Jun 142018

The first Henley regatta was staged on this date in 1839 and proved so successful that it was expanded the next year from one day to two. As the regatta’s popularity has grown it has further expanded: to three days in 1886, four days in 1906 and five days in 1986. The regatta has been known as Henley Royal Regatta since 1851, when Prince Albert became the first royal patron. Since his death, every reigning monarch has agreed to be the patron.

At a public meeting in Henley town hall on 26 March 1839, Captain Edmund Gardiner proposed “that from the lively interest which had been manifested at the various boat races which have taken place on the Henley reach during the last few years, and the great influx of visitors on such occasions, this meeting is of the opinion that the establishing of an annual regatta, under judicious and respectable management, would not only be productive of the most beneficial results to the town of Henley, but from its peculiar attractions would also be a source of amusement and gratification to the neighbourhood, and the public in general.” The “various boat races” included the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1829, which by 1839 had officially moved to London’s Tideway, where it remains.

At the regatta’s inception it was intended for amateurs rather than those who rowed professionally. In 1879 Henley produced its first formal definition of an amateur:

No person shall be considered an amateur oarsman or sculler, or coxswain:

    Who has ever competed in any open competition for a stake, money, or entrance fee. (Not to apply to foreign crews.)

    Who has ever competed with or against a professional for any prize.

    Who has ever taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of athletic exercises of any kind as a means of gaining a livelihood.

    Who has been employed in or about boats for money or wages.

    Who is or has been by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan or labourer.

You can tell that the last rule has class implications of a rather unsavory kind. Put in a crude paraphrase, “We don’t want our high-born men competing with manual laborers because they have bigger muscles because they do physical labor every day, and our chaps are much more refined, and so not as beefy.” That is, being muscular was a negative class marker. Henley was for the gentry, not the masses. To a degree the event still has that aura – among spectators. The regatta began in the high Victorian era, but the image conveyed on the banks is Edwardian. In the Steward’s Enclosure, for example, there is a strict dress code for men and women. Men must wear jacket and tie, which normally means boat club blazer, club tie, flannels, and a straw boater. Women must wear skirts or dresses with hemlines below the knee, but many of them look like refugees from the royal family.

In 1884, amateur status for overseas competitors was put on the same basis as for home oarsmen, thus ending the concession on racing for money prizes. By 1886 a phrase had also been added debarring any person “engaged in any menial activity. “These rules would become the cause of growing controversy as international entries to Henley increased; most foreign countries having a different definition of amateur. The adoption of Henley’s definition of amateur by the Amateur Rowing Association of Great Britain would also cause a 66-year schism in British rowing, when in 1890 a rival National Amateur Rowing Association was set up, with a much more inclusive definition of amateurism.

One well-known incident was the exclusion of future Olympic champion John B. Kelly Sr., from the 1920 regatta because he had served an apprenticeship as a bricklayer. According to the minutes of the regatta’s Committee of Management, Kelly was excluded both because he was not eligible under the manual labor rules and because he was a member of Vesper Boat Club, which was banned in 1906 because members of its 1905 Henley crew had raised money to pay for their trip through public donations – making them professionals in the eyes of the Henley Stewards. Kelly’s exclusion was widely reported in newspapers in both the UK and USA, with many seeing it as an attempt to prevent an American from winning the Diamonds. Kelly’s son John B. Kelly Jr. would dramatically win the 1947 Diamond Sculls, and his daughter would become the famous Academy Award-winning actress turned Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, keeping the incident in the public eye for years afterwards.

In 1936, there was a further controversy when the Australian national eight, preparing for the Berlin Olympics, was excluded from the Grand Challenge Cup because the crew was composed of policemen, deemed to be ‘manual workers’. The resulting embarrassment persuaded the Amateur Rowing Association and the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta of the need for change. On 9 June 1937, the offending references to manual laborers, mechanics, artisans and menial duties were deleted from the ARA rules. Henley’s rules were changed the following day, coming into effect from the 1938 regatta.

