Friday, October 20, 1922 - The Day Before The Game
Uncle Charlie had been met at the station, when the team finally arrived on Thursday night, by a representative from Harvard who said that Centre could use the Stadium at anytime.
"We're sorry that you had so much difficulty in getting here. Tomorrow, whatever your schedule needs to be, we will accommodate you."
It was appreciated, and by 9:00 Friday morning, the team had finished breakfast at the Lenox, suited up in their uniforms in their rooms, and been bused to Soldiers Field and were on the Stadium tuft, ready to workout. Most of the team had been at the field the year before, but no degree of familiarity could totally erase the sense of awe, the feeling that one was in a special place, that stepping onto the perfectly manicured grass inside the great horseshoe was an experience of a lifetime.
Red Roberts saw that I got to go along. Crep couldn't go, but I piled onto one of the buses and we drove through Boston out to the Stadium. When we got close, I saw this beautiful structure in the distance. I'd seen Roman ruins like the Coliseum in some encyclopedias that we had at home, and I'd seem pictures of Harvard Stadium carried in the newspapers, but I guess nothing could prepare you for being there and seeing it in person.
It was beautiful! It was huge, like a cathedral.
I had to think about our wooden stadium out on Cheek Field, how little and primitive it seemed. Even the stadium in Birmingham, and Eclipse Field in Louisville seemed so- I guess you'd say- insignificant, when you compared them to what we were approaching.
I remember thinking, "How in the world did we come up here last year and beat a team that plays in a place like this?"
Then we went through the gate and I climbed to the top of the stands while the team walked around on the grass. The field was covered with photographers with their tripods and cameras and reporters carrying their notepads. There were also people wearing Harvard jackets who were there to take care of anything the team needed.
There was a photo session that had become a familiar part of the Colonels' appearances. The "Post" carried a picture of the starting backfield- Hope Hudgins, Herb Covington, Red Roberts and Terry Snowday and the line with Hennie Lemon, Baldy Cregor, Frank Rubarth, Ed Kubale, George Jones, Bill Shadoan, and Minos Gordy.
Press photo taken at Harvard Stadium the morning of October 20, 1922
Front row, left to right- Hennie Lemon, Ben Cregor, Frank Rubarth, Ed Kubale, Buck Jones, Bill Shadoan, Minos Gordy
Back row, left to right- Hope Hudgins, Herb Covington, Red Roberts, Tom Snowday
Caption of photo
Tom Bartlett, a starter, had his spot taken by Hope Hudgins. Tom was so ill that he was left back at the hotel, barely able to even get any liquids down. A physician came to the Lenox and determined that Bartlett had a peritonsillar abscess, and that surgery would be required. He was taken to a hospital for care, and was left behind when the team headed back to Danville.
The press asked Uncle Charlie for his starting lineup, and he handed out slips of paper which listed the starters for the game.
PLAYER POSITION HT WT CLASS
Clifton "Hennie" Lemon Right End 5'10" 165 SOPH.
Ben Cregor Right Tackle 5'11" 180 SR.
Frank Rubarth* Right Guard 5'11" 175 SOPH.
Ed Kubale Center 6' 176 SOPH.
George "Buck" Jones Left Guard 5'8 1/2" 203 SOPH.
Bill Shadoan Left Tackle 6'1" 184 SOPH.
Minos Gordy Left End 5'10" 177 SOPH.
Herb Covington Quarter 5'5" 158 SOPH.
Hope Hudgins Right Half 5'7" 150 SOPH.
Terry Snowday Left Half 5' 10" 178 SR.
James "Red" Roberts Fullback 6' 1" 225 SR.
*( Frank Rubarth didn't actually start. A last minute change prior to the kickoff was made, and Howard Lynch, another sophomore at 5' 10" and 180 lbs., got the call. However, Lynch re-twisted his knee in the 1st quarter, and Rubarth replaced him. )
Even with 8 sophomores starting, Centre had a fairly experienced group of players.
Everyone other than Lemon and Hudgins had seen action in the 1921 game, even if some had been substitutes.
Uncle Charlie decided to start Red at fullback due to the absence of Bartlett. He felt he needed the big redhead to lead interference, but also planned on shifting him back into the line and sending in Hump as needed.
