Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Perry To Morey

TigerBlog remembers vividly the day in March 1997 when the demolition of Palmer Stadium began.

It was a Monday morning, and Princeton was to play Penn in men's basketball the following night here at Jadwin. TB was finishing the game program, which included a story about the Tigers' 1997 (and 1996 and 1995) captain, Sydney Johnson, who obviously is the head coach now.

On that particular morning, TB had to finish his story on Johnson and the program in time for the ceremonial start of the tearing down of the 83-year-old stadium, which consisted of some University dignitaries in hard hats swinging a sledgehammer.

TB had been in Palmer Stadium a million times, mostly in the old wooden press box. It was an open-air press box, so it was freezing in the late season, and it was most famous for its bees, which were everywhere.

As an aside, TB has a photo from the 1940s of the press box with a sign that reads "no women allowed."

To get to the TV and radio booths, you had to walk out of the main press box part and then up some stairs to the top part, which was really, really, really high up.

Also, there was no elevator to the press box at Palmer, which meant that each season, TB and a few others had to carry the copy machine up the stands to its spot in the first level. That was always fun.

By the end of its run, orange and black nets had to be set up to catch the falling concrete as the stadium began to decay. TB used to park his car under the press box on game days; by the end, he would keep it far away from the overhanging parts.

Anyway, once the ceremonial part was over, these two giant cranes (they looked like dinosaurs) came along and began to rip the stadium down. When they got to the press box part, the one on that side took a little tug, and the entire thing collapsed.

In fact, it fell so fast, it startled the guy driving the dinosaur. Within seconds, the only part of the press box left was the very end of the bathroom, and the only part of the bathroom that didn't collapse in the rubble was the urinal.

Princeton spent the 1997 season on the road, playing eight away games and two "home" games at the College of New Jersey (against Fordham) and Giants Stadium (against Yale). Hey, it might have been tough to be away every weekend, but from a selfish standpoint, it did cut way down on the time required to do game programs for a season.

TB spent much of the next year looking out his window at the construction of the new stadium, which was a fascinating process. TB was a little sad when the stands for Weaver Track blocked the view into the stadium, especially the overhang on the track, which was the last part of the project.

By the fall of 1998, Princeton Stadium was ready to be opened, and a full house of 27,800 showed up for the opener.

The first game featured Princeton and Cornell, a game that would end 6-0 Princeton. The Tigers kicked field goals (by Alex Sierk) on their first two possessions (TB believes it was the first two), and that would be it for the scoring.

The 6-0 score was the same as the 1898 game between Princeton and Cornell, and TB is pretty sure he won't be around for the 2098 game, to see if that one will also be 6-0 Princeton.

TB's recap of the game started this way:
"Those in the capacity crowd of 27,800 who came to see the new stadium and a Princeton win went home happy. Those who came to see a touchdown will have to wait for another day."

Actually, Princeton completely dominated Cornell in that game, but the Big Red had a chance to pull the game with a late drive that ended when Gerry Wilson intercepted a pass. Wilson's younger brother Kyle was there that day as an 11-year-old; today he is the first-round pick of the Jets, a cornerback out of Boise State. Kyle signed for five years and $13 million, with Gerry as his business manager.

That second game would in fact produce the first touchdown, the two Brown players involved in that play are still visible to Princeton football fans today.

The quarterback was James Perry, who threw his three-yard TD pass to Sean Morey. Princeton would win the game 31-17, but not before Perry would go 33 for 60 for 442 yards while Morey would catch 12 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

Perry's 442 yards remain the most by any quarterback in a game at Princeton Stadium. Morey's 215 yards might be the record; TB isn't quite sure on that one.

Today, Perry is the Princeton offensive coordinator under new head coach Bob Surace, awaiting the start in a few weeks of his first summer camp and season with the Tigers.

As for Morey, who by the way is one of the nicest people you ever will meet, he went on to a long career in the NFL, mostly on special teams. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played in another with the Arizona Cardinals.

He was set to be on the Seahawks this year before he was forced to retire, a victim of concussions during his career.

Morey and Jay Fiedler (former Dartmouth QB) are probably TB's two favorite non-Princeton Ivy athletes of the last 25 years, and TB certainly wishes Morey all the best - and best health - now that he's retired.

As for Perry, TB hopes a Princeton quarterback breaks his record really soon.

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