The first ‘overseas’ entry to the regatta was in 1870 when Trinity College, Dublin entered the Grand, Ladies’, Visitors’ and Wyfold. As Dublin was at that time within the United Kingdom, this was not a foreign entry. Trinity won the Visitors’ and reached the final of the Ladies’. The first international competitors came in 1878 when G.W. Lee of New Jersey and G. Lee of Boston entered the Diamonds, Shoe-wae-cae-mette BC of Monroe, Michigan, a crew of French Canadian watermen, entered the Stewards’, and Columbia College entered the Stewards’ and Visitors’. Lee of Boston made little progress but Lee of New Jersey lost his heat in a very close race against T.C. Edwards-Moss, the eventual winner. Shoe-wae-cae-mette, rowing with then-unusual swivel rowlocks, reached the final of the Stewards’ but lost to London Rowing Club. Columbia won the Visitors’ Challenge Cup, becoming the first foreign winners of a Henley trophy.Unfortunately, there were accusations that both G.W. Lee and the Shoe-wae-cae-mette crew were not amateurs. This led in 1879 to a new, tighter, definition of amateurism and a requirement that any entries from outside the United Kingdom must be made on or before 1 March and must be ‘accompanied by a declaration made before Notary Public with regard to the profession of each member of the crew’, and this must be certified by the British Consul, the mayor, or the chief authority of the locality. Under these new rules, Shoe-wae-cae-mette were refused entry in 1879 as were Hillsdale Boat Club of Michigan in 1882.

The Germania Ruder Club of Frankfurt became the first entry from continental Europe in 1880, losing in a heat of the Grand to London Rowing Club. Foreign entries grew over the next twenty years, to the consternation of some who felt that the regatta should be restricted to domestic entries only. There were also a number of disputes over amateurism and the two issues were often bound up together, as in this letter to The Times from Edmond Warre, headmaster of Eton College in 1901:

I most earnestly desire that our amateur oarsmanship may be preserved from the deadly inroad of professionalism, which is already making a business of so much that ought only to be pleasure, and threatens to crush the life out of the sports of “merrie England”. Let us restrict our Henley pots to the United Kingdom and set up a proper international regatta elsewhere, if that is thought desirable.

W.H. Grenfell MP proposed a motion for a special meeting of the Stewards that:

This meeting…while fully prepared to promote the establishment of an international regatta upon a proper course and under suitable conditions, is of the opinion that Henley Regatta does not provide either a proper course or suitable conditions for international competitions.

He proposed amendments to the rules restricting entries to the United Kingdom, and for the Goblets and Diamonds to British subjects domiciled in the UK. Warre seconded his proposals. The Amateur Rowing Association canvassed its member clubs on the proposal and the results were decisive: all clubs opposed the proposals save for Oxford University Boat Club which supported them with the caveat ‘Committee decide against foreign entries provided they can row other than Henley’. At a special general meeting of the Stewards late in 1901, a motion moved by Colonel Makins ‘that in the opinion of this meeting it is inexpedient that any alteration in the rules of the regatta be made at present’ was carried by 19 votes to 5.

In 1906, Royal Club Nautique de Gand of Belgium became the first foreign crew to win the Grand Challenge Cup. A different Ghent Club, Sport Nautique de Gand took the Grand in 1907. In advance of 1908, with the Olympic Regatta to be held on the Henley course in mid-July, the Stewards announced a temporary rule change excluding overseas entries from the 1908 regatta (which would take place two weeks before the Olympics). This led to criticism of the Stewards in the British and American press, particularly since it would not permit the Belgians to defend the Grand. The Stewards pointed out in a letter to The Times that the decision had been taken before the 1907 regatta and after consultation with the Belgians. A letter from Oscar Gregoire, President of the Belgian Rowing Federation was quoted:

In a year like 1908, which will see the Olympic Regatta take place at Henley…it is not reasonable to hold an international regatta 15 days previously…the Belgian holders of the Grand Challenge Cup would not have any objection in going to defend it in 1908…

Overseas entries and wins at the regatta have continued to multiply. Since the 1960s, the open events in particular have almost exclusively become the province of national squad crews. Up to 2007, the Grand Challenge Cup had been won by overseas crews 46 times: 12 times by crews from Germany, 11 from the USA, 9 from the USSR, 4 from Canada, 3 each from Belgium and Australia, 2 from the Netherlands, and 1 each from Switzerland, France, Bulgaria and Croatia.

If you are a Brit you will hear echoes of so many jingoist and class privilege arguments that you are familiar with that have resonated throughout the 20th and into the 21st century in this summary. Personally, I don’t care one way or another about how Henley conducts its business. I rowed for my college at Oxford and paid a certain amount of attention to rowing at the time – a tiny amount. I did wear a blazer and boater on occasion and attended rowing events now and again. You can get caught up in the drama if you also participate, and a club you are affiliated with is involved. But nowadays I find the whole Edwardian dress up, with accompanying attempts to act the part (think Three Men in a Boat) perfectly silly. I expect a number of younger people who take part do so with a touch of parody, but old gits my age who still attend are perfectly serious. I find the whole Victorian and Edwardian ethos of England unpalatable in the extreme these days. Why we should want to celebrate people who got rich by oppressing the poor in their own country and trampling over countries worldwide is inexplicable to me. I have attended traditional boat races in different parts of Asia – many of which are older than Henley – and enjoy them much more because they are all inclusive, without the trappings of privilege.

