington, Ky. and then west to Louisville.
The "Ring-Tum Phi," the W&L student newspaper, reported:
The send-off at the station showed even more spirit than the rally on the field, and left no room in the minds of the men that they were all backing them to the limit. The band added harmony to the unholy din, and rousing cheers were given for all members of the team. The train pulled out with the team full of "old fight" as the crowd sang the swing.
Lexington, Va. to Lexington, Ky. on the C&O Railroad. The train ran through Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia, into Kentucky by skirting below the Ohio River at Ashland and then to Lexington, Ky. where it then continued due west for the last one-and-a-half-hour leg to Louisville's Union Station
Centre came over to Louisville on Thursday night, November 17, and went directly to the Seelbach Hotel, team headquarters also in 1919 and '20. The W&L team arrived Friday morning and headquartered a block down on Walnut from the Seelbach at the Watterson Hotel.
Once again, the downtown merchants had turned Fourth Street and all of the areas around the hotel into a sea of gold and white, with phone poles wrapped, banners and pennants hung on stores and over intersections, and team member's photographs decorating storefront windows.
On Friday, the Centre Louisville alumni hosted a luncheon attended by over 100 people for the Colonels at the Pendennis Club.
The Pendennis Club originally housed in the former Belknap mansion, 332 West Walnut
A highlight was to introduce the three Colonels who were certain not to return in 1922- Bo, Army, and Bill James. Chick Murphy and Ben Cregor were also introduced as "two who may not return, but hopefully will."
Bo had a difficult time when he was asked to speak. He was overcome with emotion, realizing that now, 6 years after his arrival from North Side High in Fort Worth, "To think that tomorrow will be the last time I will play football on Kentucky soil…" which included his year at Somerset High.
In the evening, the Colonels walked up Fourth Street and attended a movie, "Sowing the Wind," at the recently opened ( October 6, 1921 ) Kentucky Theater, and after the movie, spent some time with the W&L players at the Watterson before heading back to the Seelbach.
There had been a considerable amount of rain during the week leading up to the game.
Despite the weather, the stands and one goal post were decorated in Centre's gold and white, with the posts supporting the roof over the stands wrapped like candy canes. The W&L alumni had only the remaining goal post to wrap, but they had roped off a small area of the stands in their school's blue and white which they would occupy.
It was an enthusiastic capacity crowd, something to which the Colonels had become accustomed to, which flooded into Eclipse Park for the 2:00 game. The sun was out, and the band that the Centre alumni had hired added a festive air.
The Colonels running plays prior to the W&L game with appreciative fans watching closely. Uncle Charlie is toward the left side of the photo with his overcoat opened and hands in pockets.
Red Roberts had a friend who raised donkeys on a farm outside of Danville and he gave one to Red. Roscoe, as usual, did all of the work in taking care of it. Red had decided to bring the animal to the W&L game on the train and have Roscoe accompany it in the baggage car. When they arrived in Louisville, another friend of Red's met them at the Seventh Street station with a truck, and the donkey was taken to a backyard at Belgravia Court several blocks from Eclipse Field and stashed in a fenced-in back yard with some food and water.
Now, on the afternoon of the game, the animal was again put in the truck and brought to the game. Someone had painted "C6 HO" on each side of the donkey and bedecked it with ribbons. Red met Roscoe at an outfield gate and they walked the donkey onto the field and paraded it around in front of the stands.
Red Roberts with his customary white scarf and donkey. Ben Cregor with helmet is behind "6" and Hump Tanner behind "H." Chief Myers with hat looking toward Uncle Charlie, who is far right. Case Thomasson is back between the Chief and Uncle Charlie.
It brought down the house as everyone stood and cheered wildly, the W&L fans as enthused as those of Centre.
( Uncle Charlie kept an album of photographs taken during his years of coaching at Centre. A photograph of the donkey, Red, and team members, was passed on to the author by Ann McCurry, grand-daughter of Uncle Charlie.)
I still have the program of the game. Howard and I went over on Saturday morning and were met by the chauffeur of Uncle Theo and Aunt Mary. He drove us through the downtown to see all of the decorations and then took us to the game.
Believe it or not, he parked and waited for the game to be over so he could take us back out to their home on Cherokee Parkway for dinner that night.
I wrote in pencil, "McMillin- 6," and after the "6," there's a "1" for the extra point.
Then there is, "Roberts- 6," then "Snowday- 6," and finally, "Armstrong- 6."
I added it up to be "25."
In the section of the program where you were supposed to put the Washington and Lee scoring, there is nothing.
That's the way the game ended. We won, 25-0.
Scorecard with Red Robertson's penciled-in scoring
The wet field conditions somewhat negated the Colonels' offensive superiority, at least in regard to running up a big scoring margin, but the statistics told the tale.
The Colonels ran 98 plays and had 27 first downs. The Generals were able to get off only 34 plays, and were able to move the ball for a first down 3 times.
The 1st quarter was scoreless. Centre put 13 points on the board during the 2nd quarter to lead 13-0 at the half.
