Midshipmen spread pre-game spirit in downtown Annapolis

September 14, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Thousands of Midshipmen paraded through Annapolis Saturday afternoon on their way to the football season opener, helping to spread pre-game spirit throughout the downtown area for the first time in 44 years.

Residents, shopkeepers, tourists, football fans and motorists lined streets from the Naval Academy to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to watch the brigade march by and sing victory songs.

At times, it seemed like an endless stream of officer-candidates blanketed Main Street from City Dock to Church Circle, pumping up fans for the game against the University of Virginia.

Although Navy would lose 53-0, the pre-game enthusiasm brought out a sea of white uniforms and well-wishers.

"We're here because we want to see the midshipmen march," said Joe Sartini, from Roanoke, Va. "I had a nephew who came here."

But the family tie wasn't enough to switch allegiances. Mr. Sartini, passing through Annapolis on his way to Boston, is a Virginia fan.

It was 1948 when the brigade last marched through downtown. Annapolis officials invited it to march again Saturday as part of "Midshipmen Appreciation Days," events intended to foster good relations between the city and the academy.

"I'm from Annapolis and it's nice to have the Naval Academy associated with the city," said Joseph F. Martin, who has lived in Maryland's capital for 75 years. "That's what it's all about."

Trailing behind the midshipmen was a trolley carrying 40 members of the 1963 Navy football team that included Roger Staubach and went to the Cotton Bowl.

Adm. Thomas Lynch, the superintendent of the Naval Academy, played center on the 1963 team, the year Mr. Staubach won the Heisman Trophy.

The Navy lost in the Cotton Bowl to top-ranked Texas.

The team members were in town for their 29th anniversary. "It's not our 30th, but we're going to do it anyway," Admiral Lynch said.

At a news conference Friday, Mr. Staubach said riding through Annapolis would mean a lot to him. "It will bring back a memories," he said. "I had a lot of good times here. You've got everything here, whether you are a Navy student or a tourist."

The parade seemed to get everyone in the game spirit. Clerks and customers alike gathered outside of Main Street shops to offer encouragement. In restaurants, patrons and waiters stood at windows. The food could wait.

Even those stuck in traffic didn't seem to mind. "I didn't expect to get caught up in all this," Wil Stone, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 1989 and was stuck at Rowe Boulevard and Church Circle watching the procession.

"But it's interesting," he said. "I like the tradition. It doesn't faze me. Virginia has its own traditions."

The game was only the second home game Navy has played at night, but that didn't keep fans from filling the stadium parking lot for the traditional pre-game tailgate party.

There were big parties and small parties -- vans decked out like a Navy sports store and campers from distant states. One with New Jersey plates sported a sign hanging in the front window that read: "Beer and sea stories."

What sort of tales can you expect from the people who drive that rig? "Drink a beer and you tell lies," said Jack Miller, whose son Gil graduated from the Academy two years ago.

Mr. Miller is one of about two dozen members of the South New Jersey Blue and Gold Club -- recruiters who help young men apply to the academy.

"Win, lose or tie, we're just Navy fans," Mr. Miller said, explaining why he drives down from New Jersey for every home game. "You've got to think we're crazy to do that just for a football game."

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