It’s conventional to drink Pimm’s (now only available as No.1), or champagne at English rowing events, accompanied with strawberries. That could work for your celebratory “meal” of the day. Or, you could pack a traditional English picnic, which I have given directions for already. I’m going to be a trifle more democratic (commonplace if you like), and note that Berkshire, Henley’s county, is noted for its pork production. The Berkshire hog is now classified as a heritage breed, which is much in demand by gourmets worldwide, especially in Japan. It was first noted by Cromwell’s troops stationed in Reading, and by Victorian times was the subject of intensive breeding programs. Queen Victoria herself was a fan, and Isabella Beeton sings its praises as the finest breed of hog in England. I’m, therefore, going to go with roast pork (whether you can get Berkshire pork or have to settle for a lesser breed).

I roast pork the same way that I roast every other meat – turn the oven as high as it will go, let it heat, and then roast the meat until it is cooked. Most recipes will tell you to turn the oven to 220˚C or so, cook the pork for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190˚C and cook for 35 minutes per pound. The “theory” behind this practice is that the initial high heat sears the meat (maybe also crisps the skin), and then the lower heat lets the meat cook all the way through. But . . . for centuries cooks did not have ovens that they could adjust. They spit roast over coals, and the coals were hot. Contrary to what you may think (or intuit), lower temperatures dry out the meat. I keep the heat high for the entire cooking process. Admittedly you often get a really smoky kitchen roasting this way, but that’s what windows are for.

Pork does need a little prep before roasting. Choose a nice joint with the skin on. Score the skin deeply (down to the fat) and rub it well with coarse salt. I score it in diamond patterns, but strips also work. You need to do this so that you can break it up easily when serving, and also so that the fat can escape during cooking. Place the joint, skin side up, in a roasting pan with some quartered potatoes. There is no need to baste pork as it is roasting because it has ample fat. A 5 lb joint on high heat will be cooked through in 2 hours or less. You can use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, or insert a skewer after the first 90 minutes, and stop cooking when the juices run clear – or a tad before. Remove the pork and let it rest under a foil tent on a carving platter for 15 minutes. Keep the potatoes warm. They should be well cooked at this point (crisp on the outside, soft in the center). Pour the roasting juices into a skillet and mix them with an equal quantity of flour. Heat on medium heat, whisking well, to make a roux. Add light stock to make your gravy, and season according to your taste. I usually use rosemary as the primary herb along with parsley and garlic. Apple sauce is, maybe, overdone for accompanying pork, but if you insist on something sweet and fruity then experiment with different jellied fruit, such as cranberry, or cloudberry. I tend to omit the fruity stuff. When it comes time to carve, remove the crackling (skin) first, chop it in large pieces and serve it on a plate separate from the meat.

Dec 212016


Today is often treated as the birthday of crossword puzzles because on this date in 1913 Arthur Wynne, who had created a page of puzzles for the “Fun” section of the Sunday edition of the New York World, introduced a puzzle with a diamond shape and a hollow center, the letters F-U-N already being filled in. He called it a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” Although Wynne’s invention was based on earlier puzzle forms, such as the word diamond, he introduced a number of innovations (for example, the use of numbered horizontal and vertical lines to create boxes for solvers to enter letters). He subsequently pioneered the use of black squares in a symmetrical arrangement to separate words in rows and columns. A few weeks after the first “Word-Cross” appeared, the name of the puzzle was changed to “Cross-Word” as a result of a typesetting error.

By the 1920s crosswords were appearing in British newspapers with a certain amount of criticism from the high and mighty. In fact, on both sides of the Atlantic some viewed the crossword puzzle with alarm, and some expected (or hoped) that it would be a short-lived fad. In 1924, The New York Times complained of the “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport… [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.” A clergyman called the working of crossword puzzles “the mark of a childish mentality” and said, “There is no use for persons to pretend that working one of the puzzles carries any intellectual value with it.” In 1925 Time magazine noted that nine Manhattan dailies and fourteen other big newspapers were carrying crosswords, and quoted opposing views as to whether “This crossword craze will positively end by June!” or “The crossword puzzle is here to stay!” In 1925, the New York Times noted, with approval, a scathing critique of crosswords by The New Republic, but concluded that “Fortunately, the question of whether the puzzles are beneficial or harmful is in no urgent need of an answer. The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten” and in 1929 declared, “The cross-word puzzle, it seems, has gone the way of all fads….” In 1930, a correspondent noted that “Together with The Times of London, yours is the only journal of prominence that has never succumbed to the lure of the cross-word puzzle” and said that “The craze—the fad—stage has passed, but there are still people numbering it to the millions who look for their daily cross-word puzzle as regularly as for the weather predictions.” The New York Times, however, was not to publish a crossword puzzle until 1942. Ironically, both The Times (London) and the New York Times now publish crosswords of considerable notoriety and fame.


