rent like champion

October 11, 2009

Happy 80th Birthday, Sanford Stadium

The Bulldogs entered yesterday's Tennessee game in a must-win situation where, among other things, they were hoping to finally demonstrate a dominant defense. Instead, Georgia was embarrassed, allowing Jonathan Crompton, who began the game as arguably the worst starting quarterback in the SEC, to resemble Peyton Manning.

I'll post my thoughts on the game in a couple days, in particular, the defense's woes. On a positive note, I want to recognize that tomorrow is the 80th anniversary of the opening of one of college football's finest stadiums--UGA's Sanford Stadium--certainly, one of the more historic and monumental events in Georgia state history.

PHOTO--If you look hard, you may notice the players meeting at midfield prior to the October 12, 1929, contest of Georgia versus Yale--the inaugural game at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs were dressed in their home whites, Yale in blue jerseys.

It is still considered perhaps the greatest weekend ever in Athens, Georgia. People from all over the country infiltrated the small town, tripling Athens' population of 15,000 residents. Many arrived several days prior to the football game on Saturday and, by kickoff, the surrounding atmosphere was nothing less than circus-like. It was an event made only possible by one of the University of Georgia's most notable dignitaries.

In 1927, Georgia was playing Georgia Tech for the 12th consecutive time in Atlanta since UGA's Sanford Field, Georgia football's home since 1911, was too small to accommodate the large crowd annually attending the intrastate rivalry. Dr. Steadman Sanford, dean of the University at the time, decided then Georgia needed a state-of-the-art stadium, in particular, bigger and better than Tech's Grant Field. Sanford worked tirelessly to bring a new football stadium to UGA and perhaps even more diligently to lure a formidable opponent for its dedication game.

Sanford Stadium was built in a large ravine between the College of Agriculture and Franklin College adjacent to Sanford Field. The Bulldogs opened the 1929 season hosting Oglethorpe and then Furman at their old site. However, on October 12, the mighty Yale Bulldogs, making their initial trip south to play football, would be Georgia's first opponent at the spectacular, new venue.

There was such an overflow of spectators, aisle space was sold between the bleachers. By kickoff, 35,000 filled the stadium, including governors of five states. Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York and the eventual President of the United States four years later, was also scheduled to attend but instead stayed at his winter home in Warm Springs, GA.

Contrary to popular belief Yale was an overwhelming favorite, the game was actually seen as a "toss-up," despite the fact Georgia had opened the season with an upset loss to Oglethorpe. Nevertheless, there was no toss-up on that momentous afternoon as a Georgia "Catfish" was all the southern Bulldogs needed for victory.

Future College Football Hall of Famer Vernon "Catfish" Smith began his varsity career in 1929 as part of Georgia's "Flaming Sophs" team of 1929; Smith was one of eight sophomores on the Bulldogs' starting eleven. In just his third game at Georgia, Smith scored all 15 points in Sanford Stadium's dedication in a 15-0 win over the eastern power.

In the second quarter, Georgia's Jack Roberts and Red Maddox blocked a punt behind Yale's goal line. Catfish came out of a pile in the end zone with the football, scoring a touchdown for Georgia. He successfully kicked the extra point.

In the third quarter, Yale star Albie Booth attempted to run a retrieved ball out the end zone after a snapped punt sailed over his head. Most historical accounts indicate Smith tackled Booth for a safety in the end zone. On the contrary, Smith forced Booth out of bounds before he got out of the end zone. Nevertheless, Smith was given credit for scoring a safety for the host Bulldogs.

Georgia completed only three passes the entire game but its last completion, occurring in the contest's final minutes, is no doubt memorable. The Bulldogs had the ball on Yale's 22-yard line, facing third down. Spurgeon Chandler drifted a high, arching pass to Smith, who caught it over his right shoulder at the 2-yard line and fell in the end zone for his second touchdown and the game's final points. "Catfish 15, Yale 0."

1929 Georgia-Yale Statistics
UGA: 7 first downs, 45-176 rushing, 45 passing yds, 7-3-0 passes, 221 total yds, 3 fum. lost
YALE: 5 first downs, 43-96 rushing, 34 passing yds, 15-4-3 passes, 130 total yds, 2 fum. lost
Individual Rushing: (GA) Bennie Rothstein 13-43; Marion Dickens 4-41; John Davidson 12-28 (YU) Donald McClennan 7-28; Albie Booth 12-26


VineyardDawg said...

Well, how about that...

... we had 3 turnovers in that game, too. Seems historically appropriate.

Patrick said...

The difference is, unlike this year's team, we forced five turnovers, played defense, and won the game! Thanks for reading, VineyardDawg.

Cook said...

I've never been so disturbed by our performance. Maybe the shock of the 93 season? We're really not that good.

Anonymous said...

I have a 1929 Sanford stadium, dedication day ticket in fine condition.
I plan to sell at private auction. Hold your hats, I also have a 1930-31 YMCA Bulldogs Game Book, in great condition.
Last, but not least: I also have a one of a kind, bulldog lettermans patch from 1929, that has never been sown on a jacket- mint condition. For auction details/ Jpegs of items, and auction date and location contact

Samuel said...

I discovered my email address I listed here was incorrect.
My correct Email Address is:

I wondered why I didn't get even one response concerning the following announcement I made here earlier this month:
I have a 1929 Sanford Stadium, dedication day ticket in good condition.
I also have a 1930-31 YMCA Bulldogs Game Book, in Great condition.
1 bulldog lettermans patch from 1929, that has never been sown on a jacket- mint condition.
Transmittal letters with school logos from 1929-34,etc. Numerous other items from 1929-33/34.

If you have an interest in acquiring any of these items, contact me at the following email address with your contact details.

Deborah Wilbrink said...

I've been looking for a photo to illustrate this, especially one of the gate mentioned in this story. I'm going to use the photo shown on your blog, so let me know who I need to credit besides yourself, inour vanity press Shchnuck Family History. I may be the only alumni who never attended a game except from the Tracks; my son is also an alumni who is a big fan and buys tickets! But here's a story for the romantic...It happened to my late grandmother in 1936, Caroline Schnuck, and her husband Lloyd and his brother, Chester:
. It seems that in the very early months of their marriage Lloyd, Chester, his brother, and Carrie went to Athens for a football game. Of course, they were dressed in Sunday clothes like people wore to games in those days. Because the three seats were not together, Chester and Lloyd sat together and Carrie sat by herself. They were to meet at the car after the game. After waiting one hour for Carrie, the guys left and drove home. Carrie walked all around Athens looking for them and even went to the police station. She had on new spike high heels and her feet hurt so badly she was crying. Finally she called home and woke Lloyd. He told her to take a Greyhound bus home and then went back to sleep. When she got to the bus station she got a cab home. Lloyd paid the driver and went back to bed. lt was almost daylight then. Lloyd said they were to meet at the car and Carrie said they were to meet at the stadium's gate. Anyway, it was years before she attended another game. All their lives this tale was told differently by them.