November 18, 1922, Centre-Auburn in Birmingham
During the W&L game in Louisville, Uncle Charlie had allowed J.P. Fitts to sit on the Centre bench, scouting the Colonels for Auburn, the next opponent. It was the way things were done sometimes, and it was only proper because Auburn had allowed Jim Bond, Centre's assistant coach, to sit on its bench on November 4 when the Tigers played and beat Georgia, 7-3, in Columbus, Georgia.
Bond came back to Danville and reported that Centre would have its hands full against Auburn. The Colonels had won the previous year, 21-0, but the Tigers were much improved and were eager to avenge the 1921 defeat.
Auburn was 7-1, the only loss having come at the hands of a strong Army team at West Point, 19-6. Army was a powerhouse in 1922, going 8-0-2, the ties being with Notre Dame ( 8-1-1) and Yale ( 6-3-1 ).
Auburn 61 Marion 0
Auburn 72 Howard 0
Auburn 19 Spring Hill 6
Auburn 6 Army 19
Auburn 50 Mercer 6
Auburn 30 Fort Benning 0
Auburn 7 Georgia 3
Auburn 19 Tulane 0
The game was being billed as the "Championship of Dixie," If the Colonels won, they could reasonably make that claim, having beaten Clemson, Mississippi, Virginia Tech, Kentucky and W&L, with South Carolina not expected to provide too much opposition in the closing game of the season.
Carson-Newman was definitely in the South, being in Tennessee, and Louisville was also, if barely, but neither figured in the equation regarding the possibility of a Southern championship, as neither was a member of the Southern Conference.
Auburn still had to meet Georgia Tech in its final game, after Centre, and any claim the Tigers may make on the championship had to take Tech into consideration.
Nonetheless, Centre knew that if it got by Auburn, and beat South Carolina, the Colonels would have a legitimate claim as being the best team below the Mason-Dixon Line, as well as being one of the best in the country.
The Southern Railroad once again put a package together for Kentuckians to go to Birmingham. The round trip Pullman fare was priced at $38.50. At the same time, the agent in charge helped with the arrangements for the freshman team to go to Chicago to play Keewatin Academy. It was really quite a weekend. Little Centre College was sending Chick Murphy and 18 freshmen to Chicago, where they would be joined by the Chief, while Uncle Charlie, Jim Bond and Jim Kendrick were taking 25 members of the varsity to Birmingham. When coaches, managers and trainers were added, over 50 people connected to the football program were going to be on the road the weekend of November 17-19.
Was it just a few short years ago that Centre had trouble finding enough young men available to even have a scrimmage?
Well, it was time to once again to go over to Cousin Ella's. I knew that she and her husband were really wealthy, probably worth more than anyone in Boyle County. But dad bummit, it got to be sort of embarrassing always going over to see her with my hand out. But she was always nice, and eventually she'd say, "Now Red, do you need a little money? I see there's football game coming up."
Cousin Ella was quite a fan of the team, like everybody in Danville. So she told me before the trip to Birmingham that she and her husband really wanted to go to the game, but couldn't for some reason. She asked me if I'd go and come back and have dinner with them and tell them everything that happened over the weekend.
I told her that I supposed maybe I could do just that. I didn't even have to ask her, she just went and got that little purse and came back with two $20.00 gold pieces. And she said I was her "personal reporter," and reporters got paid to report.
That's how I got to the Auburn game. I'd been Howard Reynolds' assistant at the Harvard game, and I was going to be Cousin Ella's reporter in Birmingham.
Centre had been treated royally during the previous year's journey to play Auburn in Birmingham, and the 1922 trip was no different. The Colonels were staying at the Tutwiler again, and were to be guests at an affair Friday night at the hotel hosted by Kentuckians living in the Birmingham area.
For Auburn, the Centre game was the biggest on their schedule and the Tigers looked forward to avenging Centre's 1921 win.
"Remember Last Year"
The Tigers were somewhat like Centre in playing most of their significant games on the road.
In 1922, Auburn played Marion, Mercer and Fort Benning at home, hardly stellar attractions. Army was at West Point, Howard was an away game on the Howard campus in Birmingham, and Spring Hill and Tulane were at Montgomery.
Georgia was at Columbus, and Georgia Tech was to be played in Atlanta.
Auburn was treating the Centre game as somewhat of a Homecoming event, since the 3 actual home games hadn't been sufficient draws to attract the alumni back to the campus.
