Herb Juliano

Herb's Archive will feature and excerpt from Chet Grant's book: Before Rockne At Notre Dame.

Coach Harper with an early Notre Dame baseball team.

Coach Harper with an early Notre Dame baseball team. (Photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Archives.)


The following excerpt is from Chet Grant's very entertaining account of football in the pre-Rock days....Before Rockne at Notre Dame. Here he talks about the 1909 Notre Dame -Wabash game. The "Little Giants" at this time were led by future ND coach
Jesse Harper.

Chet Grant:

We (the high school team) was scheduled to play at Dowagiac, Michigan, on Friday. I don't know which had come first, worry about my funk or my touch of influenza. At any rate, I didn't make the trip. But nothing could keep me from attending the Notre Dame - Wabash game on Saturday.

We expected Notre Dame to win, of course, even with Vaughan, Ryan, Dwyer and Dimick sidelined. But we all had admired the Little Giants, at least from the time that Chief Cayou had made them the talk of the West. They chronically gave the Gold and Blue a sharp battle no matter what the adverse odds of prediction. We high schoolers had reasons more personal for empathy with the Little Giants. South Bend's only representative on the 1909 Notre Dame eleven was Cap Edwards. South Bend High had been represented at Wabash by Buddy Harris, Bob Rowe and Ore Romine. We had followed with sectional interest the Wabash career of the great Starbuck from Goshen High, our annual Thanksgiving Day rival. Four members of our current squad would play for Wabash within a year or two. Others had their eyes on Purdue, Indiana and assorted colleges of the Midwest. Big Mike Kirby would enter Wabash and transfer successively to Purdue and Princeton, not knowing that Notre Dame had taken him for granted because his brother Harley had been a Gold and Blue track and football star and because he, Mike, had worked out with the varsity track athletes. I entertained no collegiate prospects or intentions, athletic or academic. Of all my 1909 high school teammates only Louie Wolf would enter Notre Dame from high school and he would major in baseball. The common attitude toward Notre Dame's athletic tradition and record was one of respect and admiration. I certify myself as a 100% devotee. But I, too, might have gone to Wabash if I hadn't been away playing bush league baseball when Wabash coach Jesse C. Harper was in South Bend asking about me in the summer of 1912, by suggestion of some of my former high school mates who by then were playing football under Harper. The next year he was at Notre Dame, and two years later he would offer me an athletic ride.

The South Bend Tribune of November 18, 1909, printed the following dispatch from Crawfordsville:


Strongest Team on Field Against Notre Dame

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind., Nov. 18.-South Bend football enthusiasts who see Saturday's clash between the Little Giants, of Wabash College, and the mighty Notre Dame University, will witness a battle royal. The Wabash eleven is in fine fettle for the fray.

The freshman members of the eleven have not been in a game since Hanover was defeated 48 to 0 by Wabash Oct. 30. The men eligible under the conference ruling, which Wabash was forced to observe, when she played Purdue University, have had a rest of two weeks. The fact that the Little Giants, minus their freshmen and four-year men, trounced the fast Purdue eleven 18 to 7 [ my records give Purdue 17 points] at Lafayette, demonstrates the strength and speed of the Wabash collegians. The team that lines up against Notre Dame Saturday will be stronger than that which defeated the Boilermakers. While Wabash does not expect to win from Notre Dame, her players are determined to make a splendid showing and to hold the Notre Dames to a low score. They realize that it would mean much to Wabash to be able to hold the north state bunch.

Wabash has been coached this year by Jesse C. Harper, the former University of Chicago star. Harper started the season with a squad of about 35 men, all of whom were new and inexperienced. By careful coaching and stupendous work, he has developed an eleven, which, although light in weight, is exceedingly speedy. The team averages only 160 pounds and has no man weighing more than 180 pounds. Spectators at Saturday's game may look for some spectacular work on their part. This year's eleven is particularly noted for its low, hard, diving tackles that have been characteristic of every team that has represented the Presbyterian college for the past half dozen years. The players follow the ball closely while the ends are whirlwinds in getting down the field on punts. Although light, the line is strong, both offensively and defensively.

The last time Wabash and Notre Dame played football in South Bend, Wabash was victorious by a score of 5 to 0. Last fall Notre Dame came to Crawfordsville and won a close victory 8 to 4 (all points scored on field goals, counting 4 each that year) .The game was one of the hardest fought in which Notre Dame took part that fall.

