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Notre Dame defeated Navy 19-6 in 1927.
Notre Dame defeated Navy 19-6 in 1927. (Baltimore Sun)

On a clear, crisp fall day in 1927, Navy and Notre Dame clashed in football for the first time at Baltimore’s Municipal (later Memorial) Stadium. Navy was the defending national champion but the Irish had Knute Rockne, its legendary coach whose teams had played 87 games, losing four. The meeting was a given, but ... who’d have thought the rivalry would last 92 years?

On Nov. 16, the schools play again in what ranks as the longest intersectional rivalry in college football history.

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For that inaugural contest, the city put on the Ritz. Both teams got motorcycle escorts to the stadium and were met by a crowd of 55,000, including Governor Albert Ritchie, Mayor William F. Broening and military moguls such as Major General Douglas MacArthur. A regiment of 1,700 Midshipmen disembarked the train at Clifton Park Station and marched to the Stadium, led by the Navy band playing “Anchors Aweigh.” The Notre Dame Club of Washington, 2,000 strong, did the same but got lost on foot. Scouts were sent to find them.

The Irish arrived from a resort on Gibson Island, where they’d bunked; Navy’s players, from the Baltimore Country Club where, that morning, The Sun reported, “their muscles were limbered in rounds of golf.”

At halfime, Navy led, 6-0, having scored on a five-yard run by halfback Art Spring, later a rear admiral and chief of staff of the U.S. 7th Fleet. But the second half was all Notre Dame, which “fought with a tigerishness” (New York Times) and won, 19-6.

Afterward, the Stadium emptied in 30 minutes. Civic leaders were proud as punch.

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