The crossword evolved rather differently in Britain and the United States, both in basic form and in the nature of the clues. The usual US crossword allows for a word to be filled in completely by filling in all the words that intersect with it, but British ones do not. In addition, US crosswords typically rely on synonymy whereas the British evolved the cryptic crossword which is now the more common form in the UK.

I don’t care for US-style crosswords at all. On the other hand, I have had phases in my life in which cryptic crosswords have held my attention – The Times daily crossword being my favorite because the setters are always fair in their clues, and the clues are usually solvable with average mental effort. In essence, a cryptic clue leads to its answer as long as it is read in the right way. What the clue appears to say when read normally (the surface reading) is a distraction and usually has nothing to do with the clue answer. The challenge is to find the way of reading the clue that leads to the solution.

A typical clue consists of two parts, the definition and the wordplay. It provides two ways of getting to the answer. The definition, which usually exactly matches the part of speech, tense, and number of the answer, is in essence the same as any ‘straight’ crossword clue, a synonym for the answer. It usually appears at the start or the end of a clue.

The other part (the subsidiary indication, or wordplay) provides an alternate route to the answer (this part would be a second definition in the case of double definition clues). One of the tasks of the solver is to find the boundary between definition and wordplay and insert a mental pause there when reading the clue cryptically. This wordplay gives the solver some instructions on how to get to the answer another way. (Sometimes the two parts are joined with a link word or phrase such as “from”, “gives” or “could be”.)

There are many sorts of wordplay, such as anagrams and double definitions, but they all conform to rules. The crossword setters do their best to stick to these rules when writing their clues, and solvers can use these rules and conventions to help them solve the clues.

Because a typical cryptic clue describes its answer in detail and often more than once, the solver can usually have a great deal of confidence in the answer once it has been determined, that is, the clues are ‘self-checking’ which is why most solvers fill in the crossword in ink. This is in contrast to non-cryptic crossword clues which often have several possible answers and force the solver to use the crossing letters to distinguish which is intended.

Here’s a simple cryptic clue:

Glittering light and boom upset deer (7)

At the outset you have to figure out which part is the straight definition and which part is the subsidiary indication. Here “glittering light” is the definition, and “boom upset deer” is the wordplay. You have to be careful with wordplays; they often rely on double meanings. Here “boom” is not a sound, but a part of a ship’s sailing gear, a synonym of which is “spar.” “Upset” indicates that the remaining part should be spelt backwards and an elk is a kind of deer. Spell it backwards and you have “kle.” Put the two halves together and you have SPARKLE.

The challenge with cryptic clues is that sometimes the whole clue involves a double definition or a pun of some sort instead of having just a straight definition plus wordplay. My favorite of this sort is:

Medicine hat. (4,3)

The answer is “pill box”

Another favorite is:

Double dutch. (8)

You’ll need to know English slang to understand why the answer is “bigamist.”

The fact that you cannot solve UK-style crosswords by filling in all the intersecting words if one word fails you can be infuriating. I got The Times crossword finished one day except for one clue. The letters I had were _L_H and the clue was “sacred flower.” Should have been easy, but I was a novice at the time, and I was mystified all day. The secret is in the word “flower” which does not mean “blossom” but “something that flows” (i.e. a river). The sacred river in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is ALPH !!!

I’ll leave you with:

Hair style with comb in it? (7)

I could give you a hint by suggesting that you use honey in today’s celebratory recipe. I could also (but I’m not going to) give you a slew of cryptic clues for today’s recipe, such as:

Shortening for a recipe. (4)

This site has a ton of recipe-related crosswords — http://www.whenwecrosswords.com/crossword/advanced_soups_and_sauces/35060/crossword.jsp and below are the clues for one of them.  You’ll have to go to the site for the diagram.


