Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Football Game in 1895 Between Pelham Manor and Mount Vernon Teams

Unlike the sport of baseball, there seems to be very little evidence of football being played in Pelham during the 19th century.  It seems, however, that as early as 1895 there already was a football rivalry between Pelham and Mount Vernon.  

Football was very different nearly 120 years ago.  Indeed, some claim that the forward pass was only "invented" that year in a football game between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the University of Georgia Bulldogs.  See Quincy, Bob, They Made the Bell Tower Chime (Chapel Hill, NC:  Chapel Hill Newspaper, 1973).  The equipment was simplistic and the concept of "professional" football was in its infancy with modest payments occasionally made to journeyman players to participate in particular games.  

Football Player in Uniform, 1895.
Source:  Many Football Games, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], 
Nov. 29, 1895, Vol. XV, No. 1118, p. 4, col. 1.  

Although the record is sparse, there is evidence that some believed the members of the Mount Vernon team were a group of "toughs" as one newspaper article put it.  In mid-November, the football team of the Pelham Manor Athletic Club played the Mount Vernon Football Club on the grounds of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island.  The two teams seemed evenly matched.  Mount Vernon beat Pelham Manor 9 to 0.

Shortly afterward, the manager of the Pelham Manor team, W.C. Beecroft, wrote a letter to the manager of the Mount Vernon Football Club, Harry L. Lovell.  The letter thanked the Mount Vernon team for playing such a "gentlemanly" game and said the game was the "whitest" [i.e., cleanest] ever played on Travers Island.  

The two teams promptly decided to hold a rematch on Thanksgiving morning, November 28, 1895.  Both teams seem to have prepared vigorously for the contest.  Several newspaper reports in advance of the game mention that the Mount Vernon team was "practicing hard to win" and that the game was expected to be "close" and "interesting."  The Pelham Manor Athletic Club, in the meantime, apparently decided to add a few ringers.  According to a report in the Mount Vernon Daily Argus, the Pelham Manor Athletic Club strengthened its team by adding some players from the New York Athletic Club and some "college players."  

On Thanksgiving morning a "great crowd" gathered on the Athletic Grounds maintained by the Mount Vernon Y.M.C.A.  As might be expected, the game was marked by "considerable rough playing" and was a "very fast" game.  Only one touchdown was scored and the Pelham Manor Athletic Club won the contest 12 to 4.  The following day the local newspaper in Mount Vernon reported that the Mount Vernon team groused that the "Pelham Manor club had two professionals on their team."  The newspaper further noted that "from the work behind the line, the charge was pretty well sustained."

With one win under the belt of each team, the manager of the Mount Vernon team challenged the Pelham Manor A.C. to a third rubber match.  The captain of the Pelham Manor team declined, apparently deciding discretion was the better part of valor.  

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Transcribed below are a few of the articles about the 1895 matches, followed by citations to their sources.

Exciting Game -- Score, 12 to 4.

There was a great crowd on the Athletic Grounds Thursday morning [November 28, 1895] to witness the game of football between the Mount Vernon and Pelham Manor Clubs.  The home eleven had once before defeated the visitors by a score of 9 to 0.  The two teams were looked upon as evenly matched, and an exciting game was looked for, so the friends of the home team were not disappointed.  The game was very fast, and considerable rough playing was indulged in.  The Mount Vernon team claimed that Pelham Manor club had two professionals on their team and from the work behind the line, the charge was pretty well sustained.  The game was very interesting as the score 12 to 4 in favor of the visitors indicates.  Griffiths made the only touch down.  After the game Manager Lovell challenged the visitors to another game, but the Pelham Manor captain declined."

Source:  OUR TEAM BEATEN AT FOOTBALL, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 29, 1895, Vol. XV, No. 1118, p. 1, col. 3.

"Football Thanksgiving Day.

The Mount Vernon foot ball team will play the Pelham Manor team, strengthened by N.Y.A.C. men, and college players, in the morning of Thanksgiving Day at the Y.M.C.A. grounds.  Mount Vernon is practicing hard to win.  A close interesting game is looked for."

Source:  Football Thanksgiving Day, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 25, 1895, Vol. XV, No. 1115, p. 1, col. 6.  

"It Was A Gentlemanly Foot Ball Game.

It gives us pleasure to publish the following letter.  A report in the Sentinel of the 16th., would give the impression that our foot ball team was a gang of toughs.  The Sentinel should make the 'Amende Honorable'.

Pelham Manor, Nov. 18, 1895.


Manager Mount Vernon F.B.C.

Dear Sir.--On behalf of the Pelham Manor A.C., I desire to thank you and through you your team, for the gentlemanly game played by them Saturday [November 16, 1895].  Although I thanked you verbally after the game, the fellows insisted that I write you and express their feelings more fully.

It was claimed by those who witnessed the game to be the 'whitest' ever played on Travers Island.

Your very truly,

W.C. BECROFT [sic],


Source:  It Was A Gentlemanly Football Game, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 23, 1895, Vol. XV, No. 1114, p. 1, col. 5.  

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