The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
72,000 people filled Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13, 1926. It was ideal football weather for the Army-Notre Dame matchup.
Both teams were undefeated. Notre Dame, under the legendary Knute Rockne, hoped to be named national champion, but had to get by army. The game was an unremarkable defensive duel, played largely between the 30-yard lines, with a notable exception.
Sports writing nearly a century ago was, if anything, more theatrically gentile than it is today. Here is Alison Danzig, of the “New York Times:”
“Much had been said about the strength of the two teams and it was well that they were strong and rugged, for they certainly had to take punishment. No less than four first downs were made by each team in the opening quarter and every one of them was hewed out with straight rushing football by powerful, pile-driving backs.”
The first half ended with no score. Then things changed. Danzig again: “The second half had hardly got under way when Flanagan made his spectacular run. Receiving the kickoff, Notre Dame started from its 33-yard line, made four yards on two rushes, and then the ball was given to Flanagan.”
We turn to football writer Charles E. Parker, of the Boston Post: “Christy Flanagan, a broth of a boy with the blood of Old Erin in his soul, gave New York’s record gridiron gallery — 70,000 persons — the thrill of their lives and his team a dearly desired victory yesterday afternoon when he sprinted 63 yards down the cozy turf of Yankee Stadium to score the touchdown which enabled Notre Dame to Vanquish Army 7 to 0.
“Christy’s was a classic performance. It came on the third play of the third period in a football battle as tight and as tense as ever was waged. It came unannounced. But its suddenness only made it stand out the bolder, while the sensation it created crystallized into one of the noisiest albeit most orderly demonstrations the local ball yard has witnessed.”
Notre Dame went on to a 9-1 record that year. After beating such powerhouses as Army (which was also after a national championship), Georgia Tech, Penn State and Northwestern, the Irish lost to Carnegie Mellon, 19-0.
The one loss took Notre Dame out of consideration for the (first) national championship — which was considered a tie between Stanford and Lafayette.
Christie Flanagan was named first string All-American, twice, by the quasi-official namer, Ed Sullivan — the Ed Sullivan — who at the time was a respected sports writer at the New York Evening Graphic. Christie’s home was located at 448 Nashville Avenue, Port Arthur. His parents had bought the house on Nashville in 1906 from R.H. Woodworth, who moved to Rose Hill.
He had grown up in Port Arthur, with his three sisters and four brothers. He graduated from Port Arthur High School in 1923. The inscription under the graduation picture in his annual is: “An All-American athlete with an All-American smile a-riding up ole Procter Street at eighty bumps a mile.”
Christy had succeeded one of Rockne’s Four Horsemen, Jim Crowley, according to Bob West in a remembrance West wrote in the News on the occasion of Christie’s death in 1991. West also pointed out that, in addition to his All-America designation, Christy was Notre Dame’s leading rusher for three straight years; as of 1991 had the second best yards per carry in Notre Dame history, and he was fourth all-time in kickoff returns, behind Paul Hornung (although that changed).
Finally, West quoted Grantland Rice, dean of American Sportswriters, from Rice’s dispatch of November 13 1926: — “There was only one lone Horseman riding against the skyline of Fame when Notre Dame met the Army in their annual classic at Yankee Stadium this afternoon, but this time one Horseman was enough.
“His name was Flanagan — Chris Flanagan — a big, gangling, hard-running halfback with the speed of the wind that sweeps the prairies of the West.”
(A future column will discuss the Flanagan family, one of the original families in Port Arthur tied to the shipping trade.)
Rick Whitaker is assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave. Contact him at 409-985-8838 x2241.