Across Down
2 Flour mixed with fat
4 Used in Indian curries, Moroccan tagines, and pickles
9 A spice that is spicy
11 This heightens the spices aroma before grinding them
13 Dried herbs should last this amount of time
14 This mother sauce has a brown stock and brown roux
16 This herb has a sweet, fresh, floral, woody, and intense flavor compound
17 Consists of diced carrots, onions and celery
18 Dried herbs are best stored in this kind of container
21 Bouillon is French for this
22 Debris from soups that settles to the top and simmers
23 Flour mixed with water
1 Mrs. Ashford hates this herb from the carrot family
3 Whole seeds will stay aromatic in this time
5 This sauce is almost like a stew and is typically served with pasta
6 Fragrant leaves or plants
7 Dill is a member of which family
8 We made this type of roux in the breaded chicken recipe
10 This recipe uses a sauce that incorporates egg yolks and melted butter
12 Soup base made from bones
15 Rich smooth soup that are pureed, strained and then smoothed with some cream
19 After they are ground spices begin to produce this flavor
20 What climate do most spices come from

As a final footnote I’ll mention that one of the essay questions on my entrance exam for Oxford University was “Why do crosswords?” and my answer greatly amused the examiners who commented on it very favorably when I went for my interview. It included stories I concocted such as one of a prison where a group of prisoners shared one newspaper per week, and each of them filled in the crossword mentally to avoid spoiling it for the others.

Oct 202016


On this date in 1873, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers universities met to draft the first code of American football rules. Longtime readers will know that I do not like using “American” as an adjective referring to the United States, but I’ll let my rule slide here because “American football” is a well-understood term. This meeting of university representatives to draft the rules that eventually led to the current game cannot be considered the main event in the history of the game, but it was a milestone. Fair warning: I don’t like the game at all. Two rules that were developed later and are hallmarks of the game – blocking and the forward pass – completely ruin the game for me. The idea that some players have no other role than to block players on the other team means that they rarely, if ever, touch the ball, and this rule seems completely ludicrous to me. It puts an emphasis on brute force and raw strength over skill in ball handling which is limited to only a small number of players. I like football games where every player has the ability, and need, to touch the ball during the game, and in which interfering with a player who is not in possession of the ball is not allowed. The forward pass does not sit well with me either. In all the classic English ball sports lingering around the goal or making forward passes to players ahead of defenders was always considered unsporting and is now illegal (the offside rule).


Forms of traditional football have been played throughout Europe and beyond since antiquity. Many of these involved handling of the ball, and scrummage-like formations. Several of the oldest examples of football-like games include the Greek game of Episkyros and the Roman game of Harpastum. Over time many countries across the world have also developed their own national football-like games. For example, New Zealand had Ki-o-rahi, Australia marn grook, Japan kemari, China cuju, Georgia lelo burti, the Scottish Borders Jeddart Ba’ and Cornwall Cornish hurling, Central Italy Calcio Fiorentino, South Wales cnapan, East Anglia Campball and Ireland had caid, which was an ancestor of Gaelic football.

Archaic forms of football in England, typically classified as mob football, were played between neighboring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag a ball of some sort by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. By some accounts, in some such events any means could be used to move the ball towards the goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder. These antiquated games went into sharp decline in the 19th century when the Highway Act 1835 was passed banning the playing of football on public highways. What arose instead were football games at various public (i.e. private) boarding schools, notably Rugby. Football was adopted by these public schools as a way of encouraging competitiveness and keeping boys fit. Each school drafted its own rules, which varied widely between different schools and were changed over time with each new intake of pupils. Two schools of thought developed regarding rules. Some schools favored a game in which the ball could be carried (as at Rugby, Marlborough and Cheltenham), while others preferred a game where kicking and dribbling the ball was promoted (as at Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Charterhouse). The division into these two camps was partly the result of circumstances in which the games were played. For example, Charterhouse and Westminster at the time had restricted playing areas; the boys were confined to playing their ball game within the school cloisters, making it difficult for them to adopt rough and tumble running games. Out of this diversity of games and rules evolved a number of games both in England and abroad. I’ve dealt with several here:





Let’s now turn to American football which evolved in the United States from a Rugby-style of football. Early football games in the United States appear to have had much in common with the traditional mob football played in England. The games remained largely unorganized until the 19th century, when intramural games of football began to be played on college campuses. Each school played its own variety of football. Princeton University students played a game called “ballown” as early as 1820. A Harvard tradition known as “Bloody Monday” began in 1827, which consisted of a mass ballgame between the freshman and sophomore classes. In 1860, both the town police and the college authorities agreed the Bloody Monday had to go. The Harvard students responded by going into mourning for a mock figure called “Football Fightum,” for whom they conducted funeral rites. The authorities held firm and it was a dozen years before football was once again played at Harvard. Dartmouth played its own version called “Old division football,” the rules of which were first published in 1871, though the game dates to at least the 1830s. All of these games, and others, shared certain common features. They remained largely “mob” style games, with huge numbers of players attempting to advance the ball into a goal area, often by any means necessary. Rules were simple, violence and injury were common. The violence of these mob-style games led to widespread protests and a decision to abandon them. Yale, under pressure from the city of New Haven, banned the play of all forms of football in 1860.