While Hudgins was game and had great speed, Tom Bartlett's absence was going to remove a major facet of the Colonels' attack and increase the pressure on Covington, because Tom had the ability to both throw and receive passes, plus he was a great defensive player. Bartlett was somewhat like Army had been. He didn't run up any spectacular stats, but when a post-game analysis was made, his play would always be seen as critical to the team's success
Tom Bartlett would be missed.
After the press was satisfied, Uncle Charlie asked that everyone leave and the team be allowed to practice for the next 2 hours unobserved. The coach wanted to continue to perfect the "lock-step," and nearly the whole session was devoted to the new formation.
"Now, Hennie, now, pick up the ball and shovel it back to Covey. Then everyone go right."
At the end of the peppy session, Uncle Charlie had the players sit in the enclosed end zone.
I could see that the practice was winding down so I came down from the stands and followed the guys to the end of the field. I was getting pretty comfortable about being along on the trip and hanging out with the team. After all, Red was the captain, and if he wanted me around, who was to say anything? And nobody ever did.
While we all sat there, Uncle Charlie gave a great speech, and I remember the main points, and it went something like this.
Tomorrow will be the last time that most of you will ever be in this magnificent structure. Centre College has been represented well here, but we won't be back because Harvard has elected not to play any more intersectional games with teams like us.
There will be over 50,000 people watching your every move. The papers say there will be several hundred thousand people listening to the action on the radio. They say that our game will have a greater audience than any sporting event in the history of the world! Think of that, in the history of the world! More than last year's Jack Dempsey-Carpentier fight.
We have played with true Centre spirit in the past. We have won the hearts of many of the fans here and everywhere because of our hard but clean play.
We have been true sportsmen, just as Harvard has. This year we have suffered many hardships. We've had players declared ineligible who had done nothing wrong. We've had deaths of family members. We've had illness strike our team. We've had hard travel and delays that other teams don't have to endure.
But through it all, you have proved to be real Centre men. You have brought pride to your school, to Old Centre. You have made our great state of Kentucky proud, and the whole Southland has embraced Centre College, as have people all over the country.
Tomorrow, when you run out onto this field, I want each and every one of you to know that you have made me proud. You're the finest group of young men, the finest group I have ever known, and whatever the outcome, I want you to know that I love you for what you are.
You are Centre men, through and through, and there is no better compliment that I can pay each of you.
You are Centre men, through and through.
I know that I had tears in my eyes when Uncle Charlie stopped speaking, and so did the players. Even Uncle Charlie's eyes were glistening, and Uncle Charlie was hardly the type to cry.
I have often wondered back about those times. We were sometimes called the, "The Fighting, Crying, Praying Colonels."
"Crying?" Did real men cry? I think you have to understand the times. Every member of the team so wanted to do well, and every member of the team tried so hard to live up to what was expected of them that they became really emotional when they thought about going out and representing their team and Centre College.
I think it's different now. College athletes want to win, sure, but it's not a life-or-death sort of thing for them nowadays.
When the Colonels were playing while I was at Centre, the players felt that they were truly representing each and every one of us who went to school in Danville, that they were not only representing those of us who were on the campus at the time, but they were playing for everyone who ever was enrolled, no matter how long ago. They were playing for K.C.W., they were playing for Danville, they were playing for Kentucky, and they were playing for the South and for everywhere that there were fans who followed them.
And, yes, they were very emotional about it.
Real men do cry, if they feel strongly enough about something, as our guys did.
After the return to the Lenox, lunch and another quick chalkboard session, there was a vote to see how the rest of the afternoon would be spent. Buses could be engaged quickly for a tour of the city and environs. Tickets could be bought for an afternoon vaudeville show down the street. Or, the option was available to anyone who just wanted free time to explore the city on his own.
When the vote was tallied, there was an overwhelming margin to travel to see the Plymouth Rock, the site of the landing of the first Pilgrims in 1620.
The 300th anniversary of the landing had taken place in 1920, and there had been a significant amount of publicity, magnified by the recent ending of World War I and the tremendous patriotism which had swept the country the last few years.
