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All Aboard for Loyola Chicago Football
During football's first one hundred years, fans going to away games often traveled by special trains to the destination city and back. That was the case in 1930 when Loyola Chicago's football fans made plans to entrain for a Friday night game at St. Lous U.
Loyola Chicago and SLU were among the dozen Catholic universities in the Midwest whose fans, including most campus priests, hoped they could recreate the magic captured by Notre Dame and Knute Rockne, then in his last season in South Bend. Instead, most schools played something approximating today's G5 or FCS levels, with half their games against one another, the rest with schools whose alums had more challenging paths to heaven.
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers, led by first-year coach and dentist Dr. Ed Norton, had a 2-3 record entering the SLU game with wins over Carroll and Coe.
Loyola 43 Carroll (WI) 12
Georgetown 16 Loyola 6
Loyola (New Orleans) 25 Loyola Chicago 0
Coe 12 Loyola 0
DePaul 6 Loyola 0
Meanwhile, the St. Louis U Billikens, also led by a first-year coach, Chile Walsh, stood at 3-1-1:
SLU 27 Cornell (IA) 0
Oklahoma City 21 SLU 0
SLU 20 Missouri 0
SLU 7 Butler 0
SLU 33 Missouri Mines 33
Despite SLU beating Missouri, Ramblers' fans were optimistic because they beat the Billikens 12-0 in 1929, a game in which 600 SLU fans took the train to Chicago to cheer on their boys. But, of course, that game occurred on Saturday, October 26, 1929, between Black Thursday and Black Tuesday of the stock market crash, so fewer fans would be expected to travel for the 1930 game.
Still, the trip to St. Louis allowed the Chicagoans to see SLU's newly-opened Walsh Stadium, designed by Osborne Engineering, the firm responsible for Fenway, Comiskey, Yankee, Tiger, and Notre Dame stadiums up to that point, so the new venue and supporting their team made for a fun excursion.
The Murphy-Collins Maroon and Gold Special travel package was a joint venture sponsored by Charles "Feed" Murphy and Cornelius "Corny" Collins, neither of which needed an introduction to Ramblers fans. "Feed" Murphy was a 1930 Loyola grad and two-time All-American basketball player. Had he played a few decades later, he would have gone to the NBA after graduation. Instead, he played for the George Halas-owned Chicago Bruins of the American Basketball League and a semi-pro team or two. On the other hand, Corny was the quarterback and captain of Loyola's 1929 football team and Loyola's freshman coach in 1930, hence his mailing address at Loyola Gymnasium. (Click to enlarge.)
The Maroon and Gold package included rail transportation, a night's hotel at one of St. Louis' finest hotels, and a ticket to the game, all for $10.50 or $186.62 in 2022 dollars.
The Loyola Chicago team arrived in St. Louis Thursday afternoon expecting to make a few lineup changes after last week’s poor performance, while the Billikens lineup change came from their star running back, Joe Stephan, returning from an injury suffered against Missouri. That was enough for Knute Rockne to call for a St. Louis victory in his weekly predictions column.
The Friday night game opened with Loyola kicking to St. Louis and the Billikens driving the length of the field, scoring on a pass play to the right end. McKinney, the QB, then missed the extra-point attempt. After that, things descended into a back-and-forth between evenly matched teams until the second quarter when a St. Louis punt went out of bounds on Loyola's 15-yard line. On the next play, Loyola's right halfback, xxx Howland, scampered 85 yards for a touchdown and the Ramblers converted the kick to take a 7-6 lead into halftime.
That proved enough to win since neither team scored in the second half, so the Rambler rode the rails north victorious. The Ramblers then lost an away game to Boston College and tied South Dakota State. Likewise, St. Louis lost the next week to Loyola of New Orleans and ended the season by tying with their city rival, WashU.
St. Louis continued playing football through the 1949 season before dropping the sport. Their coach in 1930, Chile Walsh, stayed for three more seasons, ultimately becoming the General Manager of the Cleveland Rams where he won the 1945 NFL championship. The following year the team moved to Los Angeles, where Walsh signed Kenny Washington, the first Black player in the NFL after WWII.
Loyola Chicago went a different direction by dropping football after the 1930 season. Unfortunately, the fans who rode the Maroon and Gold Special to St. Louis had the distinction of witnessing the last football victory in school history.
Robert Kelley, S.J., president of Loyola, who had been on board with fielding a football team while overseeing the construction and opening of the 10,000-seat Loyola Stadium in 1929, argued one year later that:
It is our belief that the interest and appeal of these spectacular games are getting away from the colleges and universities and their students, and are being centered on the public: or, in other words the colleges and universities are competing with entertainment agencies for the patronage of the public.
Perhaps he could have stepped off the football train before building a football stadium, but at least the Chicago Bears got to play a game there in 1931.
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