Memorable Games in Harvard-Yale history

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The Game of 1894: The Hampden Park Blood Bath


In an era before protective equipment and modern safety rules, players from both Harvard and Yale suffered hospitalizing injuries in the violent game of 1894. Known as both the “Hampden Park Blood Bath” and the “Springfield Massacre,” the excessive brutality led administrators to suspend the competition for two years.

“The record of French duels for the last dozen years fails to show such a list of casualties as this one game of football produced,” the New York Times reported following the game. “Black eyes, sore shins, and strained backs cut no figure in this contest.”

Upwards of five players were hospitalized with injuries during the match.

Yale tackle Fred Murphy 1897 hit Harvard tackle Bob Hallowell during an officials’ conference and broke the Crimson player’s nose. Murphy would later take a hard hit to the head, which left him unconscious in a Springfield Hospital as rumors of his death circulated, but he recovered from the concussion.

Al Jerrems 1896 and Frank Butterworth 1895 also received head injuries. Yale Captain and four-time All American Frank Hinkey 1895 broke Harvard’s Edgar Wrightington’s collarbone following a fair catch, and Charles Brewer’s broken leg only added to the list of Harvard casualties.

Harvard’s Johnny Hayes and Yale’s Richard Armstrong 1895 were ejected from the competition for excessive violence. Following Yale’s 12–4 victory, rivalling fans took the pattern of violence into the streets. The suspension was lifted in 1897, when the team’s tied 0–0. The Game would not be suspended again until World War I.

The Game of 1968: Harvard Beats Yale 29–29

With two minutes left in the Game and Yale leading Harvard 29–13, a Bulldog victory in 1968 seemed certain. But in what is now referred to as one of the most impressive comebacks in all of college football history, Harvard scored two touchdowns and completed a pair of two-point conversions to tie the game. The Harvard Crimson declared victory of the tie with the famed headline “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.”

“There was no way they could come back. No way they could win,” Yale Coach Carmen Cozza is cited in Sports Illustrated as saying when he reflected on the last minutes of the 1968 Game.

Record setting quarterback and captain Brian Dowling ’69 and future NFL star Calvin Hill ’69 led the Bulldogs. Dowling would later become the inspiration for the character “B.D.” in Garry Trudeau’s ’66 Doonesbury comic strip, which began under the name “Bull Tales” in the Yale Daily News. Harvard’s line was similarly full of famous names, including Al Gore’s roommate and offensive lineman Tommy Lee Jones, who went on to become an actor.

Yale was favored with a 16-game win streak and was well on its way to a rout by halftime. The Bulldogs led Harvard 22–0. But the Crimson’s back-up quarterback Frank Champi, who entered the game in the second quarter, became Harvard’s hero. With Champi throwing the passes, the team scored an unfathomable 16 points in the last 42 seconds of the game.

As a result of the incredible comeback, Harvard and Yale finished with matching 8–0–1 Ivy records to tie for the League title.

A documentary named after the Crimson article was produced in 2008 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Game. The Game of 1968 is the last time Harvard and Yale tied.

The Game of 1982: The MIT Pranksters

Rivalry at the Game is not limited to Harvard and Yale — MIT has a history of butting into the competition by staging pranks during the Game.

MIT students made several elaborate attempts to print and burn the letters “MIT” into the field in 1948 and 1978, but both times, their plans were foiled. Then members of MIT’s DKE fraternity managed to bury a large, black weather balloon under the field in 1982.

Following a second-quarter Harvard touchdown, the balloon with the letters “MIT” printed on the sides emerged from the ground in the middle of the field, inflated and proceeded to explode in a cloud of talcum powder. The prank delayed the game for about 10 minutes.

MIT again successfully pranked the Game in 1990. As Yale prepared to kick a field goal in the third quarter, a remote detonated rocket engine embedded in the endzone line shot a banner with “MIT” printed on both sides over the goal post.

In response to the 1982 prank, the Boston Herald ran the headline “MIT 1 — Harvard-Yale 0: Tech Pranksters Steal the Show,” and a 2007 Sports Illustrated article named the weather balloon the fourth best prank in college sports history.

The Game of 2004: The “We Suck” prank

Of the 20 cheering members of the “Harvard Pep Squad” passing out red and white placards to smiling Harvard alumni at the 121st edition of The Game on Nov. 20, 2004, not one actually attended Harvard University.

In perhaps the greatest prank pulled at the annual Yale-Harvard football game, Mike Kai ’05 and David Aulicino ’05, both Piersonites, organized a stunt in which red and white pieces of construction paper were passed out to audience members on the Harvard side of Harvard Stadium. The Pep Squad “members” had told the Cantabs that the posters would say “Go Harvard,” but instead the placards clearly spelled out a massive “WE SUCK” for all on the Yale side to see when they were lifted into the air.

It took an entire year of planning, a road trip to Boston to scout out the stadium, fake Harvard IDs, and lots of red and white face paint to carry out the deed. The prank was featured in newspapers, on radio programs, Jimmy Kimmel Live, MSNBC and several magazines. It also struck a chord in the Pierson community, even today, seven years later.

“I thought it was a wonderful way of expressing Pierson joy and Yale pride,” Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt said in an email Friday. “All Pierson alums love it. The photo of that prank, presented under the title ‘Crimson Spirit,’ is by far the most popular item in my office.”

Since most Harvard students were sitting in the stands directly adjacent to where the signs were held up, most denied that such a prank had occurred until photos and videos of the incident were posted up on harvardsucks.org. That site, now run by a corporation Kai founded and is now the CEO of, shows how Yalies pranked Harvard like never before.

So on that fateful day, 1800 Harvard alumni agreed: “WE SUCK.” Seven years later, little has changed

-Ike Lee

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