The Yale-Vassar bike race found its origins in a drunken wager. At a meeting of Yale’s Trumbull Beer and Bike Society, one student declared he could beat another in a bicycle race all the way to Vassar. However, this valiant duel between two determined Trumbull residents quickly became a popular annual tradition in the early 1950s and a day on which the iconic style of the Seven Sisters and Ivy colleges revealed a sense of humor.
Each April, there was a Yale mass exodus, with around sixteen five-man teams pedaling the some 70 miles from New Haven to Poughkeepsie, eager to be reunited with their “waiting Vassar femmes.” The rules? First team to Vassar won, fancy dress optional but preferred, and, to make things just a little bit more interesting, at each change-over on the relay one team-member had to guzzle a quart of beer before the next man began cycling.
While Yale and Vassar had long since enjoyed an academic connection, the 1950s saw this relationship become even more important socially. Vassar’s resident Warden, Elizabeth Drouilhet, remembered that in the early 1950s, “Students felt that they were totally isolated from the opposite sex. There were any number of attempts to try to counteract our geographic location.” Namely, there was the introduction of Vassar-Yale mixers and dances, however neither school actually sanctioned the race. Drouilhet described the race as a way for restless students in the post-World War II era to prove “what absurdities one could get into.” While over at Yale, Dean Harold B. Whiteman simply reasoned that, for the men at least, “I think this type of exercise a great deal better than face slapping or eating live goldfish.” (Continue)
In honor of The Game this weekend, Ivy Style’s Elder Statesman Bill Stephenson shares his thoughts on Ivy League football. Stephenson graduated from the University of Oklahoma (current BCS ranking: 14) in 1954, but presently lives in Princeton, where he cheers for the home team, which ranks a bit lower.
It doesn’t seem possible to have had an exposure to college football that could be more remote from the Ivy League than at the University of Oklahoma. In the early ’50s, during my days there, Oklahoma was in the process of becoming a national power at the same time that Ivy League football, which had previously dominated the fall scene, was in the process of becoming de-emphasized in the national spotlight.
Ironically, the Ivy League Look for young men was also at its peak at the time. But as the ’60s dragged on, Ivy football declined in popularity in tandem with the clothing. Exactly 50 years ago, The Saturday Evening Post depicted The Game in this wonderful cover image by George Hughes, a testament to the national appeal of Ivy football.
After moving to Princeton 20 years ago, it was natural for a new townie like me to become fascinated with Ivy League football and its unique history (I’ve held season tickets since then, rarely miss a game). The first college football game ever played was on the campus of Rutgers University, with the home team opposing Princeton. The game had little resemblance to the game played today. Rutgers won “6 runs to 4.”
The early game had much different rules from the game of today:
The ball could only be thrown backwards
Teams had three downs to make five yards
The field was 110 yards long
A touchdown was worth four points
It is impossible to describe the brutality of football games in the 19th century. There was little protective equipment, and linemen punched each other prior to the snap of the ball. Much emphasis was placed on disabling the key players for the opposing team, and once a player left the field he could not return.
The first Harvard v. Yale game in Springfield, MA in 1894 typifies the game of football in its early days. Six players were seriously injured, with Murphy of Yale lying in a coma until 7 PM. During the Teddy Roosevelt administration there was an attempt to outlaw football because of its brutality.
The New York Times once calculated that revenues from that first Harvard-Yale game were $119,000 — close to $2 million in today’s dollars.
When the Ivy League athletic conference was formed, the original teams were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and a fourth team. To this day there is no agreement as to whether the fourth team was Penn or Columbia, and the term Ivy League, coined by a sports writer in 1935, is sometimes erroneously said to refer not to the ivy on the buildings, but to the roman numeral IV for the four universities. — BILL STEPHENSON
Seventy-seven-year-old Bill Stephenson graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1954. After serving in the Air Force, he spent 40 years in the insurance industry, including acting as executive vice president of Fidelity Union Life. He presently resides in Princeton, NJ, and frequently audits courses at the university.
