Rivalries on the day of the wishbone

Baltimore Glimpses

November 23, 1993|By GILBERT SANDLER

THANKSGIVING Day, Nov. 23, 1944, Municipal (now Memorial) Stadium:

At 2:30, City College kicks off to Poly, thus beginning one of Baltimore's longest traditions -- the Poly-City (City alumni call it City-Poly) Thanksgiving Day clash at Memorial Stadium.

"The Game" itself represents one of the nation's enduring rivalries, and the 1993 confrontation was no exception. Playing at Morgan State University earlier this month, No. 2 Poly beat No. 1 City, 21-20, ending the Knights' 29-game winning streak. Over 105 years, Poly holds a narrow advantage, 51-48-6.

In the 1930s, the City-Poly game wasn't the only Thanksgiving Day football tussle on its way to becoming a tradition. From 1923, the year Municipal Stadium opened, through 1932, Johns Hopkins played the University of Maryland there. But that game moved to Homewood in 1933, and Hopkins played St. John's at Municipal Stadium.

In 1936, the University of Maryland began what was planned to be a Thanksgiving Day series at the stadium with Washington and Lee. But that series lasted only two years.

In 1944, the same Municipal Stadium first hosted the Loyola-Calvert Hall game on the morning of Thanksgiving. (Loyola won, 14-7.) It was the 25th renewal of the Catholic schools' Thanksgiving Day rivalry that started in 1919 and is still going strong. Over at Cardinal Gibbons Field that same morning, St. Paul's defeated Mt. St. Joe, 26-14.

But back to City-Poly. This rivalry, which of course extends to academic, business and social circles in Baltimore, was so intense that in 1952, Hochschild, Kohn had to move its Toytown parade to an earlier hour so as not to cause traffic jams.

In the years leading up to 1944, the game had been played at Municipal Stadium on the Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving. But Navy said it would need the stadium on those Saturdays, so the city yielded and moved Poly-City to Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving itself was wont to move about. President Lincoln proclaimed it to be the last Thursday in November. In 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed Nov. 23 (the fourth but not the last Thursday) as Thanksgiving in order to lengthen the Christmas shopping season. For the next two years, he also chose the next to last Thursday. But late in 1941, Congress adopted a joint resolution establishing the date as the fourth Thursday. The holiday season has become so long and intense that we should be thankful!)

The first Thanksgiving Day City-Poly game was a rugged, slow-moving affair, with Poly outgaining City. "Except for courage and determination," a report of the game read, "Poly held the upper hand." Still, the score was tied 7-7 deep in the fourth quarter, and it looked as though the game would end that way. But with 40 seconds left, Poly got to the City 4 yard line and completed a pass that looked like the winning touchdown. Fans started to leave, Poly's cheering, City's despondent. Alas for Poly, a penalty had been called on the play, and the game ended in a 7-7 tie, one of six ties over the years.

These days, Memorial Stadium is "dark" on Thanksgiving and most other days, City, Poly, Loyola and Calvert Hall having departed along with the Colts and Orioles.

Happy Thanksgiving from . . .

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