Football, finger, & fight: New York Tribune headlines from 1922

This week’s headlines from sports history come from the New York Tribune, as published the week of October 28-November 3, 1922.

Location of New York City.
Location: New York City.

The New York Tribune was a daily newspaper published from 1841 to 1924, when it merged with the New York Herald. The combined Herald Tribune ceased publication in 1966. Nicknamed the “Trib”, the paper was perhaps best known in the sports world for being the home of Grantland Rice from 1914 to 1930.

In 1922, Warren G. Harding occupied the White House and the Soviet Union officially formed. In media, both the Readers Digest and the BBC were born. In sports, the New York Giants beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series and the Canton Bulldogs won the now-NFL championship.

Here is a sampling of sports headlines the Tribune published this week in 1922:

“Princeton Eleven Scores Sensational Victory Over Chicago, Winning 21 to 18 in Final Period”

Publication Date: October 29
This image of Princeton guard Mel Dickinson ran alongside previews of the weekend’s games.

In the first-ever football game nationally broadcast on radio, the visiting Princeton Tigers upended the Chicago Maroons with a late rally. Both teams were undefeated entering the tilt (Princeton, 4-0; Chicago, 3-0). The game itself was a grudge match; Chicago, which was coached by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, had shutout Princeton 9-0 the year prior.

Trailing 18-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Tigers scored a pair of touchdowns to beat the hosts. Their first final frame score came when Howdy Gray scooped up a fumble off a Maroon pass and ran 40 yards to paydirt.

The winning effort was made by Harry Crum, who had also registered Princeton’s first touchdown in the second period. Crum’s second score was a goal-line dive into a “pile of human arms and legs”. So rough was the scrum that Crum’s jersey ripped apart before he emerged from the bottom of the heap.

Chicago still had a chance at the end of the game after marching down from its own 35-yard line to the Princeton 7 via a pair of completions and a pass interference call. Unfortunately for the Maroons, Princeton stopped three straight rushes within the 4-yard line and pulled off a game-ending goal-line stand.

The Tribune’s reporter on the game, Ray McCarthy, called Princeton’s effort “one of the greatest come-backs ever seen on the local gridiron.” McCarthy also noted how the Tigers utilized the forward pass effectively against a stout Chicago defensive line that made the ground game difficult.

Princeton closed out the season with three more wins to finish a perfect 8-0. Chicago would win two straight after the loss, but wrapped things up with a 0-0 tie against Wisconsin for a 5-1-1 mark.

Dubbed the “Team of Destiny” by Grantland Rice and the Tribune staff, Princeton’s 1922 squad has since been recognized by NCAA as a co-national champion alongside fellow unbeatens California, Cornell, Iowa, and Vanderbilt.

“Injury to Finger May Cost Tilden Tennis Championship”

Publication Date: October 31

This article detailed the plight of tennis star Bill Tilden, who had busted his right middle finger during an exhibition match earlier in October. By the end of the month, Tilden had undergone two surgeries within one week.

In fall 1922, Tilden was the three-time defending US national champion and generally considered the best tennis player in the world, but the injury cast his future success into doubt: Long-time tennis writer Fred Hawthorne, who wrote the article, noted that should the player “either lose his finger or the tendon he so affected as to render the use of the finger impossible, Tilden would probably be forced to abandon tennis as a championship game.”

After the second operation, surgeons were unable estimate the full extent of the damage. However, they felt that the tennis champ would eventually regain full use of his finger, which was on his service hand.

Almost a week before this article, the world learned of Tilden’s injury. The finger had been damaged when “Big Bill” ran into the court’s wire backstop during an exhibition match against Wallace Johnson in Riverton, New Jersey. The initial operation attempted to subdue infection by splitting the finger open.

Several days following his second surgery, Tilden was optimistic about his chances when talking to the press:

Tell the tennis players I’ll be on the courts next year. Suppose my finger is crippled, I’ll go out and take what’s coming to me. I have beaten others. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t take a licking when my time comes. One thing you can bank on—I won’t retire. Whoever wins the championship next year will have to dispose of me first. That is, of course, if I am able to walk on the courts.

However, three days after that statement, the tip of Tilden’s middle finger was removed after the cut became gangrenous. A month later, the finger was still not recovering properly and it was amputated down to nearly its second joint.

