Text and photo from the History of the 89th Division, 1917, 1918, 1919, by George H. English, Jr., Lieut. Col., 353rd Infantry, 89th Division. Published by The War Society of the 89th Division, 1920; printed by Smith-Brooks Printing Company, Denver, Colorado.
Soon after the arrival of the Division in Germany, organized athletics became the subject of great attention by General Winn. Football, basketball, indoor baseball and soccer teams were at once formed in all organizations. In the spring a baseball league of regimental teams was formed. Athletic equipment was furnished by the Y. M. C. A., and intense and increasing interest was manifested by all ranks in wholesome outdoor sports.
Naturally, the focus of interest from the viewpoint of the Division as a whole is the Division Football Team, --our ever-victorious team which won the championship of the A. E. F.
Captain (later Major) Withington began the organization of the team in January, 1919. A small field was selected in the vicinity of Malburg, a little village only a few hundred yards from Kyllburg. Men of known ability were called on to report for practice, and the Division was combed for men who had shown skill at the game in the organization teams. Although equipment had not arrived, the men began practice in their O. D. trousers and hob-nailed shoes by the 25th of January, in the snow and slush.
The first game was played February 14th, 1919, against the team of the 90th Division at Wiittlich. The final score was 89th Division, 6; 90th Division, 0. At no stage of the game was the outcome in doubt, except during the last few minutes of play when the 90th's team, within twelve yards of a touchdown, spoiled a chance to score by making an illegal substitution for which they were penalized half the length of the field. On the other hand, our team was in striking distance of the goal again and again, but the tightening of the defense and the slippery field saved the losers from a larger score. The only score came in the third quarter on a straight play by Wilder. "Potsy" Clark, who afterwards starred so brilliantly, sustained a dislocated shoulder in the first play of the game and was forced to withdraw.
The second game of the season was played at Coblenz, February 20th, against the Headquarters' Third Army. It proved to be an easy win for our team, the score being 30 to 0.
The third game, played against the 4th Division Team at Coblenz, on February 27th, determined the championship of the Third Army and our 14 to 0 victory earned us the honor of representing the Army of Occupation in the A. E. F. championship games at Paris. This game was thrilling throughout, both as regards the playing and the "accessories" and was one of the best played games. It was Harvard against Harvard. the captains of the teams being two of the greatest players who ever wore the Crimson, ---Paul Withington for us and Hamilton Fish for the 4th.
The first quarter passed without a score and with little apparent advantage to either team. The break came in the second quarter with only 20 seconds left to the half. One of Lindsey's high, twisting punts was caught dangerously near the 4th's goal and the catcher downed in his tracks by our fleet ends. A kick out of danger was the only play; but "Poge" Lewis, our center, went through Sibert and knocked down the ball as it left Roderick's toe and it rolled back of the goal line; "Scrubby" Laslett had just the necessary fraction of a second more speed than the three 4th Division men who darted after it and when the legs were untangled it was seen that he was hugging the ball behind the 4th's goal line for our first touchdown. Pandemonium. The bugle corps of two hundred massed trumpeters which the 89th had organized and brought along for the occasion blew "Pay Day". A great banner bearing the Circle W broke out to the breeze. Lindsey kicked goal. Seven to zero.
The second score came as the result of smashing, straight, superior football. Clark, Lindsey and Padfield made steady gains. "Potsy," his dislocated shoulder all right by now, uncorked one of his spectacular runs through a broken field for 35 yards, being down and up three times. The ball was advanced to the three-yard line; the 4th concentrated its forces for a mass play; Quarterback Gerhardt, observing the enemy's dispositions, determined on a flank movement and sent Clark around the left end for the second touchdown. Fourteen to nothing. There was no more scoring. The fighting was furious but clean throughout. The whole game was a high example of true American sportsmanship.
There was an O. D. crowd of 7,500 to 10,000, accuracy in figures being impossible because no tickets were taken. Before the game, Eddie Rickenbacker's Aeroplane Circus gave us an exhibition of tail spins, nose spins, dives and every sort of air thriller; an observation balloon with a great American flag floated above the field; the 4th's squad of clowns lent an amusing touch. It was a great day.
The team returned home to prepare for the final struggles. Our former adversaries, generous in defeat, sent us the best of their coaches to help prepare the team for a Third Army victory. Lieutenant Trimble of the 90th Division, formerly of Harvard, and Major Pritchard of the Seventh Corps Staff, formerly of West Point, had already been assisting Captain Withington. There now came also Captain Sonsa, formerly of Harvard, Captain Denny of Brown, and Captain Moriarity, tackle of the 4th Division team. Later, after the defeat of the St. Nazaire team, Lieutenant Eddie Mahan joined the coaching staff. Throughout the team had the benefit of the services of Major F. W. O'Donnell, of our own medical corps, whose careful supervision of the team brought them into every contest in superb physical condition.
Early in March the team with its coaches went to Paris to engage in the final games for the championship. Seven teams had been the survivors of the competitions in the different armies and sections of the S. O. S. Three rounds must therefore be played before the final victor could be determined.
Our first adversary was the powerful St. Nazaire team, one of the two representatives of the S. O. S. in the finals. The game was played March 14th at the Velodrome, the great race track in Paris. The St. Nazaire team was coached by Eddie Hart, Princeton, and had in its line-up Eddie Mahan, one of Harvard's greatest kickers. The score was: 89th Division, 13; St. Nazaire, 0. Our first score came in the second quarter as a result of steady short gains beginning at our forty-yard line and sweeping down the field for a touchdown. St. Nazaire came back strongly for the second half and forced the ball to our one-yard line. Here the die-in-the-trench spirit of the 89th manifested itself and the line held for four downs. Eissler twice, Mahan, and finally Barrett were hurled desperately against the line, but those few inches could not be passed, and the ball went to us on downs. From this point the outcome was never in doubt and after consistent, short gains to striking distance of the goal, "Potsy" Clark wriggled over the line for the final touchdown. Lindsey's punts had equalled or exceeded Mahan's.
The next game, played March 22nd at the Auteuil Velodrome, was against the team representing the Intermediate Section S. O. S. The game was a typical 89th Division victory, finishing with a victorious punch after coming from behind. The final score was 17 to 3. The S. O. S. scored first, a goal from placement in the second quarter. In the second half, one of Lindsey's punts rolled past the S. O. S. safety man, who followed the ball too closely, in the hope that it would roll out of bounds for a touchback. The ball, with a freakish bound, grazed his leg and Laslett, put on side by the touch, pounced on it like a flash, giving us first down on the S. O. S. five-yard line. Three line bucks left the ball still a yard and a half away. A fake kick proved to be a short forward pass, Gerhardt to Clark, who crossed the line for a touchdown at the corner of the field. Lindsey kicked the difficult goal. A field goal by Lindsey and a touchdown by Clark with only 35 seconds to play made a thrilling finish in the last quarter.
The final game, against the 36th Division team, representing the First Army, provided a contest well worthy of a place in the classics of gridiron history. It was played March 29th at the Velodrome, Parc des Princes, Paris, before at least 15,000 spectators. General Pershing, General Liggett, and a host of officers of the highest rank attended. The commanding generals of the two divisions, each with his staff, occupied prominent places. General Edwin R. Smith was the commanding officer of the 36th. General Winn, who had not missed a game played by the team of his division, nor failed to visit and encourage the men between halves, was accompanied by 1,200 officers, and soldiers of the 89th who had come from far-off Germany on special trains, with their bugle corps and bands, to root for the team.
The field was muddy, but the football played was of the highest order. The final score was 14 to 6, the 89th, as usual, coming from behind and emerging with the victory after it had seemed that the game was lost.
In the first quarter the 89th worked the ball to the one-yard line and on the fourth down tried for a field goa1, but the slippery ball went wide. After neither side had gained much advantage in close play in the middle of the field, Mahseet delivered a terrific punt that carried more than fifty yards and passed the safety man of the 89th, who let it roll over the line for a touchback. On the first play, the ball was passed badly to Lindsey, who fumbled and the ball rolled over the line. McCuller fell on it for the first touchdown of the game. Mahseet missed goal. The quarter ended without further scoring.
Neither side scored in the second quarter, the play rather favoring the 36th Division, for after Mahseet had again punted over the line for a touchback and the ball had been put in play on the 89th twenty-yard line, three bucks on the 36th line actually lost ground. The half ended with the score 6 to 0 in favor of the 36th. With victory apparently in sight, the 36th Division swarmed on the field for a snake dance.
