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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

The H-Y Game: 120 Years Of Change

from Harvard's ARCHIVES An occasional series on University history

By Amita M. Shukla

The Game, two words which warrant no more explanation in Cambridge or New Haven, has changed more in the last century than most of the Elis and Harvard students who will be sitting in the stands on Saturday can realize.

It was exactly 120 years ago, on Nov. 13, 1875, that the two schools played the first Game in New Haven. The tickets back then sold for 50 cents each, and an audience of 3,000 cheered as the two teams played a game which blended soccer and rugby. Since the Elis were on their home field, the Crimson team set many of the rules which were adopted in the course of the game.

Harvard won it, 4-0, though Yale would go on to beat the Crimson in 21 of the next 28 Games.

For the first few years the game was played in Boston, New Haven, and New York City. Then, in 1889, Springfield, Mass. was established as the location for the annual match-up, chosen as neutral territory between the two schools.

Though the tradition and the capitalization of the name of The Game continue, much has changed, including logistical aspects such as the uniforms, which were made of leather in the nineteenth century.

Harvard and Yale claim their Game is 120 years old, but in fact, it has not happened every single year since 1875.

Precisely 100 years ago, there actually was no contest on the gridiron between the two arch-rivals. A bitter dispute over a violent 1894 matchup caused a two-year feud that prevented the 20th and 21st Games from going forward.

In a statement released October 8, 1895, the chair of the Harvard Athletic Committee announced that "October 5 having passed and Harvard having received no invitation from Yale to play football, it is now defi- nitely settled that there will be no football game this year between the elevens of these universities."

It seems that Yale was too miffed, after a literally bloody 1894 contest, to allow the Crimson on its fields. And Harvard, with several casualties of its own from that battle, reacted with the annoyance of a spurned suitor.

"If Yale felt that Harvard's conduct had been such that she could not meet her in football, then Harvard felt that it would be impossible for her to meet Yale in any sport," said "Professor Ames," who chaired the Athletic Committee. But he trumpeted "that in taking this ground Harvard was not actuated by any spirit of hostility nor of retaliation."

About 30 graduate and undergraduate students gathered on the night of October 8 at a restaurant in Boston to discuss the "negotiations between Harvard and Yale," but decided to hold their ground and back Professor Ames's stand.

The Crimson reported that "the sentiment of Harvard men was well nigh universal that no other course was open to them without a sacrifice of self-respect."

At that time, the Harvard-Yale game, only 20 years old, was the big event in an athletic season that dominated University and Cambridge attention. Football topped the four-column Crimson pages every day, along with SPORTS-related items like the formation of a "Varsity Banjo Club." Even happenings at varsity practices made the front page.

1895

NO GAME, JUST WAR

So the negotiations over the 1895 Game were approached with the delicacy of the Balkan peace discussions. But the talks broke down in the end, and after Yale's missed invitation, Harvard refused to compete against the Elis in any sport for the rest of the year.

In a statement published in full in The Crimson, Yale responded to Harvard's refusal to play. The problem, the Eli spokesperson said, was the persistent libeling of Yale players by Harvard: "Yale fully believed she was not to blame for the beginning of whatever roughness occurred in the Springfield game, and she believed there was overwhelming evidence to this effect."

And on the same Crimson front page, Harvard officials responded: "The statement of Manager Foote of Yale in yesterday's Yale News contains several inaccuracies and is generally calculated to give an erroneous impression of Harvard's position....In common courtesy, it was Yale's part to reopen negotiations if they were to be renewed at all."

As Harvard had not received the "customary invitation," there would be no game. And there wasn't, that year or the next, when clamoring fans and time brought back the Game.

1925

A O-O TIE GAME

In 1925, the line-up between the two elevens in the bowl marked "one of the greatest contests ever played between the two universities," The Crimson claimed.

In that year, 54,000 fans from both sides filled the stands of the Harvard Stadium, for the game to be played 50 years after the first match between the two schools. The weather was fair, though fans received an oilskin-covered issue of the Lampoon, which read "And the people scoffed at Noah."

A Crimson editorial written Saturday November 21, 1925 proclaimed that "certain phenomena recur so regularly and impressively that they become institutions: the Boston Transcript, the equinox, presidential elections, and Harvard-Yale football game."

