I just received a copy of Michie by James G. Sweeney. Michie is of course West Point’s venerable Michie Stadium, site of many historic football contests. Sweeney’s description is enough to make one want to spend an October Saturday along the Hudson taking in fall foliage, tradition, spectacle and even a football game all at once. Having served in the Air Force rather than wait for greetings from my friends and neighbors to don an army uniform, I know nothing about West Point. It seems that Army’s football tradition and history is as important to their alumni and supporters as is The Big House to my wife. However, it is not Michie Stadium that caught my attention, it was its predecessor, The Plain.
Before Michie Stadium was inaugurated in 1924, the cadets battled their opponents on The Plain, a large drill field that figures prominently on campus. The Plain was also the site of some historic football games, more historic in my estimation than those played at Michie, but then I’m not a West Pointer. It was on The Plain that the soldiers first met the Indians in hand-to-hand combat in 1905 and the Indians emerged victorious. The Indians of which I speak are the Carlisle Indians who wrestled with future officers for the pigskin three times in their glorious history. The Indians won the first two games, 1905 and 1912, but were routed in 1917, the last year Carlisle fielded a team. After athletics were deemphasized in 1914, Carlisle was no longer competitive and many of the athletes who would have been present in 1917 were in France fighting a shooting war. So, that game doesn’t count for much.
The 1905 and 1912 games were truly historic. Jim Sweeney tells me he is writing something about them. Hearing things from the other side’s perspective will be interesting. Another historic game was played on The Plain in 1913 when a team from a little-known Jesuit college in Indiana was booked to fill an open spot in Army’s schedule.