Saturday, July 16, 2011

Countdown to Kickoff: 48 Days...The Legend of George Connor

George Connor

The Legend of George Connor 

NOVEMBER 28, 1942--A football game that every Holy Cross football fan should never forget. 

This game between the storied Jesuit rivals, the pagans (haha) from Boston College and the loyal sons from Holy Cross, was played at Fenway Park. While Fenway may now be home to Red Sox Nation, on this blustery day back in 1942 it was filled with college football fans from all over New England and far beyond that as well. The estimated attendance was 40,000 but as the years went by you would have thought every citizen in Worcester County witnessed "the greatest football game ever played." 

Boston College came into this year end rivalry game with an unblemished record and a top national ranking. Led by The Brain, Eddie Doherty, the BC Eagles not only won their games but they took no prisoners in doing so. The lopsided nature of all their scores certainly allowed a few of the 'Eagle fans' to pick up a few extra bucks along the way. I distinctly recall a number of my boyhood pals salivating before the BC-HC game thinking that this would be'easy money'

While BC had run roughshod over their opponents, the loyal sons of Holy Cross had a decidedly mediocre record. Many of the Boston faithful believed the game would be a mere formality. In many regards, the game did become a formality, although certainly not as anybody had expected. In fact, thinking back upon it, there are moments when I still can not believe the near perfect performance displayed by the boys in Purple. It was truly unbelievable and pure delight.      

The Crusaders could not be stopped and absolutely dominated the entire game. 

The backfield play of Grigas and Bezemes truly excelled, both in running and passing. However, as every true football fan knows, the game is won and lost along the line of scrimmage and it was on that line of battle that the Cross turned the game into a rout. In the process, the legend of one George Connor was born. 

This young Irish stud from Chicago, along with his sidekick Jim Landrigan, manhandled the Eagles and their legendary lineman Gil Bouley. Whether it was trap left, trap right, straight up the gut, or around end, the boy wonder from the Windy City George Connor led the Purple up and down the field. 

The Cross led at halftime either by a score of 20-0 or 20-6. My memory of close to 69 years is not clear on this fact. However, the score of the first half was not important. 

The Cross as a team and Connor especially just got stronger and stronger and thrashed the Eagles throughout the second half scoring another 35 points. Any thoughts of mercy or feelings of pity for the boys from Boston were very short lived. 

The final score of 55-12 will remain etched in my memory forever. The performance of George Connor will as well.

I would maintain that this game is still the greatest upset in the history of college football. 

The tragedy of The Cocoanut Grove fire that November night certainly put everything in perspective but the legend of one George Connor was borne that afternoon and I was there to see it.  

I look forward to the evening of September 1st, when George Connor will take his rightful spot in the Holy Cross Ring of Honor. He deserves it based upon his performance alone on November 28. 1942.   

Bill Doyle '48


  1. Speaking with Hop Riopel about this game and his memories of the day and of his roll in developing the game plan was one of my most memorable moments on the Hill.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. Amen!!

    I played with a few men who played in that game.

  3. Rod De Leaver HC '74July 17, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    Guys you all do remember that Eddie "the Brain" Doherty coached HC starting the 1971 season.

    Coach Doherty always added a wrinkle a week coming from PAC 10's territory.

    In our season opener at Harvard, he decided to use my basketball jumping skills to block a P.A.T. and break the consecutive string at 63 for that kicker.

    He knew how to use and work his personnel. Joe Wilson and Eddie Jenkins had o. k. games, but our defensive front 8 with lots o's substitutions kept the Yarders guessing. We used only three stunts that game, and Jim Griffin played wherever he wanted and took no prisoners either.

    Where else, but the Cross, does a skinny 6 foot 5 inch, 220 pound basketball player, on a football Grant-in-aid scholarship, from East Baltimore's Dunbar High School, gets his name prominently mentioned in the New York Times's sports section. Holy Cross returns the favor - two years after their 1969 final loss to both Harvard and hepatitis.

    Thanks to Jim Griffin for pulling me off the field without incident after one of their OL tried to twist my wrist off with an illegal drop and roll manuvre after the blocked P.A.T. By the way the Referee did toss an unsportsmanship flag that allowed us to return their kick-off to their 45 yard line or so, and effectively we held the ball with 4 yard rushes and a cloud of dust.

    We floated back to Worcester after that game.

    September 1 st can't come soon enough.

    Rodney V. De Leaver

  4. I believe that the actual half-time score was 26-6. I was a BC fan then (still in HS). So was my Dad whose brother had graduated from BC. Dad had gone to MIT and thus had no other football loyalty.

    My father had a sideline pass and thus a pretty good view of the game. He talked of how Gil Bouley, who was an All American, (most of the starters on that team were All American, All East or All New England)... back to my father's talk of how they mousetrapped Gil Bouley all day long. He was totally ineffective,.

    He also told me that, at half-time, with the score 26-6 HC, there was no HC money to be found.

    Despite the score, everyone felt that BC would come back and win.. ).

    The only close game BC had that year was North Carolina Pre-Flight which was loaded with college stars, including a HC guy named Stanley Koslowski. That score was 13-6. I remember BC beat Georgetown, then big-time, 49-0. and Manhattan (28-0).

    Another tidbit: George S. L. Connor's uncle was Mgsr George S. L. Connor, pastor of Holy Name Church in Springfield, my parish. He was one of the early All Americans, having played for the Cross, graduating circa 1907.

    I hope you found this all of interest.

    Thanks for message on Connor. I saw him play that year against Syracuse (0-19) and Manhattan (28-0).

    I passed near him after the game...his wrists were bigger than my ankles.

    JF, HC