Notre Dame and Army will attempt to “wake up the echoes” Saturday when they renew their historic college football rivalry at Yankee Stadium.
The Fighting Irish and the Black Knights no longer dominate American sports. And they’ll be playing at the new Yankee Stadium, not the original Stadium that was the site for 22 meetings between 1925 and 1969.
But the 50th meeting between Notre Dame and Army is hardly your garden variety regular season game either. The game and the venue hark back to an era –from the Roaring ’20s to post World War II — when the Notre Dame-Army game captivated the nation.
The Irish and Cadets staged their first Yankee Stadium meeting in 1925, a game Army dominated, 27-0.
Three years later at the Stadium, the teams were tied 0-0 at the half when Notre Dame’s legendary coach Knute Rockne inspired his charges with the most famous halftime speech in football history. That day Rockne invoked the words of George Gipp, one of the great players in ND history who died of strep-throat infection in 1920 at the age of 25.
‘Win One for The Gipper’
“Some time when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”
The Irish did just that, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second half to beat the Cadets, 12-6
Notre Dame dominated the series at Yankee Stadium from then through the mid ‘40s, winning 12 times and tying twice in 15 games.
Army, which was ranked #1 in the polls and finished unbeaten, turned the tables on Notre Dame in 1944 and 1945, whipping Notre Dame 59-0 and then 48-0 at Yankee Stadium.
That set up one of the most famous college football games in history in 1946, #1 Army vs. #2 ND, aka The Game of the Century. Despite predictions of a high scoring game, the two powers played to a scoreless tie before 74,121 at the Stadium. The win ended Army’s 26-game winning streak and the Irish won the national championship when they beat USC 26-6 on the final weekend of the season, while Army edged Navy 21-18.
The Game of the Century
The 1946 Notre Dame-Army game featured four Heisman Trophy winners in uniform Doc Blanchard (1945) and Glenn Davis (1946) of Army and Johnny Lujack (1947) and Leon Hart (1949) of Notre Dame) and 12 members of the College Football Hall of Fame.
One newspaper reported that fans were paying scalpers up to $250 for tickets with a $1 face value. “If Yankee Stadium had a million seats,” Army athletic director Biff Jones said before the game, “we would fill it for this game. I have never seen anything like it.”
After meeting every year since 1919, Army decided to end the annual series following the 1947 season because they felt it was becoming too one-sided in favor of the Irish. The game was played in South Bend for the first time and the Irish won, 27-7.
Notre Dame and Army played one last game at Yankee Stadium in 1969, with the Irish winning easily 45-0. Overall Notre Dame won 14 of those 22 games in Yankee Stadium. Army won five. Three finished in a tie
Through the decades the teams have met infrequently, with Army’s last win coming in 1958. Most of the games have been contested at neutral sites, such as Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium in New York, Soldier Field in Chicago, Philadelphia’s JFK Memorial Stadium and Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Notre Dame leads the series 37-8-4.
Extra Points: The first Notre Dame-Army matchup in 1913 is generally regarded as the game that put the Irish on the college football map. In that game, Notre Dame revolutionized the forward pass in a stunning 35-13 victory on the Plain at West Point. Irish quarterback Gus Dorias passed for 242 yards that day, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to a young end by the name of Knute Rockne.
The 1924 game at the Polo Grounds provided the setting for the most celebrated lead in the history of sportswriting.
After Notre Dame defeated Army 13-7, Grantland Rice of the New York World Telegram wrote, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
Notre Dame and Army met most recently in 2006, when the Irish pounded the Black Knights 41-9 at Notre Dame Stadium.
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