|Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society believed to be |
taken from the 1892 Georgia-Auburn game at Piedmont Park
Tomorrow's game between Georgia and Auburn marks the 116th meeting in the 120 years of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. In 1892, the schools faced off for the first time pitting a couple of doctors against one another as head coaches (Dr. Charles Herty of Georgia, Dr. George Petrie of Auburn). It was only Georgia's second game ever in its brief football history; merely Auburn's first. Other commonly known details from the initial meeting include the game took place at Piedmont Park in Atlanta and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama was victorious, 10-0.
The game also transpired when a football field was 110 yards long, there were only three downs, no passing was allowed, and the play resembled more of a rugby-like scrum than what we commonly know as football. Divided into only two halves, games were much shorter back then, as well. The meeting at Piedmont Park, for example, started at 3:30 PM and ended just past 5:00 PM.
Most notably for many Georgia followers, the team was represented by a goat as a mascot. As for Auburn, legend has it an eagle broke loose from a faculty member during the game, circled the field, eventually fell to the ground dead, and thus the "War Eagle" battle cry.
Notwithstanding, there are several details of the 1892 Georgia-Auburn affair which are unfamiliar to most; some remaining hardly spoken perhaps by design. Still, such details undoubtedly indicate the rivalry has come a long way in 120 years.
It was said that "thousands of men, women, and children flocked to Piedmont Park" in "vast armies" for an estimated game attendance of 3,000 spectators. However, a grandstand had been erected at the field to hold 10,000 people and organizers expected nearly every seat to be filled. Bad weather of dark clouds and a steady rain kept a few people away – like 70 percent of what was expected – and the thousands of dollars of anticipated gate receipts resulted in only $800.
|Sketch of first mascots - Sir William |
& Dabble - from Atlanta Constitution
What would be unheard of today, 150 Georgia Tech students were not only part of the attendance, but they actually rooted for Georgia while wearing their neighbor's school colors of "black and crimson." Not surprising, however, during the game the Techies began loudly and curiously singing, "I love codfish, I love codfish, I love codfish balls."
Although Tech students nowadays wouldn't be caught dead at a Georgia game (they hardly go to their own team's games), they evidently were as strange and as big of nerds 120 years ago as they are today.
As mentioned, Georgia trotted out its acclaimed goat, Sir William owned by Bob Gantt, who was greeted with shouts of "Shoot the Billy goat!" from the Auburn faithful. But prior to the contest, it had been strongly suggested (as you can read at my UGA Nickname & Mascot History page) that 79-year-old Old Tub, a blind black man, be the school's mascot for the game instead of a goat.
On the other hand, Auburn did indeed feature an African American as its mascot for the meeting in Atlanta. Before any tiger, eagle, or cry of "War Eagle," the school had Dabble, "the negro boy," who was greeted with cries of "And take the negro out!" from the Red and Black rooters. But Dabble, as it was reported, ignored the shouts and "walked on calmly...across the field to his place near the judges' stand."
Over the span of 120 years, things have certainly been transformed in the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, the sport of football in general, and in our nation's Deep South, and thank goodness for those changes.
However, in my research of the series' first game, I discovered a few details which show some other aspects of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry have actually changed very little since 1892.
|How things have changed... This week a |
black man was elected President for his second
term; in 1892, the first Georgia-Auburn game
endured shouts of And take the negro out!
Over the years, we've all known the die-hard UGA football eternal optimists; some of us may be one of them. The very first of these assured individuals was quoted just prior to his team's 10-0 setback: "Why, our Athens men can beat anything on earth playing football," declared an old gray-haired man from Athens. "We can beat Yale, Harvard, Princeton or what not, and I'd bet my last nickel on it!"
Auburn halfback Rufus "Dutch" Dorsey, a Georgia native, scored the game's first touchdown (thus, tallying the Auburn program's first-ever points) on a rush from less than a yard out, and then followed it up with another touchdown, which covered 40 yards. After the game, a disgruntled Red and Black player proclaimed to the Auburn team: "Well, you Alabama folks can't crow over Georgia, for you owe your victory to a Georgia boy." Unfortunately for us UGA fans, a Georgia boy playing for Auburn and being an integral part of a victory over our team would become a recurring trend during the long-standing rivalry.
Finally, leading up to the game, there was some controversy brewing in regards to Auburn's practice sessions: "They say Auburn has had a professional training their men down there," declared a newspaper. Therefore, whether 120 years ago using a professional trainer, two years ago featuring a professional-like, 180,000-dollar pay-to-play quarterback, and several others utilized in between, Auburn just can't help itself from cheating throughout the long history of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.