Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rollins College's Cuban Trip in 1923

Photo of Rollins College football team in 1923.
Taken from the Tomokan, 1924, p.58.
Unlike the University of Florida's trip in 1912, Rollins College's trip did not end in controversy and despite playing a Cuban police squad, no one was arrested. 

In December of 1923, the Rollins College "Tars" traveled to Cuba to play three football games against the Cuban National Police, the University of Havana, and the Cuban Athletic Club (CAC). The Rollins basketball team, consisting of mostly football players, also played two games against University of Havana's team. 
Taken from the Tomokan, 1924, p.63.
At 3:00 a.m. on December 20, 1923, the fifty or so members of the Rollins College traveling party departed Winter Park for Cuba. They took a train to Tampa and then sailed to Havana, stopping once at Key West on the way. Upon arrival in Havana, the party divided into two and began sightseeing tours. The group included the football team started at Moro Castle. According to an account from the 1924 Rollins yearbook, Tomokan, Havana was "a city of perfume, fans, and huge diamonds, and - pineapple juice," and while  there they visited the city's "cemeteries, beer gradens, Chinese theaters, castles, new subdivisions, the casino, and the Yacht club" (Tomokan, 1924, p.62). The author also notes that the song, "Yes, We Have Not Bananas," could be heard nearly everywhere they went in the city.
Headline from Havana Post, Dec. 24, 1923, p.3.
The Rollins football team swept the three games played during the trip. They defeated the Cuban National Police team on December 23 by a score of 59-0, the University of Havana team on Christmas Day by a score of 46-0, and the Cuban Athletic Club team on December 30 by a score of 31-0. According to reports of the games from the Rollins Sandspur, the Tars dominated the games against the relatively inexperienced Police and University teams. 
Headline from Havana Post, Dec. 26, 1923, p.2.
Rollins faced its stiffest competition against the CAC. In front of a crowd numbered somewhere between 10 and 12 thousand, the Tars countered the Tigres's rough defensive attack by employing line and backfield shifts made popular by the Amos Alonzo Stagg's University of Chicago teams and perfected by Knute Rockne's Notre Dame squads. Rollins also used an early form of the spread formation and threw the ball more effectively than any team the CAC had faced. 
Headline from Havana Post, Dec. 31, 1923, p.3.
The University of Havana exacted a measure of revenge for the football losses by defeated the Rollins basketball team in two games on December 24 and 26.

The Rollins traveling party departed Havana on New Year's Day 1924. While this was not the first trip by a Rollins football team to Cuba (first in 1908), this trip began a fairly regular series between Rollins football teams and Cuban teams during the 1920s and the 1930s.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

University of Mississippi vs. Club Atlético de Cuba (1921)

Headline from an article that appeared
in the Havana Post, Jan. 1, 1922, p.15.

On December 31, 1921, the Cuban Athletic Club (CAC) defeated the University of Mississippi football team by a score of 13-0 in front of 5,000 spectators at Almendares Park in Havana, Cuba. The CAC scored two touchdowns in the contest, one in the first quarter and one in the closing minutes of the game. According to the Havana Post, the Cubans employed "old style football" by favoring a strong ground game over the forward pass. The CAC held a significant advantage at center because he weighed 250 lbs and anchored the line on both offense and defense. Ole Miss attempted to counter the Cubans' strong front with an aerial attack but without success.

Mississippi quarterback Calvin Barbour had a slightly different take on the game's outcome. He blamed Ole Miss's lack of scoring on the officiating. Barbour claimed that the referees disallowed three touchdowns due to penalties. He said that when his team realized that the game was not being called their way, they started to have fun and not care about winning. Barbour may have been correct because all of the officials were former players for the Cuban Athletic Club and were probably not impartial.

Photo of the view of Morro Castle from
 the Malecón in Havana, Cuba in 1921.
Despite the loss, the Mississippians enjoyed their trip to Havana. They visited Morro Castle, the Light House, and attended a jai lai match. Accounts of the trip also implied that the team took advantage of the Cuban nightlife. At the end of the student newspaper coverage of the game, the writer jokes about challenging the CAC to another game in Havana in any sport. Even though the officiating seemed to be not in their favor, it is easy to understand why they would welcome a return trip.