110 years ago, the Army-Navy football game was canceled after the death of a cadet
The Army-Navy football game – “America’s Game” – will be played at 3 p.m. Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
It is the 120th game between the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. – the Army Black Knights vs. the Navy Midshipmen.
The game will air live on CBS.
Army won last year’s game, 17-10.
Navy leads the series 60-52-7. Army has won the last three games.
Army and Navy first met on the football field on Nov. 29, 1890. The game has been played annually since 1899 except for 10 times including in 1909, 1917, 1918 and 1929.
In 1909, 110 years ago, Army canceled the rest of its season after Cadet Eugene Byrne, a left tackle, died during the game on Oct. 30 against Harvard.
On Nov. 1, 1909, The Patriot carried an Associated Press story that said Byrne, of Buffalo, N.Y., died early that day.
“The army is accustomed to death, but not in this deplorable form, and this tragedy of the gridiron has brought such poignant grief to officers and cadets alike that the end of football at West Point and Annapolis is predicted by many.
Young Byrne had expired just as the sun was rising over the hills along the Hudson, with his grief-stricken father, John Byrne, a Civil War veteran, at his bedside. Brave as was the young soldier’s fight against death, it was hopeless from the start. Buried beneath a mass of struggling players in the Harvard-Army game yesterday, his neck was twisted and broken by the weight of the crushing pile above him, and he was picked up with every nerve of his body except those of his head and face helpless to perform their function.
Only the immediate resort to artificial respiration kept the boy from almost instant death for he did not draw a natural breath after receiving the fatal shock. Surgeons were unable to make a complete examination last night on account of his critical condition, and opinions varied as to whether a blow to the spine or on the solar plexus caused the paralysis. But X-ray photographs taken after his death revealed a dislocation between the first and second cervical vertebraes, causing the first vertebrae to be thrown forward, pressing against and probably resulting in a lesion in those nerve centers of the medulla oblognata, which govern the respiratory muscles.”
In 1917 and 1918 the game was canceled during World War I. It was canceled in 1928 and 1929, according to armynavygame.com, “due to a controversy regarding eligibility.”
The game also was not played 1894-1898 after a feud between officers. The secretary of the Navy and the secretary of War issued an order that the Army and Navy teams could only play home games, meaning they could not play each other. Five years later the situation had cooled and the game was resumed.
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