The event especialy commemorated the first game played in 1875, The Crimson said: "No one could have foreseen that that game was to initiate the sport which now sets the whole nation in a frenzy every autumn."

Though the Eli and Harvard football teams faced a tough game on Saturday, the 1925 Crimson reports that both teams were "full of spirit" before the match-up.

Three days before the game, the Harvard team, for instance, was frolicking at various Boston theaters.

"Having ripped up half the pavement and broken all the glass in the lobby, they were filing quietly in," The Crimson reported.

"The doorman and the manager conspired to stop their progress. The charge of intoxication was, of course, ridiculous," that article continued.

The score of The Game itself was a surprising 0-0, and the headlines the next day read: "Aroused Crimson Eleven Holds Bulldog to Deadlock and Upsets Expectations."

Though the odds against Harvard were 10-3, an impressive match-up led to the tie, which was considered a victory for Harvard.

Six times Yale reached the Harvard 30-yard line and three times the Yale attack penetrated within 10 yards of the Crimson goal.

The Game that year should be commemorated as a "crowning glory of that team which would not be daunted by jeers, criticism, overwhelming odds, and even defeats," Harvard supporters crowed.

Even The Crimson's SPORTS staff took it all back.

"We withdraw all those linotyped cracks we have made at Harvard, and if you boys will come around to the composing room we will put on an exhibition of swallowing hot lead," said Neal O'Hara '15, for the Crimson.

1950

A HARVARD RIOT

In 1950's Game, the mayhem on the field was nothing compared to what was going on off it.

About 3,500 students rioted the night before the Harvard-Yale contest, in a drunken demonstration that began at 11:10 p.m. outside a neighborhood bar called Cronin's. The Crimson reported that "according to University police chief Alvin R. Randall, it made last year's Princeton fracas look like 'peanuts.'" Cambridge police called it "the biggest disturbance since the war."

Only the Cambridge police and a light rain quenched the wild revellers.

Two Harvard students were fined $10 and $5, respectively, for their part in the riot. "Eight other Harvard men and two visitors from Yale also had their cases put on file," The Crimson reported.

Judge Arthur P. Stone, class of 1892, had to rebuke the rambunetious youngsters, noting that "this is no laughing matter."

What happened on the field was a mere anticlimax. The Crimson said. That morning, people "stretched, rolled out of bed, turned to each other and said, 'who the hell are you?'"

After the wild night, Elis wiped out the Crimson, 14-6. The Crimson, which had only one victory that season, was crushed. One player "had been gunning for that big one -- Yale," hoping that "hard work" would win The Game.

The contest began with a three-period scoreless tie, which Yale broke with a touchdown one minute and 52 seconds into the fourth period. Then the Elis scored another.

Then, The Crimson reported, "Lowenstein's second long pass was complete to O'Neill on the 37, and on the next play Dave Warden with a thirty yard pass went all the way down the right side line for a Harvard touchdown at ten minutes and 17 seconds of the last period. Dick Hyde missed the extra point."

Apparently the Elis won the romantic sweepstakes as well that weekend. Normal parietal rules remained in force visiting ended when house dances were set to start, usually at 8:30. An experiment with a 9:00 ending time the year before had left "orchestras playing for a half hour to almost empty dance halls," The Crimson noted snidely.

An ad that week in The Crimson read: "Shafted? No Date? Ditto Charming Young Girl, ideal companion to share your misery on Saturday night, Yalie Preferred."

1970

RADCLIFFE'S REVENGE

In 1970, The Game itself seemed almost anticlimactic compared to the war of the sexes taking place at Harvard that weekend.

While Harvard men received free tickets to The Game by simply filling out an application, Radcliffe women were given no priority and had to buy the $7 tickets along with the public.

"It is just complete male chauvinism to think that Radcliffe girls would not be interested in going to a SPORTS event," said Marion C. Childs '73, in a Crimson article on the day before the game.

Other women agreed. "It puts the girls in the position of having to go as dates or not at all," said a Radcliffe student.

Harvard officials argued that they couldn't handle processing admissions for both Harvard and Radcliffe students, so the men got priority.

"We don't have the facilities to handle the boys, much less the girls," said Harvard Ticket Manager Gordon M. Page.

Harvard also tried to restrict women's ability to perform in the traditional a cappella events of the Game weekend. When the Yale Glee Club brought female members, the Harvard Glee Club was outraged.

