Today in History: Oct. 7

Georgia Tech’s football team, coached by the legendary John Heisman, beat an outmatched Cumberland College squad 222–0 on this date 100 years ago. It remains the most lopsided score in the history of college football, mostly because teams do not usually continue to try to score when the mathematical possibility of the losing team turning things around is passed. (Above is a photo of the scoreboard at the end of the game.)

Cumberland College did not have a football team, had cancelled its football program before the season opened, but Coach Heisman would not let the school cancel its game against his Georgia Tech team. Earlier that year, Cumberland’s baseball team had beaten Georgia Tech’s baseball team by the unruly score of 22–0. Heisman was Georgia Tech’s baseball coach as well as its football coach, so he had no sympathy for Cumberland’s plights in any other athletic endeavor. (Further, rumors abounded that Cumberland’s baseball players were not students at the school and were in fact professional baseball players employed to run up Cumberland’s baseball scores.)

Cumberland attempted to run the ball 27 times but lost yards each play, and the team fumbled nine times. Cumberland attempted 18 passes, completed two of them for a total of 14 yards but yielded six interceptions, each of which was converted into a touchdown. Georgia Tech did not attempt a pass but ran for 32 touchdowns on just under 1000 yards. Cumberland’s only success on defense came against an attempted kick for an extra point: the team piled a human pyramid on the line and blocked the kick. That spared the team from a 223–0 loss.

Coach Heisman allowed one concession to the extraordinary score: in the second half, the quarters were 12 minutes long rather than 15 minutes. (That explains the scoring drop-off.)

Heisman had forced Cumberland to play the game by promising to enforce an agreed-upon financial punishment if Cumberland did not field a team. (This is standard operating procedure to this day, as the team’s play because they sign contracts to play each other.) The $3000 fine would have been a steep one even for a college in 1916, but he offered them $500 on top of not paying the fine to play the game. Cumberland’s baseball team student-manager was engaged to put together a team. He enlisted his frat brothers, none of whom had played organized football at the college level before.

Cumberland College is now Cumberland University. It has a football team. Georgia Tech is one of the nation’s top universities in many categories, and it last won a national football championship in 1990.

* * * *
On this date in 1955, Allen Ginsberg publicly read his poem “Howl” for the first time at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Other, better-known, poets were in attendance and also read their work, like Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder. Ginsberg read what he had been working on, which became the first section out of “Howl’s” final three.

* * * *
Edgar Allan Poe died on this date in 1849. Willis Carrier died on this date in 1950. Clarence Birdseye died 60 years ago today. Mario Lanza died on this date in 1959. Herblock died 15 years ago on this date. Charles Rocket died on this date in 2005. Irving Penn died seven years ago today.

* * * *
Niels Bohr was born on this date in 1885. Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd was born on this date on 1909. He was elected the mayor of Albany, New York, in November 1941 and was re-elected to ten more four-year terms, serving from January 1942 until his death in May 1983. It is believed that this is the record for longest tenure for a mayor of a major American city. Any debates have more to do with the definition of what size city (some smaller cities have had longer serving mayors) and style of government (some cities have mayors in the honorary sense only) than longevity. The tallest skyscraper in New York State outside of New York City is in Albany and is named for Mayor Corning. (The 44-story Erastus Corning Tower is the first skyscraper I ever set foot in, but it did not yet bear his name when a school tour brought us there in 1978.) Corning never ran for the next higher office, U.S. senator or New York governor. He simply enjoyed being mayor and enjoyed watching everyone guess why he did not have bigger ambitions.

R. D. Laing was born on this date in 1927. Amiri Baraka was born on this date in 1934.

* * * *
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is 85 today. Thomas Keneally is 81 today. Charles Dutoit is 80. Clive James is 77. Joy Behar is 74 today. Diane Ackerman is 68. John Mellencamp is 65. Yo-Yo Ma is 61 today. Dylan Baker is 57. Simon Cowell is 57. Sam Brown is 52.

Sam Brown no longer sings, but her body of work is moving. Here she is singing “Kiss of Love” in 2003 on Jools Holland’s show Later …:

And in 2002, she performed with an all-star band at the tribute concert held in memory of George Harrison. She sang his “Horse to the Water,” one of his last songs. Enjoy:

Dan Savage is 52. Toni Braxton is 49 today.

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