September 4, 2016

1895: Prescott's First Football Game Hosted Phoenix *UPDATED*

Early "foot ball" was half sport and half street riot.

Come one! Come all! "To witness the greatest and latest sport to take place in Prescott for the first time..." (*1)

The exciting game of Foot Ball!

"The boys are practicing regularly for the game. In the day time, they practice in the plaza, while at night, they go through signals and receive instructions in the Scopel Block, so all lovers of good sport may expect an exciting game Sunday," (December 8th, 1895.) (*2)

"A small charge of fifty cents will be collected to help defray the expenses of the visiting team. It is hoped that a large crowd will be present." (*1)

There was an additional motivation: Prescott wanted "to win at least one sport from Phoenix before the year closes." (*3)

Everyone was excited for the big game.

*************************

Early foot balls were round.
Early "foot ball" was hardly the polished game of X's and O's we're familiar with today. For example, there were no forward passes. Touchdowns counted for 4 points and punting the ball didn't automatically mean giving up possession. Instead, it was a free ball; much like a long-distance fumble.

A cheer, published in the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner, gives insight into the spirit of the early game:

Song of the Foot Ballist
Line up, pass her back, keep the ends in check;
When the umpire's back is turned, slug 'em in the neck.
Paste a fellow when he's down, grind him with your boot;
Break his head if necessary--scoot, brother, scoot.
Tackle 'em below the knee, gouge him in the eye; 
Kick him in the abdomen and leave 'em there to die.
Never mind a rib or two, smash a collar bone;
Sweeter than the sweetest music is a dying groan.
Mother sits up in the stand, anxious for her son;
She won't recognize her baby after we are done.
Slug him once again for luck, break his Grecian nose;
Make him lose an ear or to, amputate his toes.
Just another rally, boys; give it to them hot;
Lay 'em out upon the sword just as soon as not.
See we're almost over now, yonder is the goal;
Kill him if you must, and Lord have mercy on his soul! (*4)

"The Phoenix players arrived on the 2:30 train...and were met by the Prescott team (who) escorted (them) to Hotel Burke. Shortly afterwards (both teams) left for the grid iron. On the way over, there were numerous 'Rah! Rah! Rah's!!!' of the different teams." (*5)

The first half was a defensive struggle. Prescott played extremely well considering they were out-weighed 155 lbs. to 175 lbs. per man! Prescott relied more on the kicking game, while Phoenix grinded-out runs of "3 yards and a cloud of dust."

Prescott did have a chance at a field goal, but missed. The first-half ended in a scoreless tie.

The crowd had become as unruly as the play. "Many of the visiting foot ball people complain that the boisterous language...was too severe and uncalled for. Probably they are right," the newspaper confessed, "but what can anyone expect from a howling and insane mob, when it comes to kicking the English language over the goal line so indiscriminately?" (*6)

ALSO ENJOY: 1956: Teen Delinquents Beat Blind Man; Murder a Veteran
True Crime murder story by teen-age delinquents in 1956 Prescott.


At halftime, Phoenix made adjustments to Prescott's kicking game and as play resumed, Phoenix's extra 20 lbs. per man would begin to take its toll.

The second half started with the same back and forth defensive play, when finally, "the ball was surrendered to Phoenix and by small gains, they brought it to Prescott's 15 yard line." With exceptional blocking on the next play, Phoenix took the "ball around left end for (a) touch down. Phoenix missed goal, score 4-0." (*5)

The next time Phoenix had possession, the result was the same, making it 8-0. That was the final score.

"The game was very interesting from start to finish," the paper reported, "the people present were much surprised at the play of the home team and some of the brilliant plays." (*5)

Although there was supposed to be a charge of fifty cents per person, this evidently, was not strictly enforced. For some reason, the crowd of 300 only produced a gate of $50. (*6)

Tom Campbell
One of the home team's boys had a performance worthy of mention in the paper: "Tom Campbell distinguished himself yesterday, and 'tackled' everything in sight. He held on also (to the ball) like a postage stamp, saving the home team (from) a more disastrous defeat." (*6)

Little did they know that a quarter-century later, Tom Campbell would be the second Governor of the State of Arizona.

Going winless against Phoenix in 1895 was a disappointment for Prescott. "The Phoenix boys speak handsomely of Prescott. They should do so, of course, because they invariably get anything and everything they come up for," the paper lamented, "(at least) the plaza is still intact!" (*6)

Fortunately, Prescott did win a rematch in 1897 and the pride of the city was restored.

UPDATE:
Prescott's jerseys did not arrive until 17 days after the game (on Christmas morning.) The paper described them as "a very pretty cardinal with a blue diamond." (*7)

The jerseys must have been extremely good looking. For although Phoenix failed to pilfer our plaza, they did end up copping our color!




Tourist Tips:
Did you know that the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame is located in Prescott?
CLICK HERE for information on the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame


SOURCES:
Note: Back in the 19th century, Phoenix was often spelled "Phenix." For the sake of clarity, the author changed the spelling to its modern form in this article.
(*1) Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner 12/11/1895 pg. 3 col. 2
(*2) IBID Pg. 3 col. 3
(*3) IBID pg. 3 col. 1
(*4) Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner; 12/18/1895 Pg. 1 col. 6
(*5) Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner 12/11/1895 Pg. 1 col. 8
(*6) IBID Pg. 3 Col. 5
(*7) Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner 12/25/1895 Pg. 3, Col. 4

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