"In my opinion, the Harvard-Yale Football Concert with all its traditions -- the type of music and the spirit of the weekend -- should be an all-male affair," said Harvard Glee Club President Haywood Torrence Jr. '71.

Torrence also argued that there was no place to house Yale's female singers, except with the Radcliffe Choral Society. He didn't want to be obligated to let the Choral Society sing, he said, and "we would rather sing alone than sing with the Radcliffe Choral Society.

When the Yale Club brought women despite Harvard's objections, the Harvard club protested during the concert and walked off stage at one point. Yale Glee Club members threatened that they wouldn't return to Cambridge for the next Harvard home Game. On the field, Harvard won, 14-12.Crimson File PhotoBy the mid-80s, uniforms, fans and styles had changed.

It seems that Yale was too miffed, after a literally bloody 1894 contest, to allow the Crimson on its fields. And Harvard, with several casualties of its own from that battle, reacted with the annoyance of a spurned suitor.

"If Yale felt that Harvard's conduct had been such that she could not meet her in football, then Harvard felt that it would be impossible for her to meet Yale in any sport," said "Professor Ames," who chaired the Athletic Committee. But he trumpeted "that in taking this ground Harvard was not actuated by any spirit of hostility nor of retaliation."

About 30 graduate and undergraduate students gathered on the night of October 8 at a restaurant in Boston to discuss the "negotiations between Harvard and Yale," but decided to hold their ground and back Professor Ames's stand.

The Crimson reported that "the sentiment of Harvard men was well nigh universal that no other course was open to them without a sacrifice of self-respect."

At that time, the Harvard-Yale game, only 20 years old, was the big event in an athletic season that dominated University and Cambridge attention. Football topped the four-column Crimson pages every day, along with SPORTS-related items like the formation of a "Varsity Banjo Club." Even happenings at varsity practices made the front page.

1895

NO GAME, JUST WAR

So the negotiations over the 1895 Game were approached with the delicacy of the Balkan peace discussions. But the talks broke down in the end, and after Yale's missed invitation, Harvard refused to compete against the Elis in any sport for the rest of the year.

In a statement published in full in The Crimson, Yale responded to Harvard's refusal to play. The problem, the Eli spokesperson said, was the persistent libeling of Yale players by Harvard: "Yale fully believed she was not to blame for the beginning of whatever roughness occurred in the Springfield game, and she believed there was overwhelming evidence to this effect."

And on the same Crimson front page, Harvard officials responded: "The statement of Manager Foote of Yale in yesterday's Yale News contains several inaccuracies and is generally calculated to give an erroneous impression of Harvard's position....In common courtesy, it was Yale's part to reopen negotiations if they were to be renewed at all."

As Harvard had not received the "customary invitation," there would be no game. And there wasn't, that year or the next, when clamoring fans and time brought back the Game.

1925

A O-O TIE GAME

In 1925, the line-up between the two elevens in the bowl marked "one of the greatest contests ever played between the two universities," The Crimson claimed.

In that year, 54,000 fans from both sides filled the stands of the Harvard Stadium, for the game to be played 50 years after the first match between the two schools. The weather was fair, though fans received an oilskin-covered issue of the Lampoon, which read "And the people scoffed at Noah."

A Crimson editorial written Saturday November 21, 1925 proclaimed that "certain phenomena recur so regularly and impressively that they become institutions: the Boston Transcript, the equinox, presidential elections, and Harvard-Yale football game."

The event especialy commemorated the first game played in 1875, The Crimson said: "No one could have foreseen that that game was to initiate the sport which now sets the whole nation in a frenzy every autumn."

Though the Eli and Harvard football teams faced a tough game on Saturday, the 1925 Crimson reports that both teams were "full of spirit" before the match-up.

Three days before the game, the Harvard team, for instance, was frolicking at various Boston theaters.

"Having ripped up half the pavement and broken all the glass in the lobby, they were filing quietly in," The Crimson reported.

"The doorman and the manager conspired to stop their progress. The charge of intoxication was, of course, ridiculous," that article continued.

The score of The Game itself was a surprising 0-0, and the headlines the next day read: "Aroused Crimson Eleven Holds Bulldog to Deadlock and Upsets Expectations."

Though the odds against Harvard were 10-3, an impressive match-up led to the tie, which was considered a victory for Harvard.

