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Let’s Look at a 100-Year-Old College Football Game Scorecard

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Longtime reader Warren Junium very generously sent me a box of cool stuff the other day, including a serious treasure: a scorecard from the 1925 Harvard/Dartmouth football game, which took place on Oct. 24 of that year at Harvard’s Soldiers Field. At the time, Dartmouth — whose teams back then were called the Indians, ugh — was in the midst of what would become a 22-game winning streak, including an unbeaten 8-0 record in 1925 that would earn them the national championship.

The scorecard — or “score card,” as it calls itself — is booklet-sized and runs just a few pages, but it’s still packed with interesting stuff, so let’s take a look.

The cover, obviously, is shown above. I love the crossed flags and the typography. As for the price, 15¢ in 1925 is roughly the equivalent of two and a half bucks today. Not bad!

Here’s the first interior spread:

Love the uniforms on the two captains. The Dartmouth guy appears to be about 40 years old, no? Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the hoodie (did that term even exist in 1925?) worn at top-right by Dartmouth coach Jesse Hawley. Hawley, incidentally, would go on to found what is now the world’s oldest loudspeaker manufacturer, plus the company has also made helmets for the U.S. military — a uniform connection!

Here’s the next spread:

Let’s begin with the left-hand page:

  • Looking at the two team diagrams, you can see that the numbering rules were v-e-r-y different a century ago than they are now. There’s a center wearing No. 44 and a left tackle wearing No. 23, among other seeming oddities.
  • Both diagrams appear to show offensive configurations with six men in the backfield — hmmm. Maybe it was just so they could fit everything on the page.
  • I love that a field goal is referred to as “Goal, from Field.”

Moving on to the right-hand page:

  • It appears that the lowest uni number on both teams was 21.
  • The Harvard squad had 43 players listed, while Dartmouth had only 35.
  • There were just four officials: referee, umpire, linesman, and field judge.
  • Under “Scoring Values,” a forfeited game is listed as one point. So if one team didn’t show up, did the other team officially win by a score of 1-0? (Proofreader Jerry Wolper says, “Yes. A forfeit is still officially 1-0,” so there you go! Interestingly, a forfeit in the NFL is 2-0.)

Next spread:

Out of all the players on both teams, I count only four that were listed as 200 pounds or more. Also, the Harvard players seemed to go to much more elite high schools.

And here’s my favorite part — the back cover, which features a list of “the more important penalties”:

This is sooooo interesting. Many of the penalties are essentially the same as they are today, but there are also some interesting differences. For example:

  • Two infractions — clipping and delaying the start of the first or second half — carried penalties of 25 yards!
  • Hurdling, which is highlight-reel stuff nowadays, was a 15-yard penalty. I had no idea that it wasn’t allowed.
  • I love that intentional grounding is referred to as “Forward passing, intentionally throwing to ground.”
  • “Crawling: 5 yards.”
  • I wonder what constituted “Unfair play.” Maybe that was the old way of saying “Illegal formation” or “Illegal procedure”?
  • Hoo boy, “Coaching from sidelines: 15 yards”! Because this was back when men were men and called their own plays, without some coach holding their hand or talking in their radio-equipped helmet, am I right?
  • Finally, there’s the best penalty ever: “Slugging.” We really need to see what the the ref’s hand signal was for that one! (Were refs using hand signals in 1925?)

There are other interesting penalties listed there, which I encourage you to discover on your own.

As for the game, Dartmouth won, 32-9, in front of a crowd of 53,000.



Peak Uni Watch Reminder

In case you missed it on Wednesday, my Premium article this week is an epic interview with letter carrier Jimmy Lonetti about his vintage/throwback postal uniforms. Jimmy is already somewhat Uni Watch-famous because of his longtime excellent work in the field of baseball glove repair, but the way he customizes his postal uniforms with vintage patches, buttons, and other throwback details is nothing short of heroic.

I don’t mind saying that this is one of the best Uni Watch articles ever. It’s long — about 5,000 words — and is studded with lots of photos, links to lots of additional resources for people who want to learn more about postal aesthetics, and a very special surprise at the end.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the whole thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack/Bulletin archives, of course). Honestly and truly, I can’t imagine a better reason to sign up than to read this piece.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out some of the comments posted on the article by your fellow Uni Watch readers:

If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will! Again, you can read the beginning of the article here. Enjoy!

Comments (36)

    The penalty of “taking out more than four times during a half” is a great one. I had a conversation long ago with a local sportswriter and one thing that stuck with me from the conversation is that all scoreboards have it wrong when they say time outs left. The proper term is times out left.”

    That is interesting and I never thought of it that way. Certainly makes sense such that when originally conceived, times out was of course correct based simply on grammar. Since then a time out has become a term used outside the context of the rules of a sport, such that a time out is now a noun in of itself. I would say today they both are correct, times out is correct given the nature of the rule book for the sport, but time outs is also correct in the vernacular owing to “a time out” being like a mulligan, something one can have an allotment of.

    Harvard players were numbered in alphabetical order! Except for #63 who maybe joined the team late.

    I know – the alphabetical order of Harvard’s jersey numbers is certainly “ego-neutralizing!” Along with no single digits, on either team.

    Fascinating! I bet Timothy P. Brown from Football Archaeology would be able to shed some light on a lot of these details around jersey numbering, penalties, etc.


    I’ve been furiously reading many of his back article (I joined his Substack based on Paul’s recommendation — and have also featured Tim’s work on UW several times, including a new one two weekends ago — link). Many of the rules (penalties) Paul highlighted date back to football’s early days when it was still very much like rugby. Perhaps I can convince Tim to devote a post (or just re-work one of his old ones) on the rules of the day alone. It’s really fascinating stuff and if you enjoyed this, you should all check out Tim’s Substack.

