When City first clashed with Poly on the gridiron

The football teams of Baltimore City College and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute will meet on Nov. 2 at Morgan State University in what’s being billed as their 130th annual clash. The game, for Baltimoreans, had been a Thanksgiving Day tradition for decades until the date was changed in 1993.

But is it really the 130th game for the Collegians and Engineers?

Paul McCardell, The Baltimore Sun’s indefatigable researcher whose profession is straightening out the historical record for reporters and editors, found clippings in the newspaper’s archive that listed two different dates, 1888 and 1889, for the first game.

What is known is that it was played, in 1889, according to a 1938 Sun clip, at what was then called Hopkins Field in Clifton Park. Poly in those days was known as the Baltimore Manual Training School.

No account of the game that City won that day was published in the newspaper.

In 1938, on what would have been the 50th-anniversary game, if the 1888 date is observed, The Sun stated that no one from the original City team — they would have been in their late 60s at the time — had been located.

The only surviving player from those early years identified in the 1938 article was G. Warfield Hobbs, who took to the gridiron for City in the mid-1890s, and graduated in 1896.

An article in The Sun in 1943 reverts to the 1889 date of the first City-Poly game, stating that it was 20 years after “Princeton and Rutgers introduced football to America.”

To add further confusion, The Sun in a 1969 article posited, “There are some persons who claim the series opened in 1888 and City holds the lead but no records are available to support the claim.”

The City-Poly match-up is “believed to be the second-longest continual public school football rivalry in the country, after Boston Latin vs. Boston English High in Massachusetts, which began in 1887, two years before City and Poly first played,” wrote veteran Sun sports writer and historian Mike Klingaman in 2013.

However, Poly’s website lists 1888 as the first City-Poly game — “a tradition still held today.”

But one thing is certain despite whatever year the first game was played, it still remains Baltimore’s oldest sports feud.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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