Army Team Victorious in Hard-Fought Game

Damon Runyon

November 16, 1915


Oliphant, for Army, Charges Through Middies for Long Gains

They say a loose gun on the standing deck can do a pile of damage ‘board ship unless it is speedily rounded up.

Elmer Oliphant, “The Elephant,” who is a sort of football field piece for the landward wing of your Uncle Samuel’s gridiron forces, had some such similar effect on the United States Navy up at the Polo Grounds this afternoon, when he got to rolling about, uncontrolled, in the midst of the deep-sea eleven.

“The Elephant” well nigh ended the annual football battle between Annapolis and West Point, better known as the Army and the Navy, before it had a chance to take a full breath and get settled down to formal hostilities.

“The Elephant,” who is not really an elephant in point of physical proportions, but who is mighty pachydermous in the matter of football ability, grabbed the pigskin on the opening kick-off, and steamed 83 yards to a touchdown, past the whole Annapolis fleet.

That was in the very first minute of play, understand.

The audience just let out a loud “whoosh” and then sat still.

It came up so suddenly that all hands on deck were completely dumbfounded.

Here on instant, Perry, of the Navy, gently lifting the old football from the tee in the center of the field—his toe to start the game. There, the next instant, went a young man with a leather headgear over his hair and the ball tucked under his arm.

“Oliphant,” gasped the crowd.

“O-l-i-p-h-a-n-t,” chanted the Gray legion in the leftfield bleachers at the old home of the Giants, where sat the flower of American youth.

Much transpired thereafter to go into making of the total score of 15 to 7 in favor of the Army, but that was the beginning, and a lot of the end.

Presently “the Elephant” kicked a goal from field and presently the Army made another touch-down. Then the Navy scored.

There were nearly 50,000 people shivering in the stands when the game closed, but they were still pouring into the stands when Oliphant made his spectacular run.

Perry kicked off for the Navy and Oliphant caught the ball, getting under way in a flash.

Through the light cruising Navy forwards he moved, knocking them aside with apparently nothing more than light gestures. Around the low lying bulk of the battleship backs he sped.

“The Elephant” was running amuck. He traveled with an awkward swinging stride. Soon he was out in front and all alone.

After Oliphant’s long gallop, which put the ball on the Navy’s six-yard line, Gerhardt, the Army quarter, pushed it on a couple of yards, and then Oliphant himself punched on through to the touchdown.

Later on in the game the Navy put up a real battle, but it got going a little too late.

Navy Fights Hard

The Navy fought hard and furiously, but it was green and inexperienced, and so outclassed.

It was a cold, blustery day. Always a wintry, narrow searching wind blew.

The gridiron was laid out lengthwise of the field. One set of goal posts was across the old home plate. The other was in center field.

Boxes had been built on the field in front of the right field stand and even little bleacher sections were erected in front of the center field bleachers.

The management of the Polo Grounds gave the press even less consideration than it gets at the other big college games, which is no consideration at all.

The streets approaching the Polo Grounds were studded with patrolmen, mounted men and even motorcycle cops. They kept the crowd moving, to avoid a piling up of folk at the entrances to the field.

As early at 12 o’clock the advance guard of 50,000 was in motion. A dead line was established at One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street. No one was allowed past that line without tickets.

The first arrivals at the gates of the stadium were the members of the Engineer Battalion, stationed at West Point, and a bunch of bluejackets from the warships laying at anchor in the Hudson River.

By 1 o’clock the crowd was pouring through the gates in a steady current.

The Army squad was first on the field.

It was numerically stronger than any company of infantry in Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition.

The Navy squad came on presently with almost enough hands to man a gunboat. Both teams was garbed almost identically with black sweaters and moleskins, save that the Army wore black stockings with yellow stripes. That further complicated matters.

At 1:40 strains of band music came percolating through the icy air, and a real yell swept the stands as the West Point cadets appeared. The Army came, six hundred strong in a long gray line behind the blue uniformed band. Each man carried an army pennant.

All this time there was a great gap in the south stand, where the block of seats assigned to the naval cadets yawned vacantly. The Navy was late again. A few minutes before 2 o’clock, however, the Army section let out a yell. The heads of the Navy volume had appeared at the gate opening under the left field bleachers.

Middies Enter

As the midshipmen swung down the field in long, unbroken lines, the Army gave its friend the enemy a yell.

The yell leaders employed a sort of file index system of getting out the various yells with wonderful results.

The Army made its second touchdown after hammering its way to the Navy’s 12-yard line. Gerhardt dropped back for a try for a field goal and then threw the ball to Vidal. The lanky Westerner turned and plunged clear over a waiting tackler, falling across the line. Oliphant kicked the goal. The score was then 15 to 0.

It took the Navy some little time to discover that it could do nothing whatever again the Army line, and then it began an aerial attack. Three forward passes netted about 22 yards. Then a middle missed one that was right in his arms, when he was faced in the right direction to go on to a touchdown. The ball went to the Army and the Army punted. Another forward pass gained 22 yards in a bunch for the Salt-water boys, but the half ended with the ball on the Army’s 20-yard line.

The Middies began showing improved form from the opening of the second half, but the touchdown that followed the first few minutes of play came as a tremendous surprise.

A punt from Vidal’s foot was blocked, and the ball was recovered by Butler, who had a clear track to a touchdown. He stumbled once or twice, but finally put the ball across. A goal from touch-down was an easy matter.