The Bacardi Bowl

1907

 

LSU 56
Havana University 0

 

LSU Fight Song

 

The following excerpt is taken from the book, The Fighting Tigers II: LSU Football by Peter Finney, 1980, LSU Press. I apologize to sensitive readers about certain racial epithets contain herein. But, in the interest of history, I have copied the material as written:

 

……That game was to have ended the 1907 season. However, circumstances decreed otherwise. Looking back, it is difficult to imagine how LSU's precedent-setting game against Havana University on Christmas Day, in 1907, failed to touch off a second war with Spain. The appearance of the first American college team on foreign soil came at a time when the Cuban situation remained touchy in the wake of the Spanish-American war. "Remember the Maine!" had not yet died away. U.S. Army garrisons were still stationed at Camp Columbia, and U.S. Navy vessels rode at anchor in the harbor where the hull of the sunken battleship was visible above the water.

 

To make matters more explosive, Havana was football mad, the university team having run roughshod over every service team- Army, Navy, or other- in the area. With no more fields to conquer, Cuban officials turned to the United States in search of a prestige opponent. They found a willing one in LSU, and the invitation extended to Wingard was readily accepted, although it meant keeping his club in training for an extra month.

 

The international match caught the fancy of Tiger fans in Baton Rouge who quickly raised $2,000 for Wingard and company to take with them to Havana to wager. Upon arrival, LSU quickly discovered that Cuba was looking forward to the Christmas Day game as a sort of crusade. Americans residing there told Wingard that Havana officials were scouring the island for the biggest and meanest physical specimens they could find, operating on the theory that football was a game entirely of brute force. Wingard's biggest problem was not in bringing his 13-man squad to an emotional peak- that was easy- but in protect­ing the members of the team from homesick Americans who showered them with hospitality. It was said that whenever two Americans met in Cuba the custom was to have a friendly drink, ordinarily a daiquiri, and something to eat, usually arroz con polio (a rich concoction of stewed chicken and saffron rice), neither of which was an ideal training table item.

 

For some reason not explained, University of Havana authorities, at the last moment, felt the game would prove a financial flop and backed out of the promotion, leaving a vacuum into which quickly stepped a group of speculators who proceeded to peddle sideline seats to Havana aristocrats for ten dollars per ticket. Just as the 1893 Tulane-LSU inaugural in New Orleans had become a social event, so did the LSU-Havana match fourteen years later. Beyond this, it also attracted govern­ment and consular officials to say nothing of every United States soldier and sailor in the area.

 

It was the large cheering section of American servicemen- and their inflammatory yell- which made the occasion a possible powder keg. Before the game the chant began:

 

Lick the Spicks, Kill the Spicks Rah! Rah! Rah! Louisiana!

 

When Wingard's 13-man "light brigade" ran onto the field for pre-game warmups, they noticed an odd sight on the Cuban bench- a number of large glass demijohns filled with wine. Every now and then one of the Cuban players, who were as large as advertised, would run over and take a swig of wine. Center of attention was a 300-pounder named A. C. Infante-Garcia who, it was reported, had been brought in especially to handle W. M. Lyles, the 200-pound LSU guard. Just before the opening whistle, Fenton gave Lyles a tip. "Hit that guy in the stomach with your head," Doc told him, "and he's done for."

 

The crowd of 10,000- the speculators inherited a goldmine- had hardly been seated comfortably when, on the first play from scrimmage, Lyles rammed his shoulder into the midriff of Infante-Garcia. Fenton chuckled when he told what happened. "The big guy spouted wine like an artesian well," he said. "I give you my word. We nearly had to swim to get out of there." No one was more surprised than Lyles, whose confidence skyrocketed. "Well, I'll be damned," he said. "Let's go to work." The sight of the supine 300-pounder touched off a 56-0 rout- ten touchdowns at five points each and six conversions. The home team never threatened.

 

W. F. "Pat" Ryan, an end on the 1907 team, said: "Every time we made a touchdown you'd have thought there was a flock of blackbirds flying across the field. Those sailors from the Paducah and Dubuque would toss their blue hats in the air and chant their 'lick the spicks' battle cry."

 

Fenton's incredible broken-field scampers and a 67-yard punt return by Seip kept the crowd enthralled. Because of Wingard's ingenuity, Fenton finished this and many another game with a jersey torn to shreds. It’s possible Doc pioneered the tear-away jersey because, before every game, Wingard would soak Doc's woolen shirt in a mild acid solution to weaken the fabric, making Fenton a tough man to grab above the waist.

 

That night Havana was a madhouse. Wingard lifted curfew. Cham­pagne flowed. Americans spent money on the players like it was going out of style. Homes were thrown open. Exclusive clubs feted them. The players' gray skull caps with the "L" on the front brought ten dollars each as souvenirs.

 

Years ago Doc Gandy (a native of Sabine Parish, Louisiana, he had gone on to become a veterinarian in Baton Rouge) recalled a "second game" in Havana between Christmas and New Year's and, if his mem­ory was accurate, there was no question about the charges of professionalism leveled against the 1908 team. "We found we could make twenty-five dollars apiece," said Gandy, "so we made up two teams from the two squads and played again. We only had thirteen, so we loaned Havana a couple of men. We still won it, something like 20-0."

 

Fenton, who had won the nickname "The Artful Dodger" in the United States, caught the fancy of Cuban fans who hailed him as “El Rubio Vaselino” - "the Vaselined redhead" - as tough to catch as the proverbial greased pig. The first of the Pennsylvania coal boys to make good set a new LSU record of ninety-four points and fourteen touch­downs. Not bad for a 165-pound end who could hit the ground with his shoulder, bounce up, and keep going.

 

LSU's conquest of Cuba provided the tonic to make 1908 a season of great expectations…….

 

 

LSU lines up for a photo before the game in Havana

 

The Wreckage of the USS Maine could still be seen in Havana Harbor

 

The flags fly over the action at Almendares Park

 

LSU once again at the Havana goal line

 

LSU's John Seip had a 67 yard punt return for a score

 

Attendance- 10,000

 

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