The Optimist Club of Birmingham was going to take the Tigers to the Roebuck Country Club for lunch Friday, and the team was going to conduct a signal drill on a Roebuck fairway which was open to all fans who wished to attend.
The Southern Club was hosting a big dinner and reception for all of the alumni on Friday evening.
Tickets simply weren't available. Each of the 17,000 seats at Rickwood Field was long gone, and a report stated that, "none can be begged, borrowed or stolen." It was another standing room only event for the Colonels, as usual.
Cars filling the parking lot outside of Rickwood Field
Intermittent showers occurred on the day of the game, but nothing could have deterred those who were going to the game. The newspapers reported 20,000 squeezed into and around Rickwood, and the contest "attracted the greatest crowd ever to see a sporting event in Birmingham."
Site of the Colonels' return appearance in Birmingham
The game was beautifully played. There was one 5 yard penalty against the Colonels.
Auburn didn't draw a flag all day.
Basically it was a defensive struggle. Auburn's offense never got closer than the Colonels' 40. Centre never got inside the Tigers' 35
Halfway through the 3rd quarter, Auburn's captain, left half John Shirey, boomed a punt which put Centre deep into its own territory.
John Shirey, Auburn captain and punter
The Colonels ran the ball 3 times for minimal yardage as the Tigers played great defense. On 4th down, Red lined up to punt and stood on his 5 yard line. Left tackle Grisham broke through and got his hand on the ball as it left Red's shoe.
"A mad scramble of blue and gold jerseys fought for possession," was how it was reported.
The slick ball seemed like it was covered with grease, and several times it looked like someone had smothered it when it would shoot back out and both teams would again try to make the claim.
Finally, the Tigers' left end, Edward "Slick" Moulton, fell on the ball in the end zone.
Moulton's extra point effort was no good.
The blocked punt was the game, as the final score was 6-0.
Statistically, it was a dead heat, as both teams picked up 8 first downs.
One thing was certain as the soaked players left the field. The game had been a classic between two excellent teams. There was an instant groundswell for a rematch, a rubber game, in 1923, and before Centre even left Birmingham Saturday night for the long ride back to Danville, both schools had agreed to meet again, at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, on a weekend in November.
Sometimes you lose a game and realize that it was just meant to be. Those of us who were in Birmingham that afternoon were as proud of our team as we could be.
We had fought hard and played with great heart. Of course, we'd have loved to come home as victors, but nobody really lost that game, and everybody agreed that it would have been wonderful if the two teams had tied, they were that close. And that's the way Cousin Ella's reporter described it at dinner one night after I returned.
She said, "Oh, Red. It seems just like I was there! I must send my little reporter to other games."
I told her that perhaps we could work something out.
Centre received a detailed financial report from Auburn after returning back to Danville.
Auburn Polytechnic Institute
Auburn Athletic Association
*See later "Additional Ticket Sales Added in."
Park Rent 3,709.10
Centre's Expenses 1,332.78
Auburn's Expenses 627.38
To Birmingham for Placing Tickets 19.77
Ticket Takers 109.76
Ticket Counters 20.00
Thomas, Lineman 75.00
Van Surdam, Referee 203.58
Williams, Umpire 141.98
Net Gate $18,053.01
Additional Ticket Sales at Auburn
240 Tickets at $2.50 600.00
126 Tickets at $2.00 252.00
Park Rent -15% of Additional Sales 127.80
Net - Additional Ticket Sales 724.20
50% of Net Gate $9,026.50
50% of Additional Sales at Auburn 362.10
Adjustment Rate of 1033 tickets @ $0.25
Due Centre $9,646.86
Paid Centre, Expenses 1,332.72
Total to Centre $10,979.58
It was amazing that during this era, Centre could play a game in which all of its expenses were paid and still clear nearly $10,000 for a Saturday afternoon after its expenses were paid. It would have been close to $160,000 in today's valuation of the dollar. It needs to be pointed out also that many times, other expenses for meals, banquets, and receptions were paid by Centre alumni who wanted to have some way to contribute to the team's success and experiences.
After the Auburn game, everyone who had gone to Birmingham headed back to Danville on a Saturday night train. Everybody, that is, except one very important person.
Uncle Charlie said he was going to stay over since there was no game for 12 days, until the November 30, season ending Thanksgiving contest with South Carolina.
"I'm going to give the boys a couple of days off, let them rest a bit. They deserve it."
This made everyone in Danville terribly nervous, because there were rumors.