Friday, April 29, 2011

The Leg Of Honor

TigerBlog can't remember what it was that made Peter Farrell ask what is considered the greatest moment in Princeton football history.

Of course, it was only 24 hours ago, so TB is surprised it's not ringing a bell. Actually, maybe it was just out of nowhere.

TigerBlog stopped for a minute to think about it. The obvious answer would be the 1951 season, when Princeton went undefeated for the second straight year and Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman Trophy.

Farrell, the only women's track and field coach Princeton has ever had, had his own answer. In typical Farrell fashion, it took him awhile to tell the story and, by the time he got to the end, he had drawn a ton of laughs.

In Farrell's mind, the best moment was the 1981 game between Princeton and Yale, the one that the Tigers won 35-31 to end a 14-year losing streak to the Bulldogs.

In that game, Princeton quarterback Bobby Holly threw for 501 yards, a league single-game record that would stand for 27 years, and four touchdowns before running in on the final play for the winning score.

To TB's credit, back in 1999, he wrote a long piece about that day, which he considered the Princeton football game of the century.

TB remembers talking to Scott Oostdyk, a wide receiver for Princeton in that game, as he prepared his story. Oostdyk caught a pass on a fourth-down early in the game-winning drive and got a favorable spot, and TB remembers how Oostdyk basically said that he always feared the day would come when someone would call, tell him he didn't really get 10 yards and take away the win.

Farrell's version of the story has him in the Palmer Stadium stands surrounded by 20 friends who were rooting for Yale. He described the game-winning play as having Holly back to pass and, finding no one open and with the middle of the field wide open, barely getting it across the goal line as he was swarmed by Yale defenders.

And then he was off to the Penn Relays.

A day earlier, he had been in the office to talk about the Penn Relays. In this case, though, he was talking about "The Cosby Show," specifically the one where Cliff runs in the event, entitled "Off To The Races."

As Farrell recalled the episode, Cliff tells his wife that he has to skip the family event to run the anchor leg in a charity race, or as he calls it, "the leg of honor."

The episode was filmed during a running of the Penn Relays back in the 1980s. The event still continues to flourish, and it annually outdraws any other athletic event played on an Ivy League campus (other than perhaps Harvard-Yale football, depending on how you do the accounting).

The event began yesterday and runs through tomorrow, at Franklin Field on Penn's campus. Princeton's Emma Ruggiero won the hammer throw on Day 1, and in all the Tigers will have 35 athletes in 11 different relays competing before the meet ends.

The Penn Relays are now in their third century, as they date to 1895. If you go to the Penn Relay's website, the first picture you see in the history section is of Jesse Owens as he competes.

TigerBlog did not know that the Penn Relays grew out of head-to-head relay event between Princeton and Penn in Philadelphia that was held in 1893. From the website:

When the University Track Committee, chaired by Frank B. Ellis ‘93, looked for ways of adding interest to their 1893 spring handicap meet, they struck on the idea of a relay, four men each running a quarter mile in succession. The idea created enough interest that a team from Princeton was invited to contest the event. Held at the end of the meet on May 12, the Princeton team of J.A. Chapman, George McCampbell, Isaac Brokow and Theodore Turner pulled away in the homestretch to beat Penn by eight yards with a time of 3:34.0.
The following year Penn exacted its revenge against the Princeton team on the University Field track, located at 37th and Spruce Streets, where the Quad Dormitory is now. Interest in the first two years’ races was such that the committee decided to sponsor a relay meet in 1895 with hopes of reviving sagging interest in Penn track. The first Penn Relays also served as the dedication for Franklin Field, built on the same ground it occupies today, but under a different guise. The only grandstand at the time was a wooden single-tiered bleacher on the South side of the field, along what is now the sprint straightaway.

For the record, TB lived in the Quad for two years.

TigerBlog isn't usually in the business of trying to get people to go to events on other campuses, but if you've never been to the Penn Relays, it's worth the trip.

Unless you want to go to baseball here today or women's lacrosse here tomorrow, of course.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the idea suggested by Oostdyk's nightmare: a team of sports historians who would review the worst referee calls in history, then go back and reverse the outcomes.

By the way, although Holly's touchdown is often called the last play of the 1981 game, we then kicked off to the Bulldogs so the TD was only *our* last play, not *the* last play.