THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS. WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS.
The game dates back to 1890. It was originated by a West Point cadet, Dennis Mahon Michie, after whom Army's stadium is named. Cadet Michie organized the game on the parade ground, and 500 people came out to watch halfback-coach-captain-manager-trainer Michie lead his team to a 24-0 loss. On the way to the game the Navy team had come across a goat it named Bill, and after Navy won, Bill was taken home to Annapolis as a mascot. The Midshipmen are now on their 19th Bill.
The series has been discontinued a couple of times because of anger. Very soon after it began, President Grover Cleveland stopped it. It seems that following the game of 1893, a brigadier general and a rear admiral got into such a bitter argument about it that they challenged each other to a duel. There was no Army-Navy game for five years.
The series was begun again only because of some wartime heroics. Four men who had played in the early games, including Dennis Michie, lost their lives in the Spanish-American War. The service academies decided that the men had gained much from their football experiences—they were better men and soldiers—and that the game could be resumed in this spirit.
The immense popularity of Army-Navy—it had the first ticket scalpers—caused it to go on the road. Franklin Field in Philadelphia was the site for many years, and now it has settled in Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium, where more than 100,000 can see it annually. It is the only college game that has been on national television since the tube first blipped.
The game could not have become an American classic, of course, if the two academies had not continually suited out interesting teams and played some storybook contests. One particular game in 1926, before 110,000 in Chicago's Soldier Field, was considered for years as "the greatest game ever played." It was a 21-21 tie, with Navy's Tom Hamilton co-starring with Army's Chris Cagle.
Upsets have been almost as thick as the gold braid in the stands. Two of the most surprising came close together, and they reflect the kind of respect the institutions hold for each other. Army was undefeated in 1948 and Navy had not won a single game, but the Midshipmen somehow managed a 21-21 tie. Two years later Army was undefeated again, ranked No. 1, and a four-touchdown favorite over a Navy team that had won only two games, but Bob Zastrow passed Navy to a 14-2 victory.
In between those two games, however, Army got its revenge, and in more ways than one. Not only did the Cadets whomp Navy 38-0, but they took advantage of some espionage to embarrass the Midshipmen before all of their admirals. An Army officer on duty at Annapolis had learned of a Navy plan to hoist some banners poking fun at Army's 1949 schedule and to parody On, Brave Old Army Team, the West Point fight song. Soon after both student bodies had done their usual pregame march-on, drills and salutes, they took their places across the field from each other and Navy cheerfully sang the parody:
We don't play Notre Dame.
We don't play Tulane.
We just play Davidson,
For that's the fearless Army way.
Then the Midshipmen lofted a huge banner that said: "When Do You Drop Navy?"