Accepting this estimate of the Little Giants' potential prowess, we expected them to serve as foils challenging enough to make Notre Dame perform impressively and we weren't disappointed. Meeting Captain Mike Kirby downtown, we rode the Hill Street trolley to the southern edge of the Notre Dame property, walked a rutty half-mile to the entrance of the quadrangle, at the other end of which stood the twin-winged golden-domed brick administration building dating back to the Great Fire of '79, and then cut across a hall recreation field, past the Big Gym, to Cartier Field with its high board fence. The Notre Dame Scholastic records that the weather was a bit chilly and windy for the cross-country team that day. But as I recall the afternoon of November 20, 1909, it was ideal for football. Certainly for us, with the Dome glistening under an Indian summer kind of sky, it was a red-letter day in a gold and blue setting. The South Bend Tribune of that date corroborates my impression and the Monday Tribune reports that a record-breaking crowd enjoyed both game and weather.

Looking over a picture of this squad recently, the members individually unidentified, I was able to pick out and name every man at a glance save James Maloney, end-from New Upper Falls, Massachusetts, I learned from the Directory of Monogram Winners. I could visualize most of them in action. The predominance of names obviously or possibly Celtic reminded me that Notre Dame teams didn't acquire popular identification as the "Fighting Irish " until the cross section of Irish nomenclature had notably diminished. A run-down of the lettermen of 1909 in this picture and their home towns reaffirms the traditional national scope of Notre Dame's enrollment.

In the line from end to end, we see, besides Jim Maloney, Robert Mathews of Fairbanks, Alaska; Howard Edwards, South Bend, Indiana; George Philbrook, Olympia, Washington; Edwin Lynch, Toledo, Ohio; Samuel Dolan, Albany, Oregon; Ralph Dimick, Hubbard, Oregon; Luke Kelly and Joseph Collins, Boston, Massachusetts. Behind the line: Donald Hamilton, Columbus, Ohio; Albert Kelly, Morris, Illinois; Billy Ryan, Cleveland, Ohio; Harry Miller, Defiance, Ohio; William Schrnitt, St. Paul, Minnesota; Robert Vaughan, Crawfordsville, Indiana; Peter Dwyer, Syracuse, New York; Michael Moriarity, Ashtabula, Ohio, not shown in the picture, would run the Wabash ends for gains of five and ten yards when substituted for Red Miller. Four of those named above would be on the sidelines with injuries: Dimick, Ryan, Vaughan and Dwyer.

I entered the gate to Cartier Field that day only five-foot seven; I exited with my head scraping the sky. There was new authority the next week when I called signals. I've never forgotten the loud, firm, confidence-breeding tone of jut-jawed Don Hamilton's signal-calling voice. The two-handed basketball kind of forward pass he made downfield while in the grasp of an opponent is my reference point in college football when the 1909 rules are in question. I was disappointed that my No.1 hero, Pete Vaughan, was benched, but the pounds- lighter Bill Schmitt cracked the Wabash line for exciting gains and the No.2 subject of my worship, Red Miller, ran inspiringly. Again and again it was only one man who prevented him and Don Hamilton from going the whole distance on breakaway runs. The Tribune identified him for me as Hawkins, the Wabash quarterback.

I think it was Red Miller's last run that remains etched most vividly in my memory. I see him taking his stance in long punt formation, prepared to kick or canter. The ball is on or near the Wabash 45-yard line. Red's left foot is forward, his body inclined slightly forward from the waist, hands extended. It's a sweep to his right, toward the sidelines where I stand. His good knee action doesn't impair his speed as he slants his course slightly before changing direction downfield off his right foot. Little Giants are closing in from his left in a sort of staggered column. The first one makes his bid just as Red turns the comer. He doesn't lay a finger on the striding red-head. He goes down as if pole-axed and that virtually is what happens to one would-be tackler after another: letting go at the runner with all the famed Wabash-trained abandon only to be struck down by the heel of Red Miller's fending left hand, quarterback Hawkins among them if he was still in the game. Red Miller's path to this touchdown is strewn with Little Giants.

The Tribune made special mention of runs by Captain Edwards, Albert "Red" Kelly, subbing for Billy Ryan and Pete Dwyer, and Bill Schmitt for Vaughan. Edwards and Philbrook scored a touchdown each, whether out of the line or from fullback, the Tribune doesn't say and I don't remember. Besides running cleverly, Hamilton kicked all points after touchdown and placed one for three points from the Wabash 45. Other touchdown scorers were Schmitt, 1; Miller, 2; Red Kelly, 1. Maloney at end is the only defensive standout for Notre Dame the Tribune mentions. Obviously, the defense as a whole was adequate in a game won, 38-0.

The sight of Red Miller's explosive straight-arm transported me to heroic heights of planned emulation of offense against Goshen, and at the same time wrought a practical miracle in my defensive reflexes. On the way home from the game, footing it, I had to restrain myself from tackling every telephone pole and hitching post I came to. I could scarcely wait until Monday to try out my transformed tackling complex on human objects.

The Tribune's sports section usually carried a masthead across the top of the page. On Monday, November 22, it was displaced by the following six-column ribbon:



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