Columbia Football: The Holy Grail

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Columbia Football: The Holy Grail

1961 Penn-Columbia program cover art


Okay, okay, not quite. But a treasure trove of vintage Columbia material has found its way to me from one Walter Day... the same "angel on my shoulder" who had the program from the 1961 Columbia-Princeton game delivered to me in the radio booth during Homecoming last October.

Walter was never a Columbia student, but his father was class of 1924 and he often took Walter and his twin brother to football games starting in the late 1940s.

I'll tell more of Walter's story as we go along, but just get used to me thanking him for these very generous gifts that I hope my readers will enjoy as much as I am.

The latest mailings from Walter have included more programs, and other publications that I will cherish forever. They are all a unique look inside a very different time for Columbia football, the Ivy League, the NCAA, and America in general.

I thought the best way to share all of this great material and my thoughts on them would be to look at the key parts of each of these items, sometimes page by page.

I thought I'd start with what I consider to be the crown jewel in this collection, and that's the program from the 1961 Penn-Columbia game at Baker Field. This would be the game that would clinch the Ivy title for the Lions, (technically a tie for the title, but we'll get back to that later), for the one and only time since the league was officially formed in 1956.

For those of you dying of suspense about the actual details of the game, you can read a synopsis here.

But let's start with the cover of that program, (see above). It features some cover art of two players vying for a football, one wearing Columbia's colors and the other in Penn's all-red jersey of the time. (Notice how Penn has really de-emphasized the color red in just about all of its team uniforms in the last 30 years or so. Penn used to really favor that color over the blueish hue the Quakers wear now.)

Neither one of the images was meant to portray an actual Lion or Quaker, (we know that since no Penn player actually wore the No. 18 that we see on the player's jersey and helmet), and the Lions No. 88, Marc LaGuardia '62 was not a starter.

The inset picture is of captain Bill Campbell standing tall at the Lion statue just outside the Chrystie Field House. Call me old-fashioned, but I liked the old days when each team had just one captain.

No one in 1961 could have predicted that Campbell would go on to become a Lion head coach, big-time silicon valley entrepreneur, and chairman of the Columbia board of trustees. Or maybe they could have. Campbell's leadership abilities, and his strong identifiable figure on campus, led a lot of people to predict great things for him.

On the bottom left corner there is a picture of the '61 Lions in action against Cornell, not a bad turnaround considering the fact that the Cornell game was just two weeks earlier and the much slower pace of publishing 48 years ago.

Below Campbell's picture is the "In this issue" teaser promising a story called "Okay, Who Won It?" by none other than the great Zander Hollander.

Now if any of you are over the age of 30 and you still have never heard of Zander Hollander, I feel bad for you. That's because in the days before the Internet or ESPN, Hollander's big, fat paperback preview books for the four big pro sports were THE most coveted things for fans to get their hands on.





Above is a picture of his 1986 MLB preview book. Man, these things are so much fun to read even now. Sometime in the late 1990s, they stopped publishing them. I assume because the Internet was making the information they carried a little outdated too quickly.

I never knew that Mr. Hollander had any connection with Columbia until I saw this program, but it appears that he contributed some exclusive content to the football programs for a few years in the 1960's.

As far as I know, he was never a Columbia student but he is still alive, if not exactly working full-time. I'll take a closer look at the article he wrote for this program in the coming weeks.

The final item of interest on the cover is the price of the program: 50 cents! Before you wax poetic about how much less expensive things were in the old days, remember that Columbia football programs have been FREE for the last two years, (I think the top price they ever reached was $3 before they made them free in 2007), and that if you adjust for inflation, 50 cents in 1961 would be about $3.43 today.

So, Columbia actually beat the inflation-adjusted price by 43 cents even before the gracious gesture of slashing the price entirely.



On the inside cover we have an ad for Rheingold Beer. In 1961, the beer industry was still a mostly local business. This was before Miller and Anheuser-Busch pushed everyone else out. Rheingold was very much a New York City beer, and the company learned at a very early point that sponsoring sporting events was an obvious perfect fit for a beer company.

It became the first really- recognizable sponsor for the New York Mets and became the team's "official beer."

What's odd about this ad is that it's set at a very un-New York City square dance. Perhaps the woman in the ad, Janet Mick, who was "Miss Rheingold 1961," was from the West. I do know that Mick was considered a shoo-in for the customer-voted-in title because of her uncanny resemblance to Jackie Kennedy. Mick went on to become a flight attendant for American Airlines.

The whole "Miss Rheingold" contest was ended in 1965 and the company also went out of business in 1976. A new version of Rheingold Beer was introduced in 1999.

Suffice it to say that beer ads no longer appear in Columbia sports programs. I'm not sure, but I think that would be against NCAA or at least Ivy League policy. But if you think beer ads are questionable, wait until we get to the cigarette ads in this program. Let me just say they are VERY questionable and for reasons that go way beyond health hazards!

We'll get to page one and more of the program in the coming days. Anyone with any memories that can fill in any of the blanks so far, please feel free to comment.

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