The game began to return to college campuses by the late 1860s. Yale, Princeton, Rutgers University, and Brown University began playing the popular “kicking” game during this time. In 1867, Princeton used rules based on those of the London Football Association. A “running game,” resembling rugby football, was taken up by the Montreal Football Club in Canada in 1868. On November 6, 1869, Rutgers University faced Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey) in a game that was played with a round ball and, used a set of rules suggested by Rutgers captain William J. Leggett, based on the Football Association’s first set of rules. It is still usually regarded as the first game of intercollegiate American football even though it bore no resemblance to the modern game. The game was played at a Rutgers field. Two teams of 25 players attempted to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal. Throwing or carrying the ball was not allowed, but there was plenty of physical contact between players. The first team to reach six goals was declared the winner. Rutgers won by a score of six to four. A rematch was played at Princeton a week later under Princeton’s own set of rules (one notable difference was the awarding of a “free kick” to any player who caught the ball on the fly, which was a feature adopted from the Football Association’s rules. The fair catch kick rule has survived through to modern American game). Princeton won that game by a score of 8–0. Columbia joined the series in 1870, and by 1872 several schools were fielding intercollegiate teams, including Yale and Stevens Institute of Technology.

By 1873, the college students playing football had made significant efforts to standardize their fledgling game. Teams had been scaled down from 25 players to 20. The only way to score was still to bat or kick the ball through the opposing team’s goal, and the game was played in two 45 minute halves on fields 140 yards long and 70 yards wide. On October 20, 1873, representatives from Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City to codify the first set of intercollegiate football rules. Before this meeting, each school had its own set of rules and games were usually played using the home team’s own particular code. At this meeting, a list of rules, based more on the Football Association’s rules than the rules of the recently founded Rugby Football Union, was drawn up for intercollegiate football games.

Harvard refused to attend the rules conference organized by the other schools and continued to play under its own code. While Harvard’s voluntary absence from the meeting made it hard for them to schedule games against other U.S. universities, it agreed to a challenge to play McGill University, from Montreal, in a two-game series. Inasmuch as Rugby football had been transplanted to Canada from England, the McGill team played under a set of rules which allowed a player to pick up the ball and run with it whenever he wished. Another rule, unique to McGill, was to count tries (the act of grounding the football past the opposing team’s goal line — it is also important to note that there was no end zone during this time), as well as goals, in the scoring. In the Rugby rules of the time, a touchdown only provided the chance to try to kick a free goal from the field. There were no points for the touchdown which was, and still is, called in rugby a “try,” that is, a “try at goal.”

Harvard quickly took a liking to the Rugby game, and its use of the try which, until that time, was not used in American football. The try would later evolve into the score known as the touchdown. On June 4, 1875, Harvard faced Tufts University in the first game between two U.S. colleges played under rules similar to the McGill/Harvard contest, which was won by Tufts. The rules included each side fielding 11 men at any given time, the ball was advanced by kicking or carrying it, and tackles of the ball carrier stopped play. Further elated by the excitement of McGill’s version of football, Harvard challenged its closest rival, Yale. The two teams agreed to play under a set of rules called the “Concessionary Rules”, which involved Harvard conceding something to Yale’s soccer and Yale conceding a great deal to Harvard’s rugby. They decided to play with 15 players on each team. On November 13, 1875, Yale and Harvard played each other for the first time ever. Among the 2000 spectators attending the game that day, was the future “father of American football” Walter Camp. Camp, who enrolled at Yale the next year, was torn between an admiration for Harvard’s style of play and the misery of Yale’s defeat (4-0), and became determined to avenge it. Spectators from Princeton, also carried the game back home, where it quickly became the most popular version of football.


