|Clashmore Mike refuses to back down to Army's mule in Yankee Stadium|
(Notre Dame Archives, 1947)
Nov 18, 2010
Army v. Notre Dame: More than a Game
This Saturday when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame meet the Black Knights of the United States Military Academy in New York City, they will be continuing a tradition that is not only central to the identity of both schools, but to the overall history of our nation. The awe-inspiring history behind this rivalry is far too vast to fit into a single article, but a quick overview should shed some light on its relevance for the casual fan:
Army v. Notre Dame in New York:
1913 – In the first-ever meeting between the small, unknown school from South Bend and the fearsome football giant from West Point, the Catholics made a name for themselves by practically reinventing the game. Quarterback Gus Dorais led an offense that was the first of its kind, relying on what was until that point known as a trick play (the forward pass). His favorite target? You may have heard of the undersized end named Knute Rockne who hauled in a 25 yard touchdown pass for the first score in a 35 – 13 win for Our Lady’s team. As they say, the rest is history…
The 1913 upset of a thousand lifetimes initiated an annual rivalry that was played in West Point every year until 1923 when the overflow of fans forced the popular matchup to Brooklyn, where the yet to be named Four Horsemen led Notre Dame to a 13 – 0 victory on Ebbets Field.
1924 – The pivotal game in Notre Dame’s first national championship season was relocated once again as the crowds continued to grow, this time to the Polo Grounds in New York City. The spectacle of a Notre Dame backfield, the likes of which had never been seen, as they galloped to a 13 – 7 victory in front of a record 60,000 fans inspired Grantland Rice of the New York Herald-Tribune to write the most famous piece of sports journalism in history. It’s opening stanza:
“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky,
The Four Horsemen rode again.
In dramatic lore they are known as
Famine, pestilence, destruction and death.
These are only aliases.
Their real names are Stuhldreher,
Miller, Crowley, and Layden.”
1925 – In the aftermath of the 1924 game, the national championship, and Rice’s poetic praise, the series was finally moved to a worthy venue inside Yankee Stadium. The black Knights carried the day 27 – 0 in the first of many games to be played there.
1928 – Locked in a scoreless tie at half-time, now head-coach Knute Rockne delivered what has since transcended sports and popular culture as the Golden standard of all locker room speeches when he told his boys to go out there and “Win one for the Gipper.” The Fighting Irish did just that, stalling Army at the half-yard line as time ran out on a 12-6 victory. Not only did Rockne’s speech propel Our Lady’s loyal sons onward to victory, but it also launched a budding actor named Ronald Reagan into stardom some years later.
1944 – Top ranked Army, dominant during the WWII era, embarrassed #5 Notre Dame by running up the score 59 – 0.
1945 – Army delivered the second straight slaughter of the Fighting Irish by the score of 48 – 0. The Fighting Irish would not forget the two-year 107 – 0 domination by the Black Knights. At the end of WWII, when Leahy and his lads returned from active duty to rejoin their team, the old ball coach reminded them that Army may have beaten up on the boys over the past two years, but the men had finally returned.
1946 – “The Game of the Century” – The matchup between #1 Army and #2 Notre Dame, both 6 – 0 at the time, still stands as quite possibly the most hyped college football game in history. Over $5,000,000 was placed in bets on the game (a lot for what ended up as a push – especially considering it was 1946). Mind-blowingly, the game featured four Heisman winners (Blanchard ’45 and Davis ’46 for Army; Lujack ’47 and Hart ’49 for ND) on the field at the same time. As the fates would have it, the actual game failed to live up to expectations and ended in a 0 – 0 tie. The score was much more meaningful than it now seems though, as it signaled the Post-War arrival of the Fighting Irish. After going toe to toe for four quarters with the mighty Black Knights while literally the entire sports world tuned in, Leahy’s lads knew they could play with anyone. In fact, they wouldn’t lose another game for four years, picking up three National Championships and two Heisman Trophies along the way.
1969 – After a 23 year drought, Yankee Stadium witnessed its favorite historic matchup once again, this time between # 15 Notre Dame and unranked Army. The 0 – 0 score at half-time triggered talks of the ghosts still lingering from the Game of the Century, but the Fighting Irish opened the floodgates in the second half en route to a 45 – 0 victory.
2010 – Saturday’s return to Yankee Stadium marks the continuance of a tradition that transcends sports. Both teams will honor a shared history that changed the college football landscape forever. For Notre Dame fans, returning to New York presents a unique opportunity to honor the birth not only of the forward pass (thanks Rock), but also of the never-say-die spirit that formed the identity of the university we all know and love. Finally, as you board the train on your way to the Bronx this weekend, give special thanks to the past generations of immigrant New Yorkers who gave rise to our fiercely loyal fanbase by adopting Notre Dame as working-class America’s favorite university.