While many worried that Tilden would have to retire completely from tennis, he miraculously recovered and played his first bit of post-surgeries tennis near the end of December 1922. The Philadelphia native made his first competitive appearance soon after, beating eventual Olympic gold medalist Francis Hunter two sets to one in an indoor tournament at a Chicago hotel in early January.

And as for his US national title defense, Tilden won his fourth straight championship in September 1923. He later won in 1924 and 1925 too, giving him six straight titles—a mark that hasn’t been equaled since. Tilden claimed his seventh and final US championship in 1929 and his last Grand Slam, at Wimbledon, in 1930.

Later in life, Tilden became shunned by the American public after he was jailed for two offenses involving sexual misconduct towards teenage boys. At age 60 and in relative obscurity, he passed away in 1953 due to heart problems.

“Mickey Walker Wins World’s Welterweight Title in Thrilling 15-Round Bout at Garden”

Publication Date: November 2
This image of Walker ran with the bout’s report.

In front of 15,000 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Mickey Walker snagged the World Welterweight Championship from Jack Britton in a 15-round bout. It was a battle between Father Time and youth: Britton had 17 years on Walker.

Throughout the contest, 20-year-old Walker was the clear leader with both judges and the referee casting their votes for the New Jersey boy. By the Tribune’s mark, the youngster won 11 rounds and Britton two, with the fifth and eighth rounds declared even.

Jack Lawrence of the Tribune noted that Walker’s youthful vigor played a pivotal role in the bout. Lawrence further wrote that the younger man “had everything, and behind the drives he drilled across in the direction of the champion’s jaw there was force and power.”

Walker, a three-year veteran of the ring, also came close to winning via knockout three times. In the second round, a “vicious left” sent Britton down for a short count.

In the sixth, Walker delivered a flurry to Britton’s head and the ump once again began his counting. However, the bell saved Britton and his posse dragged him back into his corner. According to Lawrence, they revived the old champ by utilizing “every restorative known to quick-witted handlers.”

Four rounds after that last bit of drama, Walker brought Britton to his knees with a left hook to the chin. Once again though, the bell played savior. Britton managed to finish the final five rounds on his feet, but there wasn’t enough left in his aged body to rob Walker of victory.

Because large pre-match betting swings roused match-fixing suspicions, the New York State Athletic Commision announced ringside that any wagers should be declared off.

The fight was the 571st of Britton’s 17 years in the pro ranks. It was the last time he fought for a world title. The native of Clinton, New York died at the age of 76 in 1962.

Walker held the welterweight title until 1926. He later moved up a division and claimed the World Middleweight Championship later in 1926. After unsuccessful runs at the light heavyweight and heavyweight crowns, Walker retired from boxing in 1935. He passed away in 1981 in his late 70s.

“Rutgers Abandons Its Famous ‘Huddle’ Play”

Publication Date: November 3

Nowadays, the huddle is an integral part of football (although teams running a high-paced offense may eschew it). However, back in the 1920s, the huddle was in its infancy. It had been devised by a deaf player in the 1890s, but didn’t see mainstream use until teams out west, like Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State), began employing it in the late 1910s.

Earlier in the 1922 season, Rutgers head coach Foster Sanford decided to utilize the huddle to speed up his offense (instead of the then-traditional way of yelling out signals before the snap). Sanford was known for his innovative tactics, which included building a coaching tower for practices and a field goal play that involved five different players touching the ball before it got booted through the uprights.

“The huddle is a great formation, particularly for speeding up the game,” Sanford explained after his squad built a 3-0 record. “Last Saturday, when we beat Lehigh, Rutgers ran off 17 plays in exactly four minutes and 45 seconds for 55 yards and a touchdown. Our backs gather in a little group, facing away from the opposition, and then break right into the play. It is a very effective method.”

However, by November 2—and following two straight losses—the team had abandoned the huddle. It isn’t exactly clear why Sanford pulled the plug, but the article remarks that huddling caused “needless scampering around of all eleven players before they definitely get settled in their positions for the play.” The Queensmen would finish the year 5-4, compiling a 2-2 mark after they dropped the huddle.

While Rutgers booted the huddle in 1922 and calls to ban it came about in 1926, by the end of the decade the pre-play formation had taken hold as a football mainstay.

Headlines for this article were sourced from