It’s kind of funny to think that standards of dress for a football game half a century ago were higher than for much of corporate America today. Several shots of the crowd reveal all the requisite gear: natural shoulders, buttondown collars, rep ties, short haircuts, and crewneck sweaters worn high in the front. — CC
This is a 20-minute clip, so watch it over lunch if you’re the kind of poor schlub who eats lunch at his desk. And if you’re at home, pour yourself a drink and get comfortable.
Love the towel worn as a scarf in the opening. Great chinos and sweaters in action at 2:28. Jackets and ties for trip to Cornell at 4:28. White bucks and grey flannels at 5:51. Rowing against Columbia through New York City at 8:29. More traveling clothes at 10:32.
And finally, at 19:28, the climax: a kiss from a debutante in cashmere and pearls.
Bob Sheppard, the legendary public address announcer for the New York Yankees from 1951 to 2007, died on July 11th at the age of 99. He was raised in Queens and went to St. John’s University, where he won seven letters and served as senior class president, and later returned to serve as a speech professor. While best known for his announcement work, he always considered his teaching duties more important than his announcement duties, but Yankee fans were fortunate to witness his use of the former to elevate the latter.
As a fellow Queens kid who grew up listening to Yankees games on the radio, Sheppard’s voice — dubbed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson — was an integral part of my relationship with the team. Through the dark days of the mid-’80s to the early ’90s, to the triumphant years at the end of the century, the distinctly sonorous cadence of Sheppard’s announcements offered fans an enduring reference point beyond the team’s fickle American League standings.
Sheppard’s manner harkened to a different era, when baseball was largely followed on the radio. In an interview with ESPN, Sheppard said, “The modern public address announcer is a screamer, he’s a shouter, and he is very, very flamboyant,” better suited for a wrestling ring. In contrast, Sheppard described his method as “clear, concise and correct.” As a baseball fan who listened to both Yankees and Mets games, I witnessed the contrast and understood Sheppard’s intent. The game was perfect by itself; it did not need a promoter, but merely someone who respected its dignity. Sheppard did so superlatively and stylishly, as seen in the sack-jacketed 1972 photo above.
“I don’t go to work; I go to a game,” Sheppard once said, as if baseball was too sacred to be a job. As the announcer for the sport’s most storied franchise, Sheppard served as a trustee charged with protecting a key part of New York’s heritage and capturing the imaginations of succeeding generations. He will be missed by millions of fans, including this one. — WILL CHOU
Recent Yale grad Will Chou is currently pursuing graduate studies in history at Ohio State University. He avidly indulges in sports, travel and food and would like Roger Sterling to be godfather to his future son.
If there’s one character in “The Official Preppy Handbook” who could be singled out for derision, it’s the skier. Wearing mirrored sunglasses and a cocky sneer, he looks like the kind of guy you’d hate everything about.
Everything, that is, except his ski cap from Moriarty of Stowe, Vermont.
For five decades the Moriarty cap and the Stowe ski industry grew in tandem. Here is a story that appeared in the June 2006 issue of Skiing Heritage Journal, recounting how Anabel Moriarty founded a cottage industry and outfitted American Winter Olympians, including her son, from 1956-2006.
Today, as the opening ceremony marks the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics, I wish I could tell you that Moriarty is still a dominant force in ski hats. But there is no longer a store on Main Street, according to the Stowe Chamber of Commerce. The Vermont Ski Museum was also unable to locate a store representative.
But there are still hats available. The museum has a few caps left emblazoned with Stowe, and an Internet search reveals some interesting things for preps who turned left at Bohemian. Moriarty hats and sweaters also appear on eBay from time to time.
The optimist in me believes the Moriarty hat is simply dormant. I’d also like to think there are some Vermont knitters just waiting for someone to appreciate their work again.
As the old advisement used to say, “The People of Vermont make great maple syrup, great cheddar, and the best ski hats in the world.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP