From "Out of Bounds"
The 1925 Rose Bowl provided a grand opportunity for the Four Horsemen and Seven Mules, already a smash hit in the East, to strut their stuff out West. They faced Stanford, which boasted a couple of legends itself in Fullback Ernie Nevers and Coach Pop Warner. Nevers was brilliant in the game, running and passing artfully, but his single-handed heroics could not offset the efforts of eleven Notre Damers. The Irish took the game, 27 -10.
Notre Dame had never before traveled to the West Coast to play football; Rockne had never seen Stanford play. Yet the team's preparations for the Rose Bowl were so meticulous that they may have had the game in their hip pocket from the opening kick.
Elmer layden made three interceptions that were crucial to the outcome. Rockne's scouts were responsible. Alumni - most of them former players - had followed Stanford during the year, charting their plays and sending the diagrams to South Bend. The coach deciphered the X's and O's so well that he anticipated perfectly each time Pop Warner's boys would try a certain sideline pass. He positioned Layden accordingly, and the fullback spent the afternoon plucking footballs away from frustrated receivers. He ran two of the interceptions for TD's of sixty-five and seventy yards.
Rockne was also concerned with getting his squad to Pasadena in peak physical condition. Forewarned by colleagues that a non-stop chug to the coast would weaken the team irreparably, the coach charted a route through New Orleans, Houston, El Paso, and Tucson. Theoretically, this would ease the strain on the players and allow them to get acclimated to warm weather. Practically, the roundabout route meant that practices could be conducted away from prying eyes; and the shifting scenery kept the team from jading during the layoff from competition.
There was also a problem with water. The water in towns along the way surely contained rebellious bacteria. Rockne wanted his backfield doing the Notre Dame shift, not the Green Apple Two-Step. So he packed a baggage car on the train with good old Notre Dame water. Whether it was touring the French Quarter or practicing on a high school field in Houston, the Notre Dame entourage was shadowed dutifully by a student manager in a taxicab jammed full of water jugs.
The Rose Bowl was a successful foray for the Irish on more accounts than the final score. The Horsemen, the Mules, and the ever-charming Rockne won legions of new followers in a growing region of the country. And of course the Holy Cross Fathers banked a big green jackpot.
A couple of mteresting postscripts:
Two days after the game, Jim Crowley nearly died. The team train was bound for San Francisco for a few days of sightseeing when Crowley suddenly turned deathly white, collapsed, and stopped breathing. Father O'Hara, the team chaplain, performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and also administered last rites of the Catholic Church. Momentarily, the halfback was breathing again, and after one day in a hospital he was fit to rejoin the team. His illness was officially termed "acute indigestion." Suspicions linger that he was actually smitten by a bug known as the Revenge of the Bootlegger .
And the saga of the Rose Bowl would not be complete without mention of Leo Sutliffe. Leo was Notre Dame's student manager, and as such he was responsible for the team's expenses during the trip. When he returned to campus in January he submitted his expense sheet to the university bookkeeper. It read:
Money received: $15,000
Money spent: 14,985
Money returned: 15
This, of course, was an accountant's nightmare. The bookkeeper was outraged. "No good! No good!" he sputtered. You've got to have everything itemized. I need to see receipts. Now get out of here, and don't come back until you can account for every penny!"
Leo tramped out. He hadn't fussed with receipts, and to recollect every expenditure during the three-week trip was an impossibility. He was in a bind. Then he snapped his fingers - the solution was obvious.
Twenty minutes later he walked into the bookkeeper's cubbyhole and slapped down the same expense sheet. The clerk nearly bit through his fountain pen. He'd never met such impudence from a student! He picked up the sheet, fully intending to stick it in an orifice of Sutliffe's body, then looked at it closely, swallowed hard, and slumped back in his chair. "I guess this'll be all right," he murmured.
What the bookkeeper had seen were the initials "KKR" scrawled across the paper. Leo had gone to Rockne and had him okay the accounting. Checkmate.
Leo Sutliffe, where are you today? The Teamster's Pension Fund is looking for a few good men.
* * * * * *
The Rose Bowl itself was one of those odd contests in which the offensive leader winds up on the wrong end of the final score. Stanford beat Notre Dame in first downs, seventeen to seven, and in yards gained, 298 to 179. Only in points did the Irish come out on top. The lopsided stats made Stanford the game's real victor, someone suggested.
"Sure," answered Sleepy Jim Crowley, "and next year the major leagues will start awarding baseball games to the team with the most men left on base."