Action with the candy cane-wrapped posts decorated by Centre alumni
During the break, the Louisville Retail Merchants Association made a presentation to Centre of a huge banner to commemorate the victory over Harvard. Prominent Louisvillian, Judge Arthur Peter, handed over the felt cloth which was one half in light gold with a darker gold "Centre 6", while the other half had a light gold "Harvard O" on a red background along with the date of the game.
Big pennant presented at the half which actually had the school's names spelled out
Another dominating win
Only once was Bo thrown for a loss. He was attempting to skirt his left end when a young man named Tucker managed to bring him down 4 yards behind the line.
Bo was heard to say, "Nice tackle, boy. It was a beaut!"
Coach Raftery may have wanted to rethink his comment made over in Lexington about Bo. The Centre star gained more than the entire W&L team did on the ground, 107 yards to 103. He also connected on 13 of 25 passes for 152 yards.
The Colonels were stopped once on the 1 foot line, and 5 other times they were within the 10-yard line without scoring. The never-say-die spirit and clean play of the Generals gained the respect of not only the Colonels, but of everyone who witnessed the game.
Centre gained 551 yards overall. W&L picked up but 103.
Article demonstrating absolute control by the Colonels
Even as the two teams were walking off the field, plans were being discussed for a return of Washington & Lee to the Derby City.
Robert W. Bingham, newspaper baron, owner of the Louisville "Courier Journal" and its sister paper, the evening Louisville "Times," gave a dinner and dance at the Pendennis Club for the two teams on Saturday night after the game.
The menu had at the top, "Let's Eat and be Merry!"
Besides the teams and coaches, there were over 100 guests including "some of the prettiest girls in these United States."
The "Courier-Journal" printed a lengthy article about the gala.
One of the features of the banquet was the "Pigskin" edition of the two local papers which was placed at every plate, containing the menu, the dance program, and various "quips and quirls" of the two football teams which were the honored guests.
You would never believe it if you did not see the way the members of these two teams fraternized. It was just as if the great Centre College Colonels had not given Washington and Lee a severe drubbing. If the participants have any say in the matter, the Generals and Colonels will meet again next year, even if they have to argue it out on a soaked field with the mercury frozen stiff, after the party they enjoyed last night.
An added highlight of the event was reading the account in Judge Bingham's Louisville "Times," the evening companion of the "Courier-Journal," about the results of the Yale-Harvard game. Bingham had copies trucked right off the press over to the Pendennis.
The Crimson had beaten Yale, 10-3, at the same time that the Colonels were playing W&L. The Elis had gone into the Harvard game undefeated at 8-0, and had just come off a 13-7 victory over Princeton.
The win by Harvard over Yale made the fact that the Colonels had beaten the Crimson all the more significant, since Yale beat Princeton, Harvard beat Yale, and Centre beat Harvard. It was obvious from comparable scores that Centre could play competitively, if not beat, each member of the "Big 3."
Centre stood at 8-0, and had a 13 game winning streak. The Gold and White had recorded another shutout and had now given up only 6 points, that aberrancy against St. Xavier, during the entire season.
Centre had allowed their opposition only 12 first downs in the last 3 games. Kentucky got 7, mainly against reserves, Auburn picked up but 2, and now W&L had gotten only 3. Thus, in 12 quarters, 180 minutes of play, the Colonels defense had been virtually impregnable.
Army and I were friends for a long time. He was in his last year at Centre when I was a freshman, but we became close when we both served on the Centre Board of Trustees later.
Often, I'd come up the night before a meeting at the college and stay with Army and his wife, Porter. We would talk about affairs of the school, but after a couple of highballs, it seemed that we always ended up talking about football, often far into the night.
Army said that the team felt they could score on anyone, and the figures certainly bear that out. Other than the 1917 DePauw and 1920 Georgia Tech games, no team held us scoreless during Army's five years at Centre.
So, Army said that the fellows dedicated themselves to playing the toughest defense that anyone had ever played. It was to be all eleven men on pursuit every play. The guys would literally swarm, and most of the times there would be 2 or 3 or even more in on every tackle.
He told me that his last year, the 1921 season, the team started the season with the goal of shutting out every opponent.
And you know, they came pretty close to doing just that. They were the hardest hitting group that you'll ever see.
The Cincinnati "Times-Star" published an editorial after the Colonels beat W&L.
Last Saturday, Bo McMillin played his last game on the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky.
For many years, Centre turned out men who won national distinction in their later lives. Bo decided not to wait for greatness, so he thrust greatness on himself and his college. Centre suddenly became a name to conjure from Bangor to San Diego, from Duluth to Laredo. From its academic groves it issued strong men who invaded the East, who invaded the South, to return from each journey as conquering heroes. The supreme moment came when Centre preyed on Harvard, the incomparable Bo threading his way among Crimson warriors to a touchdown and victory.
Yes, Kentucky's greatest son! Ask the man in Butte, Montana, who are the senators from Kentucky, and you'll get a blank stare for your answer. But ask the man from Butte who is the Centre quarterback, nay, who is Centre College itself, and you will provoke an enthusiastic reaction and a quick response. And greater than Henry Clay, too, for Henry was only the "Great Compromiser," whereas this later Kentuckian is a "Great Conqueror," who knows no compromise. Yea, Bo!
This great Colonel just defeated the boys from Washington and Lee who were pretty good Generals in their day.