There was room for me on one of the buses, and Red said, "I don't go anywhere without my son," so I hopped on and sat in the back, just happy to be going.
We went through Boston and the driver pointed out the sights as we went along, and then headed south toward Plymouth, a place which I was vaguely familiar with, but, of course, I'd never been there.
When we got to Plymouth, we drove to the site where the famous Plymouth Rock was, and to tell you the truth, it didn't seem that special, just a rock sitting inside this open building with columns. But when our guide started talking, everyone seemed really interested, because, like he said, this was the very spot that the Pilgrims had supposedly stepped off their boat when they first came to America.
I had to wonder, how did they know it was this particular rock, and not some other rock? But, of course, I didn't say anything.
Pilgrim Memorial Park, site of the Plymouth Rock
After listening to the story about the rock, we drove back to Boston so everyone could get ready to go to a reception for the team that night.
There were several Southern Clubs in the Boston area. If a Southerner moved to the Northeast, often the first thing they did was to associate with one of the Southern Clubs so they could socialize with people from similar circumstances and backgrounds.
Multiple Clubs banded together to rent the huge Boston Arena, a facility which opened in 1910 near the Back Bay on St. Boltolph Street, adjacent to Northeastern University. They planned a Friday night reception before the game to honor the Colonels and any Kentuckians who were in the city for the game.
In addition to the members of the Southern Clubs, the event was also attended by members of many of the college fraternities in the area. Not only was the team an attraction, but it been publicized that the "The Famous Centre Six" was going to play, and the whole evening promised to be a gala happening.
The Centre "Six" with Howard Robertson, older brother of Red Robertson and the author's uncle, far left
Howard played the banjo and mandolin. I still have what is called a "potato bug" mandolin that he played in the Boston Arena. The Centre "Six" was different that the group that called itself the Centre "5" the year before. In addition to Howard, there were three fellows who played the clarinet and two played the saxophone.
They could play just about anything, depending on what the crowd wanted. They performed popular and novelty songs, and could even get into classical music somewhat. They were so good that the Chief's Chautauqua company had booked them for a tour out West and in the big hotels all over the South, and they played in New York City and some of the Eastern colleges like Wellesley and at the Harvard Union.
When they were referred to as being the "Famous Centre Six," they were really just that. They were very professional and always put on quite a show.
The players came into the packed arena and mingled with the folks. The Centre "Six" was in good form, their up-tempo music creating a lively and festive air. A wooden dance floor was packed with the younger crowd showing off the latest steps, and of course, a pretty young lady grabbed Red and pulled him out to the center of the dancing throng, and soon everyone began to back away and leave the floor to Red and his partner, clapping and cheering as the smiling All-American, always ready when the music started, went through his moves.
The plan had been for the Colonels to only stay for awhile, hoping there would be time for everyone attending to have some contact with the players, but the size of the crowd made it obvious that the members of the team couldn't shake every hand, and reply to every compliment and every wish for success.
There was a platform behind the dance floor and the Colonels were asked to get on it so that they could be introduced. The Centre "Six" played a stirring song as the team climbed onto makeshift stage.
As soon as the "Six" finished, there was huge roar which echoed off the walls of the arena.
"Centre! Centre! Centre! Centre!" - the cheer went on and on.
"Centre! Centre! Centre! Centre!"
It made a chill go over your entire body, just a hair-raising chill.
The crowd kept shouting, "Centre! Centre!"
Finally, Red stepped forward and put his finger over his lips like to try to say, "Shhhhhh," and then they started, "Red! Red! Red!" and I thought they'd never stop.
At last, one of the organizers of the evening got the crowd to quiet down, and the Colonels took turns stepping out of the line and shouting out their names. Of course, each time they did, there was another cheer. Red waited until the last, and when he smiled and waved, he didn't even have to say his name. It was "Red! Red! Red!" until the guys finally stepped back down off the platform and began to make their way out of the arena.
You had to be there. You had to have lived during this period to know exactly how much people thought of our team.
After the guys finally left, the dancing picked up again and went on until at least midnight, or longer.
Howard said they he and the group had played at a lot of events, but that night at the Boston Arena was the best they had ever performed, and that it was the most fun, too.