    Frank Birch, an Illinois / Iowa ref, began using hand signals in the 1910s, but the signals did not see widespread use until 1929 and later. The Field Judge for the game, W. R. Okeson, was a leading Eastern official, ultimately becoming the editor of the NCAA Football Rules Guide.

    “Interferences With A Forward Pass on the defense” is punished by loss of ball? I’m not sure I even understand. Like, if they intercept a pass but commit pass interference, the interception doesn’t count? I’m baffled by that one, but passing was also a whole different deal back then.

    Like, I think the two pass interference penalties are worded strangely — defensive pass interference is a 15 yard penalty whereas OPI give the ball to the defense.

    I dunno.

    I was thinking the same thing, but yes, it’s worded very poorly if that’s the case. Also, loss of ball for offensive pass interference is a really harsh penalty by today’s standards.

    One of the reasons I find football so frustrating to watch nowadays is how lenient offensive penalties are vs. defensive. An automatic turnover for OPI may be a tad harsh but I think it should definitely result in a loss of down in addition to the 10-yard penalty.

    I find it weird that the Boston media just dumped the “Indians” moniker onto Dartmouth one day (which happened to be just before the 1922 game with Harvard). And given that all the writers who were involved in the naming have to be long dead by now, the reasons are probably lost to time now.

    In any case, the Big Green never officially took the “Indians” name, though the school apparently didn’t do anything to discourage it until the Board of Trustees decided to call for the end of its usage in 1974. I do have to wonder if there was ever any pushback in the 20s, though, given the attitudes of the time, but given that it took five decades for the school to formally distance itself from it, there was probably none to speak of.

    I’m not a Dartmouth grad, but my entire family is as is my wife. Dartmouth was founded under a royal charter in 1769 as a school to train Native American Protestant missionaries. However the two founders disagreed on whether the school should be dedicated to this mission or whether it should be more of a side gig with the student body primarily white. The latter view won, though Dartmouth has maintained scholarships for Native Americans throughout its existence (even if strictly windowdressing until recently).

    The school’s origins are the genesis for the “Indians” moniker–it was tradition for many decades for graduates to walk at graduation with a hand carved cane topped with an bust of a Native American warrior/chief. The sports teams unofficially taking the name grew out of traditions such as these (and newspapermen in NYC and Boston applying their knowledge of them).

    The school has distanced itself from the Indians name, being one of the first schools to drop Native American imagery in the early 1970s (which was still contentious when my folks attended in the mid-70s). However, you’ll still see a few legacy graduating seniors walking the stage at graduation with heirloom Indian-head canes today (or at least this was the case 7 years ago when the last of my siblings graduated).


    “Before Dartmouth was an Ivy League school, it was an Indian school. Dedicated to educating Indians in the region, its mission was to aid Indians in assimilating into 18th century life. “

    Only one Andover alumnus? Interesting.

    Look at all the public school kids on Dartmouth! Gasp!

    “Both diagrams appear to show offensive configurations with six men in the backfield — hmmm. Maybe it was just so they could fit everything on the page.”

    Yeah, that’s definitely it because two of the “backfield” positions are listed as ends.

    Interestingly my grandfather and I were discussing “crawling” the other day. Looks like the pro game allowed it but the collegiate ranks penalized it (in a way similar to how you’re automatically down if your knee hits in college today, but not in the NFL). As Football Zebras explains- “In the early years of the NFL, if a player fell or was knocked down, he could still crawl or get up and run again. The defender had to tackle the ball carrier and hold him down in order for the official to blow the play dead.” Also, it looks like both college and pro rules made “helping the runner” (obviously no longer a penalty today) illegal, and it looks like “crawling” and “helping the runner” had the same ref signal, which apparently was “kind of an upside down pass interference signal”. Thanks, Jonathan

    pro rules made “helping the runner” (obviously no longer a penalty today) illegal…

    If I’m not mistaken, *pulling* the runner is still a no-no, although pushing is permitted.

    I find it interesting that the distinction between “roughing kicker” and “running into kicker” was in place so long ago.

    Originally, in rugby, (which was likely the first game shared between students at English & US universities), crossing the line gave you a “try” at kicking for a goal which was how points were scored.
    Over time, crossing the line itself became the bigger scoring play, with a conversation following, but the phrase Try is still in use in rugby.
    Interesting that college football kept the phrase Goal in use for a long time – and I’d never considered that was where the phrase Field Goal originated from!

    It appears to have been a point of emphasis for high school officials as recently at 2013. See pages 28 and 29 of this link:

    High school referee here:

    Hurdling is still a personal foul (15 yards) in NFHS football, played in 49 states and the District of Columbia (Texas HS plays NCAA rules).

    Coach Hawley’s Hawley Products Company seems to have been quite the pioneer in the business of pressing fibers together into solid substances. The link shows that, not only does it make speaker cones today in that manner, but it also created the US Army’s WW2 helmet liners and pith helmets in the same way. I always thought the liners were nylon, and the pith helmets look a lot like styrofoam.

    Note that the GI pith helmet even has pressed into its surface the illusion of the fabric hatband found on real pith helmets (themselves made of fabric stretched over a wicker frame).

    I see that the tallest player on either squad was “G.M. Laimbeer” of Harvard (one other Harvard lineman was also listed at 6’3.) perhaps the grandfather or great grandfather of the Pistons center, Bill Laimbeer ? I seem to recall his father was some kind of executive. A pretty uncommon last name at any rate.

    “Captain Parker” who Paul said looks in the 40’s was 21. Maybe he worked on a farm growing up?

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