Six times Yale reached the Harvard 30-yard line and three times the Yale attack penetrated within 10 yards of the Crimson goal.

The Game that year should be commemorated as a "crowning glory of that team which would not be daunted by jeers, criticism, overwhelming odds, and even defeats," Harvard supporters crowed.

Even The Crimson's SPORTS staff took it all back.

"We withdraw all those linotyped cracks we have made at Harvard, and if you boys will come around to the composing room we will put on an exhibition of swallowing hot lead," said Neal O'Hara '15, for the Crimson.

1950

A HARVARD RIOT

In 1950's Game, the mayhem on the field was nothing compared to what was going on off it.

About 3,500 students rioted the night before the Harvard-Yale contest, in a drunken demonstration that began at 11:10 p.m. outside a neighborhood bar called Cronin's. The Crimson reported that "according to University police chief Alvin R. Randall, it made last year's Princeton fracas look like 'peanuts.'" Cambridge police called it "the biggest disturbance since the war."

Only the Cambridge police and a light rain quenched the wild revellers.

Two Harvard students were fined $10 and $5, respectively, for their part in the riot. "Eight other Harvard men and two visitors from Yale also had their cases put on file," The Crimson reported.

Judge Arthur P. Stone, class of 1892, had to rebuke the rambunetious youngsters, noting that "this is no laughing matter."

What happened on the field was a mere anticlimax. The Crimson said. That morning, people "stretched, rolled out of bed, turned to each other and said, 'who the hell are you?'"

After the wild night, Elis wiped out the Crimson, 14-6. The Crimson, which had only one victory that season, was crushed. One player "had been gunning for that big one -- Yale," hoping that "hard work" would win The Game.

The contest began with a three-period scoreless tie, which Yale broke with a touchdown one minute and 52 seconds into the fourth period. Then the Elis scored another.

Then, The Crimson reported, "Lowenstein's second long pass was complete to O'Neill on the 37, and on the next play Dave Warden with a thirty yard pass went all the way down the right side line for a Harvard touchdown at ten minutes and 17 seconds of the last period. Dick Hyde missed the extra point."

Apparently the Elis won the romantic sweepstakes as well that weekend. Normal parietal rules remained in force visiting ended when house dances were set to start, usually at 8:30. An experiment with a 9:00 ending time the year before had left "orchestras playing for a half hour to almost empty dance halls," The Crimson noted snidely.

An ad that week in The Crimson read: "Shafted? No Date? Ditto Charming Young Girl, ideal companion to share your misery on Saturday night, Yalie Preferred."

1970

RADCLIFFE'S REVENGE

In 1970, The Game itself seemed almost anticlimactic compared to the war of the sexes taking place at Harvard that weekend.

While Harvard men received free tickets to The Game by simply filling out an application, Radcliffe women were given no priority and had to buy the $7 tickets along with the public.

"It is just complete male chauvinism to think that Radcliffe girls would not be interested in going to a SPORTS event," said Marion C. Childs '73, in a Crimson article on the day before the game.

Other women agreed. "It puts the girls in the position of having to go as dates or not at all," said a Radcliffe student.

Harvard officials argued that they couldn't handle processing admissions for both Harvard and Radcliffe students, so the men got priority.

"We don't have the facilities to handle the boys, much less the girls," said Harvard Ticket Manager Gordon M. Page.

Harvard also tried to restrict women's ability to perform in the traditional a cappella events of the Game weekend. When the Yale Glee Club brought female members, the Harvard Glee Club was outraged.

"In my opinion, the Harvard-Yale Football Concert with all its traditions -- the type of music and the spirit of the weekend -- should be an all-male affair," said Harvard Glee Club President Haywood Torrence Jr. '71.

Torrence also argued that there was no place to house Yale's female singers, except with the Radcliffe Choral Society. He didn't want to be obligated to let the Choral Society sing, he said, and "we would rather sing alone than sing with the Radcliffe Choral Society.

When the Yale Club brought women despite Harvard's objections, the Harvard club protested during the concert and walked off stage at one point. Yale Glee Club members threatened that they wouldn't return to Cambridge for the next Harvard home Game. On the field, Harvard won, 14-12.Crimson File PhotoBy the mid-80s, uniforms, fans and styles had changed.

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