Jockey Bowl pitted Laurel jockeys against Savage Boys Club football team [History Matters]

For the Laurel Leader

In 1965, the Savage Boys Club was launched because of “a concern over the adequacy of sports programs and other activities offered in Savage,” according to the News Leader. In the early years, the small town could only support a handful of programs and teams; girls weren’t admitted until a few years later.

With funding a constant concern, the club’s administrators came up with a novel fundraising idea in 1967: The Jockey Bowl

The Jockey Bowl would pit the Savage Boys Club’s 110-pound football team against a team composed of jockeys from Laurel Race Course, now called Laurel Park. There didn’t seem to be much concern about 10- to 13-year-old boys competing against professional athletes in their 20s and 30s (or, in one case, his 40s), since players on both teams were approximately the same weight.

Word got out quickly and the novelty of the game was such that an Associated Press story was printed in newspapers across the country. The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier ran it under the headline. “Pro Teams Not Interested in Jockey Bowl.” Papers in California, Minnesota, Arizona and Colorado headlined the story with “Laurel, Savage Boys to Tangle in Jockey Bowl.” And the Hagerstown Morning Herald wrote, “Jocks Head for the Gridiron” over a photo of the jockeys’ coach with some players. That same photograph ran in the Alton (Ill.) Evening Telegraph with the caption, “Knute Rockne probably would flip if he saw a genuine backfield made up of horsemen. But the jockeys of Laurel Race Course have made up an entire team to play in the Jockey Bowl.”

All of the pre-game publicity focused on the jockeys; even the News Leader failed to report on the Savage Boys Club preparation. The AP reported that “Some of the flyweights even have some high school football experience, and the team can boast the latest craze among professional football teams. Placekicker Paul Kallai boots the ball soccer style, which he learned in his native Hungary.” Kallai, who was in a serious auto accident a year before the game, had received severe leg injuries in the crash and was under doctors’ orders to avoid contact. The jockeys’ offensive backfield consisted of quarterback Danny French, fullback Vic Mauro, and a rotation at halfback among Garth Patterson, Ed McIver, Eddie Maple and Eddie Donally. Kallai and Patterson were the number two and three riders, respectively, for Laurel’s 1967 season.

“The jockeys, who are working out daily on the Laurel Race Course infield, are being coached by Buddy Sauerhoff, the jockey room masseur,” reported the News Leader. The beefy Sauerhoff, the News Leader reported, “has semi-pro experience as a middle guard with the Brooklyn Broncos.” He “has the jockeys working from both the single wing and T-formation.” Sauerhoff told the News Leader that “we’re a little rusty on offense” but “the boys are looking more polished with every practice.”

The “boys” he spoke of included 44-year-old Bill Stagmaier and 37-year-old McIver, who was a running back in high school “several decades ago.”

Admission to the game, played at the Eighth Street field across from the old Laurel High School, now the Phelps Center, was $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. According to Ray Curley, who grew up in Savage, played on teams there until high school and eventually ran the baseball program, Savage Park in the 1960s only had a single baseball field. Football had to be played in Laurel at the Eighth Street field. The crowd, estimated by the News Leader to be around 400 but closer to 850 in the Baltimore Sun, guaranteed that the fundraiser was a financial success.

On the field, however, “the experience and coordination of professional athletes even in a new sport to them made the difference, and the Laurel Race Course jockeys took a 28-0 win,” reported the News Leader. The Sun’s coverage of the game, however, included a box score that showed the final 38-0.

Doug Slater, a life-long resident of Savage, was the youngest player at 10 years old on the Boys Club team. He remembers that he “never got into the game. Maybe it was for my own protection.” He also thinks that the jockeys “took it easy on us. They could’ve won 100 to nothing if they wanted to.” The jockeys certainly displayed good sportsmanship. The News Leader wrote, “the jockeys reported that they faced strong opposition.” Sauerhoff told the Sun that the Boys Club team “put up a good fight. But after all, it was men against boys and our riders turned out to be much better football players than I thought they would.”

Interestingly, the Boys Club team survived the game unscathed. But, according to the News Leader, the jockeys “sustained the only serious injury of the afternoon, when one player’s shoulder was hurt on a tackle by a Boys Club player.” The hometown newspaper uncharacteristically joked that “no one has substantiated the rumor circulated at the game that a scout for the Baltimore Colts was in the crowd.”

Once again, all coverage of the game itself, by the News Leader and the Sun, never mentioned any player for the Boys Club by name. But the Sun provided details of the jockeys’ scoring: “Eddie Donnelly plunged for the first Jockey touchdown from five yards out, and quarterback Danny French added another in the opening quarter on an 18-yard keeper play. Vic Mauro threw a key block. In the third period, Eddie McIvor’s six-yard plunge and Kenny Baker’s end-zone recovery of a blocked punt by John Johnson added another pair of touchdowns. Eddie Maple’s 21-yard sprint on a reverse wrapped up the scoring in the final period.”

The box score read:

Jockeys ………………14 0 16 8—38

Savage BC ………… 0 0 0 0— 0

Scoring: Jockey touchdowns—Donnelly, French, McIvor, Baker, Maple. Two point

conversions—Patterson (2), McIvor, Donnelly.

Harry Monroe, vice president of the Savage Boys Club, declared the game a success.

“We are very thankful to the jockeys for making this whole project possible,” he told the News Leader. “Everyone who cooperated in any way made the future of our Boys Club a little more certain.”

Two weeks after the game, the Boys Club hosted the jockeys at a banquet at the Laurel Elks Club, attended by 75 people. Jockey player McIvor presented Monroe with a check for $268, a donation to the club by the jockeys.

The jockeys apparently enjoyed football so much that they embarked on a series of similar games for charity. Two weeks after playing the Savage Boys Club, they took on the Bel Air Boys Club in a game to benefit the Retarded Children’s Fund of Anne Arundel County. That game was played at Brooklyn Park High School. They returned to Laurel the next year, in 1968, to play the Savage Boys Club again. Their games were sporadic, but continued at least for the next few years, as evidenced by a 1971 photo in the Baltimore Sun of Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas posing with one of the jockeys as they prepared to play the “Fort Meade Cougars … in a benefit game for the Marley Glen School for Special Children.”

A month after the first Jockey Bowl against Savage in 1967, the jockeys participated in a different—and much gentler—fundraising game. Between the first and second periods of a Baltimore Clippers’ hockey game at the Civic Center, they played a “broom ball hockey game” for charity, according to the News Leader. This game not only drew a much larger crowd than the football game in Laurel, but was also televised because of their opponents: a team of Playboy bunnies.

Contact Kevin Leonard at info@theleonardgroupinc.com or 301-776-9260.

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