Monday, November 24, 2014

Rivalry Week(s): Boston College-Holy Cross

Before we were so rudely interrupted ... Yes, we're back up and running. Let's not mess around!
Maybe it was never Alabama-Auburn or Ohio State-Michigan, but once upon a long ago Boston College and Holy Cross waged a “holy war” that was one of the centerpieces of the New England sports calendar. Alas, Holy Cross’ decision to drop down to Division I-AA (FCS) in 1982 marked the beginning of the end of this once-great rivalry, and final game was played in 1986. Word is that they’re going to play again in 2018 … it may not be pretty, but should make for a neat nostalgia trip.
A gentleman named Wally Carew wrote a fine book called A Farewell to Glory about the history of this rivalry. What I liked about it is that it isn’t a simple retelling of every game; Carew focuses on interviews and profiles of the players and coaches involved, and gets their views and memories on the rivalry. Check it out.
Much of the info here was culled from “Farewell” and the awesome Boston College Football Vault, filled with reproductions of old program covers, cartoons, even bumper stickers. Reid Oslin, a former BC sports information director, is the author.
BC leads (led?) the series, 48–31–3.
A few highlights:
1942: Holy Cross Upsets No. 1 BC
… aka “The Cocoanut Grove Fire” game. Boston College came into the Fenway Park showdown with a No. 1 ranking, an 8-0 record and a one-way ticket to its second Sugar Bowl in three years, Holy Cross came in with a 4-4-1 record and no bowl aspirations. But the Crusaders stunned the Eagles 55-12 in a game voted by Associated Press sports editors as the ninth-biggest upset from 1900-1950. (No. 1: The 1914 “Miracle Braves” sweeping the Philly A’s in the World Series.)
BC got a trip to the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize (not bad, huh?) … and lost t oAlabama 37-21 to end the season 8-2.
A BC victory party at the Cocoanut Grove was cancelled; that night, a fire at the establishment killed 492 people.

Those Holy Cross helmets are interesting; if you look at them closely, you can see the Michigan-style “wings” are painted silver, but the stripes are painted purple. BC’s uniforms here were first used in 1939, the first year of coach Frank Leahy’s two-year stint at The Heights.

A photo spread of the 1942 Holy Cross-BC game, from the '43 Purple Patcher.
What are those itty-bitty guys doing way down there?

1951: BC’s Turn for an Upset
On Dec. 1, 1951, the tables were turned. Holy Cross was 8-1, ranked as high as 14th in the polls and smarting over an Orange Bowl rejection. Boston College was a ho-hum 3-5 and favored to lose by as many as 20 points. It didn’t matter; BC won 19-14 on QB Jimmy Kane’s 56-yard pass to Joe Sullivan, which set up a Joe Johnson 1-yard TD run. The celebrations in Boston, if the pictures from the 1952 Sub Turri are any indication, lasted well into the night. Holy Cross finished 19th in the AP poll; 17th in the UPI poll.

During this time period, Holy Cross wore the white uniform most of the time, even at home; the Crusaders went some years without ever wearing the purple jersey. The big differences between these BC uniforms and the ones from a decade earlier are the larger numbers and the plastic helmet shells.

The 1952 BC Sub Turri yearbook used a mushroom cloud to illustrate
the Eagles' big upset over The Cross. Would this even be allowed today?

1986: The End on an Era
By the 1980s, the game had changed. Boston College was a national power making regular bowl appearances; Holy Cross was a national power — in Division I-AA, its home since 1982, and the series hadn’t been competitive in years. The Crusaders jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, but the Eagles stormed back to win 56-26 at muddy Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass. Eagles QB Shawn Halloran threw for four TDs and running back Troy Stradford added a couple more. 
Although the good fathers at Holy Cross voted to cancel the series three months later, word had already swirled the week of the game that the series’ end was approaching. Well, until 2018.

We looked at the 80s BC uniform here and the Holy Cross uni here. No. 68 for BC was Mike Ruth, the '86 Outland Trophy winner as college football's top lineman; No. 17 for Holy Cross is Gordie Lockbaum, college football's other Jesus in Cleats during the 80s.

A 1986 Boston College sked, with future Dallas Cowboy Kelvin Martin.

The one and only.

Tuesday: An underrated Ivy League rivalry.

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