Monday, April 19, 2021

To You, General Kelley

So TigerBlog was watching Rutgers-Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse Saturday afternoon, and he couldn't help but notice that every Scarlet Knights player had the words "General Kelley" on the back of his uniform.

Being the curious sort he is, TB looked up who General Kelley was. It turns out it was General Robert Kelley, Rutgers Class of 1956, who passed away last week at the age of 88.

Before he became the youngest brigadier general in the history of the U.S. Air Force (at the age of 43) and won eight air medals, General Kelley was a member of the Rutgers men's lacrosse team. In fact, he was a three-time All-American, earning first-team honors in 1955 and 1956.

He'd finish his career with 100 goals, eight of which came against Syracuse and Jim Brown his junior year. 

TB, further curious, looked up how Rutgers did against Princeton while Kelley played there. Turns out, his three varsity games were fairly even.

How even? How about 1-1-1.

In 1954, when Kelley was a sophomore, Princeton defeated the Scarlet Knights 11-9. In his senior year, Rutgers defeated Princeton 17-11, led by six goals from Kelley.

In 1955? It was a 14-14 tie. 

Now there aren't too many ties in lacrosse. There have been 18 in Princeton men's lacrosse history, of which 10 were before World War II. There also five in the 1960s, and the two most recent were in the 1968 season, when the Tigers tied Maryland and Yale.

The Princeton-Cornell rivalry has produced some wildly exciting games in the modern era. In the 1930s the teams played to tie games of 2-2 (1930) and 1-1 (1931). Maybe they were exciting in their own way? 

TB wanted to find out some details on that 14-14 tie in 1955, and so he went to the Daily Princetonian archives. The only problem is that he didn't know what the date of that game had been, so he had try to guess which issue of the paper to check.

He went for mid-April and randomly went to the April 18 edition. What was the lead headline that day? 

It wasn't Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse. As it turned out, the game was actually played nearly a month later. 

Nope, the random edition that TB chose had a giant headline that was two words long: "Einstein Dies." 

There was this in the story: 

Dr. Harold W. Dodds told the Princetonian this morning that "the contributions which Dr. Einstein made to man's understanding of nature are beyond assessment in our day. Only future generations will be competent to grasp their full significance. 

Seems pretty accurate. Dr. Dodds, by the way, was the University president at the time.

Meanwhile back at the 1955 lacrosse game, TB finally found the story, in "the Prince" edition of May 12. Turns out it was quite a game, beyond just how the score seems to indicate.

This was how "the Prince" story began:

In the most dramatic lacrosse battle seen here in more than a decade, Princeton and Rutgers struggled through four quarters and two overtime periods to a 14-14 deadlock before 1100 wildly cheering fans at Bedford Field yesterday. It was a game that had everything: superlative shooting, blocking, playmaking, passing and goal-keeping. The spectators were left limp by the two and one half hour fight.

The game would feature 10 ties, the last of which came when Princeton's Bob Stinson made it 14-14 with just over a minute to play. Kelley almost won it, but his goal was waved off when referee Frenchy Julian said it had gone in just after the final buzzer. 

Two small footnotes: 1) under today's rules, Kelley's shot might have counted, if it had left his stick before the final horn, as opposed to then, when it had to be in the goal before the final horn and 2) since 1968 the USILA has awarded the "Frenchy Julian Service Award" for "outstanding and continuous service to the sport."

Lastly, the story mentions that the team's played two six-minute overtime periods before the game was called a tie. The preview story says that the game began at 4, and the quote above says it took 2:30 to play, meaning it ended at 6:30. These days, it's still light enough at 6:30 to keep playing. Did the rules say a tie after two scoreless overtimes? TB will have to check on that one.

Of course, Daylight Savings Time didn't become a national law until 1966. From World War II until 1966, which means when the game was played, it was hit-or-miss as to whether DST was used in different states. TB is pretty sure New Jersey had it then, but if not then maybe it was too dark to keep playing.

Anyway, it was fun going back to 1955. 

And as for General Kelley, he was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life and who was a model for a life of service. TB is glad he learned about him this weekend and he sends his best to General Kelley's family - included his extended family of Rutgers men's lacrosse.



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