Posts Tagged ‘The Plain’

100th Anniversary of 1912 Carlisle-Army Game

November 9, 2012

Follows is the short article I was asked to write for The Torch, the monthly magazine of the U. S. Army War College, to commemmorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1912 Carlisle-Army football game:

The Cadets of West Point took the field on The Plain November 9, 1912, aiming to avenge their 1905 loss to Carlisle Indian School in the two schools’ only previous battle, also on The Plain. Missing from the second battle were the players and coaches from both 1905 teams and Major William A. Mercer, Carlisle Superintendent and Calvary officer, who had arranged that game by gaining permission from the War Department. Also AWOL in 1912 were the large crowd, dignitaries, and media interest the first game attracted. Present in 1912 were Jim Thorpe, Gus Welch, Joe Guyon, Pop Warner, Leland Devore, Dwight Eisenhower, Babe Weyand (in the bleachers), and Pot Graves, a cast surely destined for a movie.

Ominous clouds filled the sky and a cold wind blew across the field, making passing and punting risky businesses. Both sides’ emotions ran high as the combatants craved a victory. Carlisle arrived undefeated, the only blemish on their record a scoreless tie with Washington and Jefferson College, a month earlier. Army was 3-1 with a 6-0 loss to Yale. Holding the Eli of Yale to only four first downs and a low score gave the Cadets hope for success over the Indians.

Newspaper accounts after the game never considered its outcome in doubt, but those looking only at the scoreboard, at least for the first half, may have thought otherwise. The Indians bested the Cadets for most of the first half but didn’t score due to errant forward passes in the end zone. The turning point of the second quarter came when Carlisle fullback Stancil “Possum” Powell was expelled from the game for punching Army quarterback Vern “Nig” Pritchard. The 27-yard penalty combined with Powell’s ejection dampened the Indians’ spirits. Army then moved the ball forward the remaining 27 yards with fullback Geoffrey Keyes pushing the ball across the goal line. Pritchard missed the kick after the touchdown.

Momentum shifted in the Indians’ favor on the kickoff opening the second half when All-America tackle and team captain Leland Devore jumped on Joe Guyon, who had been getting the better of him all day, getting himself thrown out of the game. Army defensive backs Dwight Eisenhower and Charles Benedict knocked each other out of the game for the rest of the quarter in a failed attempt to sideline Thorpe. The Indians scored 27 unanswered points to lick Army worse than any opponent had beaten them in many years.

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The Plain, The Plain

May 17, 2008

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.