Walter Camp is widely considered to be the most important figure in the development of American football. As a youth, he excelled in sports including track athletics, baseball, and association football, and after enrolling at Yale in 1876, he earned varsity honors in every sport the school offered. Following the introduction of rugby-style rules to American football, Camp became a fixture at the Massasoit House conventions where rules were debated and changed. Dissatisfied with what seemed to him to be a disorganized mob, he proposed his first rule change at the first meeting he attended in 1878: a reduction from fifteen players to eleven. The motion was rejected at that time but passed in 1880. The effect was to open up the game and emphasize speed over strength. Camp’s most famous change, the establishment of the line of scrimmage and the snap from center to quarterback, was also passed in 1880. Originally, the snap was executed with the foot of the center. Later changes made it possible to snap the ball with the hands, either through the air or by a direct hand-to-hand pass. Rugby league followed Camp’s example, and in 1906 introduced the play-the-ball rule, which greatly resembled Camp’s early scrimmage and center-snap rules. In 1966, Rugby league introduced a four-tackle rule based on Camp’s early down-and-distance rules.

Camp’s new scrimmage rules revolutionized the game, though not always as intended. Princeton, in particular, used scrimmage play to slow the game, making incremental progress towards the end zone during each down. Rather than increase scoring, which had been Camp’s original intent, the rule was exploited to maintain control of the ball for the entire game, resulting in slow, unexciting contests. At the 1882 rules meeting, Camp proposed that a team be required to advance the ball a minimum of five yards within three downs. These down-and-distance rules, combined with the establishment of the line of scrimmage, transformed the game from a variation of rugby football into the distinct sport of American football.


Camp was central to several more significant rule changes that came to define American football. In 1881, the field was reduced in size to its modern dimensions of 120 by 53 1⁄3 yards (109.7 by 48.8 meters). Several times in 1883, Camp tinkered with the scoring rules, finally arriving at four points for a touchdown, two points for kicks after touchdowns, two points for safeties, and five for field goals. Camp’s innovations in the area of point scoring influenced rugby union’s move to point scoring in 1890. In 1887, game time was set at two halves of 45 minutes each. Also in 1887, two paid officials—a referee and an umpire—were mandated for each game. A year later, the rules were changed to allow tackling below the waist, and in 1889, the officials were given whistles and stopwatches.

The last, and arguably most important innovation, which would at last make American football uniquely “American,” was the legalization of interference, or blocking, a tactic which was highly illegal under the rugby-style rules, and remains so.  At first, U.S. players would find creative ways of aiding the runner by pretending to accidentally knock into defenders trying to tackle the runner. When Walter Camp witnessed this tactic being employed against his Yale team, he was at first appalled, but the next year had adopted the blocking tactics for his own team.

So much for history. Here’s one of my favorite monologues by a young (and largely unknown) Andy Griffith – “What it Was, Was Football” – produced in 1953. The rural North Carolina accent alone is priceless, let alone the cheerful innocence of the country bumpkin.

Eating and football are natural twins in the United States. So-called tailgate parties are legendary in most stadium parking lots, where people come hours early and set up picnic and BBQ areas around their cars. The “tailgate” part comes from the old-fashioned use of pickup trucks for transport whose tailgate can be folded down to make a table for preparing and serving food. What I like about the idea of a tailgate party is that it is an outdoor picnic in autumn or winter. Most households in the U.S. see Labor Day (beginning of September) as the end of the picnic and BBQ season and shut up shop until the following Memorial Day in May. But I love cooking and eating outdoors in the colder weather.

Tailgating Football Fans --- Image by © Don Mason/Corbis

Tailgating Football Fans — Image by © Don Mason/Corbis

October was a great month for outdoor cooking for me because in the northeastern U.S. it is normally a dry month with warm, sunny days and starry nights – perfect for gathering around a roaring fire as light fades. This is the time for pig roasts and big gatherings. One year I held a campfire birthday party for my son (https://www.bookofdaystales.com/badger/ ) where his friends got to roast hot dogs and marshmallows on sticks whilst I cooked up a giant pot of chili over the coals (supplemented with fire-roasted potatoes and apples). It wasn’t elegant, of course, but great fun for everybody. Break the mold – eat outdoors today.


One commercial food was actually created specifically for tailgate parties – Palmetto Cheese, which was developed by Sassy Henry for tailgating at Atlanta Braves games. When Sassy and her husband, Brian, moved to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, they bought the Sea View Inn where the cook, Vertrella Brown, created the original recipe – a spread made from cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise and spices.   Brown’s image can be found on the label of Palmetto Cheese. In 2006, Sassy and Vertrella’s pimento cheese recipe made the leap from the Sea View Inn menu to the first 20 packages put for sale at Independent Seafood in Georgetown, South Carolina. Now it is widely available at major chains in the U.S. and comes in Original, Jalapeño and Bacon. I’m not a fan of pre-made spreads, but it’s your choice. Me? You’ll find me out back at the fire pit.

