"I remember guys walking over cars and through cars and tying up whole streets," recalled George Hand, 87, a City tackle. "I went [to the rally] but didn't stay long. I'd guess that guys who didn't play football did more damage than those who did."

School officials overlooked some of the mischief — with good reason, Hand said:

"From what I heard, the [gate receipts] from the City-Poly game almost financed the whole city school athletics program for the year."

In 1944, at the height of World War II, the game moved to Thanksgiving Day, where it stayed until 1993. In 1947, WMAR, then a fledgling television station, first broadcast the contest.


Follow @SunVarsity on Twitter.

The game drew such crowds that, in 1948, professional scalpers stood outside Municipal Stadium, hawking 60-cent tickets for $1. By that year, however, pregame antics had escalated to the point where students at both schools were required to sign a peace pact, promising to do nothing that "will lower either school in the eyes of the public."

The move backfired. On the eve of the game, more than 1,000 youths from both schools charged through city streets, cheered their teams, set off firecrackers, overturned trash cans and burst into movie theaters and hotel lobbies.

"They spun the revolving doors to the Lord Baltimore [Hotel] so fast that no one ventured to enter for almost a minute," The Sun reported.

Joe Brune, 79, recalled that chaotic night.

"I was in eighth grade, and one of my neighbors on Kernwood Avenue was a City tackle named Paul Stevens," Brune said. "Someone shot him in the face with a blank cartridge from a pistol. He survived, but I worried about him."

From then on, all pregame festivities took part on the schools' campuses, said Brune, later an assistant coach at City. In 1951, desperate to keep galvanized students off the streets, Poly held a pep rally where the guest was the reigning Miss Maryland, Georgia Reed. Her introduction evoked bigger cheers than that of any player.

The shenanigans had run their course — though, for years afterward, officials kept a watchful eye. In 1956, perhaps as a pre-emptive strike, Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. held a news conference to announce the signing of yet another peace accord between the schools. Both student body presidents attended, said Xavier McGeady, the Poly rep.

"The mayor also proclaimed it 'City-Poly Week,'" said McGeady, 74. "We were ticked off that City's name came first."

It didn't take much to rile them, he said:

"There was a lot of pent-up energy in those two schools during the week before the game."

As late as the md-'60s, crowds still topped 20,000 before falling precipitously to 10,000 in 1970 and 4,000 by 1975. Since then, attendance has fluctuated for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the addition of city high schools.

"The game is not a contest between neighborhoods anymore," Poly's Lumsden told The Sun in 1976. "If you look back in history, if you saw 10 kids on the street, five of them went to City and five went to Poly. … The allegiance of kids is [now] spread out."

That remains true today. Last year's game drew 7,194, one-third the crowd that City's Petrides played before as a linebacker for the Knights in 1966.

"This game isn't any less important," said Petrides, the team's coach for 38 years, "but it's nothing like the old days."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com