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    Heroes of the Gridiron

Wally Carew explores the 91-year football rivalry between Holy Cross and Boston College in his new book, A Farewell to Glory

By Patrick Maloney '02

Wally CarewIn November of 1896, two New England Jesuit colleges lined up on the football field to begin what many consider to be one of the greatest football rivalries in college football history. One hundred and seven years later, author Wally Carew dove into the annals of Holy Cross and Boston College football record books and captured the excitement of the longstanding rivalry, as well as the personalities that made it great.

“This book combined my two great loves in life,” says Carew. “They are my love for college football and my Catholic faith. That’s also what drew me specifically to this series of games, between two Jesuit schools. I always wondered who God was rooting for. It was an honor to write this book. I was just hoping I could perpetuate the memory of the series.”

Throughout the book, readers are introduced to great Holy Cross and Boston College players and coaches, along with a summary of many of the 82 games played between the two football powers. The rivalry gained momentum in its second game when the ending was marred by controversy. During the hard-fought contest, a scuffle broke out between the two squads, causing the game to end inconclusively. Both teams claimed victory.

By 1924, the rivalry had gained a large base of fans. That year, a crowd of 50,000 devotees packed into Braves Field in Boston to witness the Purple and White steamroll the Eagles by a score of 33-0, finishing their season 7-1-1.

In addition to chronicling the great games of the past, Carew examines the two tenures of legendary Crusader football coach Dr. Eddie Anderson. Anderson not only accumulated the most wins in Holy Cross football history but did so while practicing medicine. In 1938, Anderson led the Crusaders to an 8-1 record and a ninth-place ranking in the nation with the help of fullback Bill Osmanski ’39. “Bullet Bill” became an All-American back for the College and went on to star in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. He won four world championships during his time in Chicago and while studying to become a dentist at Northwestern University.

On Nov. 28, 1942, over 40,000 fans packed Fenway Park to see the top-ranked BC Eagles, who had outscored their last four opponents 168-6, en route to what was expected to be their second national championship in three years. Holy Cross entered the game with a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but erupted for 55 points, led by left halfback Johnny Bezemes ’43, who scored three touchdowns himself and passed for a fourth. The Crusader defense smothered the Eagles, and Holy Cross went on to shock Boston College, and the college football world, with a 55-12 victory. BC wound up canceling its victory party scheduled for the Cocoanut Grove nightclub that night. Tragically, a deadly fire engulfed the club on that very night, just four hours after the game, killing 492 patrons. The upset of 1942 turned the entire series upside down, and Holy Cross reeled off four straight wins.

For the next three decades, Holy Cross and Boston College would engage in some of the greatest games of the rivalry. In 1951, Boston College returned the favor from 1942, defeating the heavily favored Crusaders, who were led by field general Charlie Maloy ’53. Trailing 14-12, the Eagles connected on a 55-yard pass and punched in the winning touchdown with just seconds remaining. Carew picks this game out as one of his favorite moments of the series.

“It’s hard, though,” says Carew. “There are so many great moments and so many great names.”

Quarterback Pat McCarthy ’63 ended the Crusaders’ two-game losing streak against BC in 1960 with a 16-12 Crusader win. McCarthy passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 54 yards and another touchdown on his way to earning the Edward J. O’Melia Trophy for most outstanding player in the annual HC-BC game. In 1966, Holy Cross quarterback Jack Lentz ’67 hooked up with Peter Kimener ’67 for a game-winning touchdown grab in the final minute of play. Following the “miracle” win, the Eagles rattled off nine consecutive wins, until 1977, when a Crusader team, with a 1-9 record, entered the contest as a 28-point underdog, but emerged with a 35-20 upset win. Small but mighty Purple quarterback Peter Colombo ’79, took charge of the squad and ran the Crusaders’ option offense perfectly as Holy Cross racked up 296 yards of offense on the ground.

BC dominated the series in the 1980s behind stars like Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie. The rivalry ended on Nov. 22, 1986 before a crowd of 23,271 at Fitton Field. The two successful programs battled each other for the last time in a quagmire. The Crusaders staked a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind All-Americans Jeff Wiley ’89 and Gordie Lockbaum ’88, before succumbing to the bigger, stronger and faster Eagles club, 56-26.

Although the series has been over for 17 years now, Carew’s book is about to go into a second printing.

“I’m just on pins and needles with all the wonderful reaction to this book,” Carew says. “Writing is like breathing to me. This has been a dream come true for me. There has been great interest in the book at both schools.”

It’s clear that this volume has brought back many exciting memories for Holy Cross alumni, as well as sparking an interest in those who may not know the long and dynamic history of the Holy Cross-Boston College football rivalry.

(A Farewell to Glory can be purchased at the Holy Cross Bookstore.)

Patrick Maloney '02 is the College's assistant director of athletic media relations.

 

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