Man in the White Hat


Band music blared through halls and locker rooms. Gold lettering on the carved plaques was obscured by heavy chalk slashes, proclaiming: "Beat Yale!" The rubber floor matting announced "Flog the Dog" in foot-high adhesive tape letters. The casual visitor to Dillon Field House would have been overwhelmed. These exhortations, however, were not designed to impress the casual visitor with the atmosphere and spirit at Harvard. Rather, they were directed at the football team, this week going through the practice routine for the last time this season. They were not window dressing appeals to "The Old College Try," but instead, the sincere effort of a veteran of 27 Yale games, a man who loves football, and a man who, like a true athlete, loves to win.

Jimmy Farrell is known to most Harvard football spectators only "as the man in the white hat" who occasionally rushes onto the field to replace a ripped jersey or broken shoelace. But to generations of Crimson athletes, the equipment manager might well personify the spirit of Dillon.

Farrell's efficiency with the props for athletic contests is legendary. Neatly arranged in his big Dillon equipment room cupboards are piles of equipment ranging from shoulder pads to javelins. The machines in the adjacent laundry room roar with loads of towels, the stitcher in the shoe shop chews at a torn football shoe. Assistants dole out sweatshirts, take them back warmed with exercise, hand out towels . . .

Farrell himself is busy with the immense chore of packing for forty-odd football players. "These two trunks are for the BaBas," he explains, describing the thick fleece-lined jackets worn by players on the bench. "These here," he smiles, opening one of the big trunks, "are partitioned into small boxes, so we can protect the helmets individually." Other trunks display newly-greased shoes, folded underwear, bright jerseys. Before each game, Farrell and his assistants check over every piece of equipment--shoelaces, hip-and-kidney pads, helmet straps--for every member of the team.

His efficiency on the field is even more striking. "He gets everything into that little bag of his," marvels one manager, "cleat cleaners, chin straps, special pads, pliers, rosin." Always, there are duplicate jerseys ready in case of mishap, and his speed in getting onto the field virtually equals that of the players.

Farrell, whose brother Eddie once coached track here, came to Harvard in 1928, and in 1930 became head equipment manager. A year later, he moved into the new Dillon quarters he helped design, and ever since has been an expert on sporting equipment. Trainer Jack Fadden describes Farrell's as "one of the best equipped equipment rooms in the country." His interests go far beyond simple efficiency. "His life is football," Fadden asserts. "He'll see plays the coaches sometimes don't see. He's the most enthusiastic rooter we have."

It is this enthusiasm which prompted the 1953 team to vote him a football letter, and which for twenty-odd years has prompted the Yale week trimmings at Dillon. Yesterday, in the annual tradition, he set out rows of red flares to light the players' way back to the field house at the end of the last practice. As the players thundered inside to the welcome of music and "Beat Yale!" most were smiling. "You know, this stuff strikes you as sophomoric at first," one said, "but after awhile it gets to you--you know someone really wants you to beat Yale."