Between halves, in addition to the usual scorching talks from the coaches, General Winn spoke to the team. Many of the players afterward said that his appeal to their pride in the Division, his encouragement of their efforts, was one of the most effective of such appeals that they had ever listened to. Certain it is that something was instilled into the team between halves that called forth reserve powers that had not been displayed before.
Beginning the third quarter, Lindsey returned the Indian's kick-off forty-one yards by one of the most brilliant runs of the game. In three plays on the line the 89th gained first down. The 36th then stiffened and a punting duel followed, in which a blocked punt gave the 89th the ball on the seven-yard line but a fumble by Clark lost the chance to score. Finally a pretty forward pass lo Clark and a run netting twenty-two yards put the ball within striking distance. Lindsey and Gerhardt dropped back as if to try for a field goal. Gerhardt received the ball, shot it back to Lindsey, who passed it far down the field to Clark. Clark received it almost on the goal line and stepped across for the first touchdown. Clark kicked a difficult goal, and the 89th, amid a bedlam of cheering, went into the lead, not to be headed again.
The game came to a fitting climax with the last score. The 89th obtained the ball on its own thirty-five-yard line. On the first play, the linemen opened a hole for "Potsy" Clark. Eluding the first defense men, the fleet half-back was off down the muddy field with only the safety man between him and a touchdown. Clark proved to be the best mudder and passed the safety man like a streak, ending the most sensational play of the game, a sixty-five-yard run, with a touchdown. Clark kicked goal, thus being accredited individually with all his team's points.
Before the close of the game, General Pershing came upon the field, personally greeted the players and congratulated them on their splendid game and fine spirit. Paris was not dull that night.
Line-up and score:
|89th Division||Position||36th Division|
|Pvt. Laslett||Left End||Pvt. McCuller|
|Corp. Thompson||Left Tackle||Sgt. Tolbert|
|Capt. Withington||Left Guard||Pvt. Brown|
|Lieut. Lewis||Center||Sgt. Frye|
|Lieut. Garside||Right Guard||Pvt. Mahseet|
|Lieut. Schweiger||Right Tackle||Sgt. Grey|
|Lieut. W. K. Clark||Right End||Musician Bellieu|
|Capt. Gerhardt||Quarter Back||Capt. Whitney|
|Lieut. G. Clark||Left Half-back||Lieut. S. Clarke|
|Lieut. Lindsey||Right Half-back||Pvt. Lockabaugh|
|Sgt. Nelson||Full-back||Sgt. Cranfill|
Substitutions--89th Division: Flannigan for Garside, Higgins for W. Clark, Fletcher for Higgins, Higgins for Fletcher, Padfield for Nelson. 36th Division: Gray for Tolbert, Leiter for Gray, Kendricks for Bellieu, Fetterolf for S. Clarke, Watson for Fetterolf, S. Clarke for Watson. Touchdowns--Lieut. G. Clark 2, Pvt. McCuller. Goals following touchdown--Lieut. G. Clark 2. Goals missed following touchdown--Mahseet. Referee, Lieut.-Col. W. Withington (Michigan), 7th Division; Umpire, Cant. J. J. O'Hare (West Point), Advance Section S.O.S.; Field Judge, Lieut. John W. Leonard, 5th Division; Head Linesman, Col. Carl L. Ristine (Missouri), 35th Division; Assistant Linesmen, Major George Woodruff and Major David H. Nelson. Time of periods--15 minutes each. Score by quarters:
89th Division ..................... 0 0 7 7--14
The victorious team was given a well-earned leave of absence in the rest area of Nice, and finally, on the 15th of April returned to the Division's area in Germany. The return was made a triumphal entry. They were entertained at dinner at Trier by General Winn and his staff. Coming into Kyllburg, they passed under a series of arches erected over the road from Malburg on. Fireworks of every description were set off in the square at Kyllburg, and amid applause they were escorted to the great ball room of the Eifelerhof, where a reception, dance and presentation of small silver footballs as trophies followed. General Winn made the presentation of the decorations, and was surprised and gratified when Captain Withington, in behalf of the team, presented him with one in return, with the comment that the General's speeches at each game had been largely instrumental in its success.
The division had given promise of success in football during its training period at Funston, the team there developed, and which contained many of those who made up our champion team, having been the only one to conquer the strong team of the Great Lakes Training Camp.