Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harvard Cup Football Packs It In - Sardine Style!


Courier Express October 22 1948

Civic Stadium - Jefferson at Best Streets
   The largest sports crowd in Buffalo history-50,988-saw an alert Kensington High School football team, batter previously unbeaten Bennett, 26-8 last night in Civic Stadium, in the first Harvard Cup grid game ever contested under the lights.
   Civic Stadium ripped, rocked, roared and nearly burst it's concrete seams last night as the largest crowd ever to attend a local sports event,  jam packed the Best Street bowl to watch two high schools vie for football honors. The crowd figure was the official turnstile count as announced by James V. Carney, director of Civic Stadium and Memorial Auditorium. The previous all time attendance mark was set last season when the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns attracted 43,167 to the same stadium. School children of all ages, and adults too, took up every conceivable inch of space in the stadium which ordinarily seats 37,064, to watch Bennett High School and Kensington High school tussle it on the gridiron in the first Harvard Cup series game ever contested at night.
  A record Buffalo Sports turnout of 50,988, occupying every 
  seat in the steeply banked saucer and overflowing all around the 
  track and field, watched Kensington defeat Bennett, 26 to 8 in a 
  Harvard Cup Football game last night in Civic Stadium.
  C-E Photo
  The victory, achieved with surprising ease, was Kensington's third of the season and extended the defending Harvard Cup champions' unbeaten streak to ten over a two year span. Bobby Wilde, a brilliant, deceptive T-quarterback who amazed the huge throng with his ball-handling wizardry; Chris Frauenhofer, an explosive scat-back, Carl Wyles, a power-running fullback, and Jack Thompson, who turned in a magnificent performance at end, covered themselves with glory in the Knight's decisive triumph.
  As a lopsided moon looked down with no little wonderment, the high schools of the city unleashed all the noise and color they could conjure, and under an onslaught of bands, sirens, cowbells and shrieking voices, windows rocked in houses in three counties. Considered to be the greatest boost to high school football since the inauguration of the Harvard Cup series, the event had an advance sale of 50,057, and although no tickets were sold at the gate, dazed officials estimate that another thousand crashed the gates by fair means or foul.  Where they all sat remains a mystery, although it's a known fact the small fry were able to squeeze as many as four into a space ordinarily occupied by one.  At any rate they filled the seats solid from top to bottom. They choked the aisles, They throttled the section entrances. They overflowed the stands, and formed a three-deep ring of noise around the playing field.  
1958 Harvard Cup, Bennett Vs. Riverside
(Photo Courtesy Richard Kozak)
  The  color of the affair was enough to shame the light of a bright moon and the concerted wind from nearly 51,000 screaming throats must have blown all the clouds from the sky. The night was clear crisp, bright and very noisy with youthful exuberance.  According to police Inspector Peter J. Flood, who was in charge of stadium detail, the gates opened at 6:20 p.m. for a waiting crowd of about 5,000. By 7:15, there were more than 30,000 in the stands, and from then on in they never stopped coming. 
   The real action got under way when the orange and blue Bennett Band pitted lungs against the green-gold-white garbed musicians from Kensington.  But that was just a small drop in a large bucket.  At a drum roll and gunshot signal, a circus performance staged by all the High Schools got under way. Youthful performers, dressed in all sorts of costumes, leaped atop wooden stages spaced at intervals around the stadium track, and put on their specialty acts.
Bennett Snow Game 1957
   The acts Included everything under the sun and even a few from under the moon. There were tumblers, acrobats, dancing Scottish lassies, cavorting clowns, cowboys on horseback, trick rope artists, a girls burlesque football team, accordion players and a wailing, discordant German band. After that came, the parade, introduced with a fanfare of trumpets that were only  a pinpoint of sound in an ocean of bedlam. South Park, Emerson Vocational, Burgard, Girl's Vocational and Bennett presented floats which drew ear-shattering roars from the crowd. The floats included Burgard's atomic, hydromatic, dynaflow training car, a Gay 90's Schmoos, a stuffed Bennett Tiger mounted on a truck and a red and silver float depicting ladies-in-waiting before the queen of Girl's Vocational. 
  Things really got hot during the individual introduction of both schools' team members over the stadium loud speaker system, and a crescendo of sound reached a new high as each lads name, weight and position were read off. After team introductions, bands, baton twirling majorettes, color guards and drum majors paraded out onto the field and stood at attention at the east end of the field. The teams of both schools, trim and fresh looking in clean uniforms, formed at the far end of the gridiron.  At the first strains of the National Anthem, the restless noisy crowd quieted amazingly and the sound of it rising to its feet was a vast rustle in the night. It stood, bareheaded and at attention as Miss Gertrude Lutzi, accompanied by the Bennett and Kensington bands, sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Kensington vs. Bennett 1958
(Photo Courtesy Richard Kozak)
  There was a hush as the last note faded, then the stadium erupted into a vertex of sound, as noise makers and healthy young throats conspired to establish some sort of record for noise.  Cheer leaders from both schools spun in the air along with their megaphones. A whistle blew. A football soared in the air. The game was on, and the lid was really off then for the next couple of hours.  

Editors Note:  As of 2018, the 51,000 attendance is still the largest crowd to ever watch a high school football game in New York State and the country.



Al Rossow said...

Nice story BUT the actual attendance was only 47,000 and it was played in 1947. I was there...a sophomore tackle on the bench for Ken....and the weather was awful, cold and wet.

Wilde had playned center the previous year and had made an amazing transition to T-formation quarterback. Frauenhofer and Thompson and at least two others from Ken went on to North Carolina State in the SEC. Chris and Jack were co-captains at N C State.

/s/ Al Rossow, Kensington, class of 1950

ps: Ken went unbeaton that year and also in 1948 and 1949.

Jerry M Malloy said...

I'm sure you were at a large attendance game in 1947, and remember it clearly. However this particular game was in 1948 and confirmed directly from the Courier-Express of the day. It was played on Thursday, October 21, 1948. The paid attendance was confirmed before the game in the Courier Express that same day as 50,057. They estimate that at least a couple of thousand more snuck in. This article appeared in the Courier on Friday Oct. 22nd. Thank you for reading The Buffalo History Gazette.

Anonymous said...

Jerty ...Correction...you are correct. The game was played in 1948....but the actual (vs paid) attendance was reputed to be 47,000. Not bad for a stadium that held about 37,000.

Al Rossow

Jerry M Malloy said...

After further review of the story the actual TURNSTILE count, not just the paid attendance, was in fact 50,988 as announced by James Carney, director of Civic Stadium.