Jun 192015


On this date in 1846 the first officially recorded, organized baseball game was played under Alexander Cartwright’s rules on Hoboken, New Jersey’s Elysian Fields, with the New York Base Ball Club defeating the Knickerbockers 23-1. Cartwright umpired. Cartwright is one of several people sometimes referred to as the “father of baseball.” He is thought to be the first person to draw a diagram of a diamond-shaped baseball field, and the rules of the modern game are based on the Knickerbocker Rules developed by Cartwright and a committee from his club, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. Cartwright was officially declared the inventor of the modern game of baseball by the 83rd United States Congress on June 3, 1953.


Whilst he was a member of Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12 of the New York City Fire Department, Cartwright became involved in playing town ball (an older game similar to baseball) on a vacant lot in Manhattan. In 1845 the lot became unavailable for use, and the group was forced to look for another location. They found a playing field, the Elysian Fields, a large tree-filled parkland across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey run by Colonel John Stevens, who charged $75 a year to rent it. In order to pay the rental fees, Cartwright organized a ball club so that he could collect the needed money. The club was named the “Knickerbockers” in honor of the fire company. The Knickerbockers club was organized on September 23, 1845.


Creating a club for the ball players called for a formal set of rules for each member to adhere to, foremost among them to “have the reputation of a gentleman.” Cartwright, along with other players, formalized the “Knickerbocker Rules”:

Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise, and be punctual in their attendance.

When assembled for exercise, the President, or in his absence, the Vice-President, shall appoint an umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the By-Laws and Rules during the time of exercise.

The presiding officer shall designate two members as Captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played, observing at the same time that the players opposite to each other should be as nearly equal as possible, the choice of sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in like manner.

The bases shall be from “home” to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant.

No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.

If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the Club present at the time agreed upon to commence exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to take in members that may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present, at the making of a match.

If members appear after the game is commenced, they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.

The game to consist of twenty-one counts, or aces; but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played.

The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.

A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.

Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.

If a ball be struck, or tipped, and caught, either flying or on the first bound, it is a hand out.

A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.

A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base, is a hand out.

Three hands out, all out.

Players must take their strike in regular turn.

All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be decided by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.

No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.

A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.

But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.

It is likely that Cartwright et al picked some of these twenty rules based upon town ball play in Manhattan. The original rules of play at the vacant lot in Manhattan were not documented so it cannot be said which rules were Cartwright’s own invention. The twenty rules, the shape of the playing area, for example, differed from other early versions of baseball and from rounders, the English game commonly considered the immediate ancestor of baseball. Two of these rules — the one that abolished putting a runner out by hitting him with a thrown ball and the one that designated a foul as a do-over were clearly new.


As evidenced from these rules, the first games were played between teams made up of members of the club, filled in for by “gentlemen” onlookers if they did not have enough members to make up two teams. The formation of the Knickerbockers club, across the Hudson, created a division in the group of Manhattan players. Several of the players refused to cross the river on a ferry to play ball because they did not like the distance away from home.


Those players stayed behind and formed their own club, the “New York Nine.” On June 19 1846 these two different teams (from the same firehouse) played at Elysian Fields (thus giving us the name “field” for the site where baseball was played) . The two teams played with Cartwright’s twenty rules. Cartwright’s team, the Knickerbockers, lost 23 to 1 to the New York Nine in four innings (the length of the game being determined by the number of aces, that is, runs, scored by the winning team). Some say that Cartwright’s team lost because his best players did not want to make the trip across the river. Cartwright was the umpire during this game and fined one player six cents for cursing.


Over the next few years, the rules of baseball spread throughout the country. Baseball fast became a popular sport and drew spectators by the thousands – with reports of scores being written up in local newspapers. Cartwright’s rules would soon become part of the rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857, and gradually evolved into those used today. You can see, if you know the rules, that the core was there from the beginning.

What else can I use as a food to celebrate the first official game of baseball other than the hot dog? Unfortunately I’ve already waxed lyrical on the subject on several occasions. For example: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/rocky-horror-picture-show-opens/ Here People magazine comes to my rescue with an article on crazy foods available at MLB locations. Here’s the Crab Mac ‘n Cheese Dog from Oriole Park.


Check out this site for others including The Beast, the Broomstick, the Fiesta Dog, and the Krispy Kreme Donut Dog.