Wilson, Neutral, Sees Army Beat Navy; Score 14-0

Damon Runyon

Washington Herald/November 28, 1915

Crowd of 44,000 Wet to the Skin, But Sticks Through Football Classic

Oliphant is the Star

Cadets’ Half Back Proves the Whole Show, Making All Points Scored

President’s New Tile Soaked

One of Few Top Hats Seen Gets Baptism as He Crosses Field with Mrs. Galt

New York, Nov. 27.—Way up yonder at the outer edge of Harlem, on up beyond the tenements, where the Polo Grounds sprawl between the odorous old river and the cliffs, a band suddenly struck up the Star-Spangled Banner this afternoon, and after a while it was discovered that the Army had won the year’s football classic over the Navy, 14 to 0.

Rain was falling. It was a cold rain. It was a steady, insistent rain. It came in straight lines from the clouds. It was a winter-ish rain, and penetrating, and it beat down upon the heads of some 44,000 people.

Band Cheered Them Up

It was a rain to guard against with wraps and shelter, but the instant the strains of “The Star Spangled Banner” lifted into the muggy air, the 44,000 people rose to their feet and at least half the crowd bared their brows to the drizzling rain. That was the masculine half—grizzled old army and navy officers, and government officials and millionaires, and plain citizens, and the like—the men of the crowd. It was a tile hat—one of the few tile hats in the assemblage, and it got wet as the game progressed.

Wilson Sternly Neutral

Sternly neutral, as always, he stood with the rain falling upon his thinning locks, and he stood, too, until the band had ceased. Beside him stood the lady who is presently to be the first lady of the land, Mrs. Norman Galt.

Behind the Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy rose a tier of black overcoated lads who will one day boss the warships that go down to the sea. Across the way were banked the gray-clad youngsters who will eventually command the land forces of the man who stood there in the rain.

The band stopped. The President and all the others resumed their seats. Then, presumably neutral still, he sat there in the rain and saw his future officers whale his future ship commanders in a game of football.

The President never did quite escape the rain. Sternly neutral, he changed sides between the halves and sat with the army, but his new hat was as open to the sky as the other and the rain kept up nearly all the time. And in his stern neutrality he was pretty much alone. Everybody else was inclined one way or the other. Maybe the President himself wasn’t really as neutral as his attitude indicated, but a President is presumed to be so at any Army and Navy game.

Noise and “Preparedness”

The rest of the 44.000 could be just as pro-Army or pro-Navy as they pleased—and they all pleased. If noise enters into this thing of to any extent, the President probably will go to bed tonight well satisfied that his country is in good hands.

Damp and dismal the weather, but it could not droop the enthusiasm of the 44,000 or the spirits of the lads who came down the Hudson to meet me boys from Maryland. The result of the game extinguished the gladness in the bosom of the deep water youngsters, perhaps, but it put an additional drive to the charge of the soldiers when they rushed the colors at the finish.

Football “Dope” Vindicated

So far as the game itself is concerned, the football dope was vindicated. The Army was expected to win and the Army did win.

It did not win by as large a score as many predicted, perhaps, but It won by a margin to prove that it has the best football team and—Oliphant. Above all else, the soldiers have Oliphant.

Some day Oliphant may be leading a forlorn hope somewhere or holding a fort, or doing some one of those many other little things that fall to the lot of a soldier, and if the 44,000 who saw the game today get the top time they will have a small bet on Oly. His reputation as a football player is no new thing. He was expected to be the star today, because he has been the star of so many other games for the Army, and he came up to all expectations. He was a sort of combination Mahan and Barrett of his team.

Bothered by the wet field, and a ball that was as elusive to the hand as peeled peach, the Navy made a pretty good fight. The handicap of dampness should have evened up in the long run, but somehow the soldiers seemed more amphibious, so to speak, than the sailors.

Scored All Points for Cadets

Oliphant scored all the points for his team. He made both touchdowns and kicked both goals from touchdowns. This was his first game against the Navy as an Army cadet is not permitted to play his first year against the sailors. He put in three years at Purdue, and was picked as an all-Western back for two years

The game started a little late, and did not end until long after the electric lights along the “U” tracks were glowing through the haze.

About 1 30 the Army football squad came on the soppy field and ran through signals in a damp, dispirited manner, and soon afterwards the Army students came swinging into the enclosure behind their band. This stirred up some real enthusiasm. They tramped upon the gridiron, went through a few evolutions, and then filed into the section of the stand behind right field.

Merrilat Gets First Cheer

Merrilat, last year’s star of the Army and Navy game, appeared and got the first big individual cheer of the day. Shortly before 2 o’clock half a dozen, big automobiles came tearing into the field and stopped on the Navy side. President Wilson stepped from one car and took his seat in a box down in front of the section reserved for the Navy students followed by the other members of his party, which included a delegation of Secret Service men. At 2 o’clock nearly every seat was taken with the exception of a big yellow square on the left field side where the Navy students were to sit.

“What’s the matter with the Navy?” a West Pointer inquired loudly. “Are they afraid of the water?”

Finally a blotch of black appeared in one of the entrances under the center field bleachers, and the Army set up a roar of greeting. The Navy had arrived. The 800 students from Annapolis came in with their band blaring a lively air and after forming in front of the Presidential box, they moved in their seats in a long line. Then the two football squads trotted on and the Navy square suddenly flamed into a breaker of yellow coloring that splashed up vividly against the murky daylight.

Sky Clears as Game Begins

The sky was clearing a little—a very little—as the two teams lined up on the wet grass.

Early in the first period, after a couple of exchanges of punts, the Navy swept the ball down into Army territory. Then Coffin kicked, and Craig fumbled the slippery ball, which was recovered by an Army man on the Navy’s 10-yard line. A couple of more plays, with Oliphant, the great back of the Army, carrying the ball, put it over for a touchdown, and Oliphant kicked goal.

The Army erupted into 72-centimeter sound; the bugles sang mad paeans of triumph.

The wet field seemed to be bothering some of the players, but not Oliphant. During the next few minutes he gave a great exhibition of running a broken field, keeping his feet against the slippery grass and the fierce tackling of the Navy men, too. Finally the Army lost the ball on a fumble.

After trying a bit of the open game, the Navy went back to first principles and used Martin and Craig to batter openings in the Army line. Then they used another forward pass, which was successful, but finally Von Helmberg punted over the Army goal. The ball was brought out and delivered over to the Army. Coffin fumbled the first pass, but immediately recovered the ball. Oliphant cut through for a short gain, and then punted out of danger.

Crowd Now Shrieking

A run by Oliphant, covering 20 yards of the saturated turf in the last stages of the first half, brought the crowd up shrieking. The Army back got the ball close to his own goal line, and slipped through to his own 40-yard line, with Navy tackles dripping off his soaked sides at every step. Coffin splashed through for 2 yards more, and then Coffin kicked.. The Navy tried a few ineffectual plays but had to boot, and Oliphant ran the ball back 10 yards. He went down under a tackle, with a sailor clinging to his neck, and then scrambled to his feet, and started to run, still carrying the middy. He did not run more than a few steps, however. There was a brief delay to revive an injured sailor just before the half closed, and as the trainers ran out from the Annapolis side, half the players sprawled out flat on their backs on the grass and rested. Mitchell went in for Ford, and then Oliphant passed the ball across the Navy front to Redfield for a good gain. Another pass was attempted, but Craig picked the wet leather out of the air, and ran back a few yards before he was dropped y Redfield. The half ended with the ball well down in Navy territory.

Cross Over to Army Side

With a mob of uniformed policemen in front of him and with Secret Service men on each side and more policemen behind, President Wilson and Mrs. Galt marched across the field as soon as the half closed to a box on the Army side. Huge orchids blazed on the front of Mrs. Galt’s coat. The party passed through the muddy aisle leading under the right field stand. Mr. Wilson assisted Mrs. Galt over the little pools of water to dry footing and the crowd cheered wildly. The President smiled at the greeting from the Army cadets. At the opening of the third period the Army had the ball and McEwan kicked off. Craig made the catch and made a wonderful 35-yard return before he was thrown on the 50-yard line.

Von Helmberg attempted to circle Army’s right end and lost 5 yards. Craig then tried a forward pass, but McEwan of the Army caught it on the Army’s 40-yard line and made a 60-yard dash before he was thrown on Navy’s 20-yard line. Coffin made 5 yards through center and on the next play Army scored a touchdown when Oliphant broke through center for the necessary 15 yards. Oliphant then kicked an easy goal.

(Source: Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045433/1915-11-28/ed-1/seq-22/)