By Invitation: My Father, My Grandfather, and a Goal Post by Morgan Kennedy

Morgan Kennedy lives in Darien CT with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children. He attended the College of the Holy Cross and Fordham Law School and currently works at Eminence Capital in NYC. I am certain that my Shestories readers will enjoy his essay.

One lost tradition of college football is tearing down the wooden goalposts at the end of the game. Until the late 1970’s most college football goalposts were constructed of wood, painted white, and shaped like an “H” rather than the current “Y”. After the final whistle the victorious fans, mostly college kids, rushed onto the field toward the end zone, rocked the goalpost viciously until it splintered, and literally tore it down. The ultimate goal was to reduce the uprights to smaller pieces of wood and then compete with the elated mob for your own authentic game souvenir to take home. All this, while the police and security simply looked on. Different era.

I first learned about this from my father who proudly participated in this ritual and had the “trophies” to prove it. The collection of wooden goalpost pieces my dad had  accumulated during his youth were proudly displayed in the garage of my childhood home. Some goalpost pieces were large and substantial, others were just small fragments. 

On each piece, there was a consistent format of documenting the origin and details in handwritten ink or paint: 

Army 27    Michigan 6     

October 14, 1950   

Yankee Stadium

Fordham 42   Georgetown 0    

October 29, 1949    

Polo Grounds

Growing up, I assumed assorted college goalpost pieces were standard American “garage stuff”, no different from a lawn mower or a snow shovel. This notion was reinforced in the garage of my mother’s childhood home where her father, my grandfather, also displayed a collection of goalpost pieces from various college football games. Across the broad side of each piece was the same sequence of handwritten information about its origin, transforming it from simple firewood to an object of historical significance:  

Navy 43    Army 12       

November 28, 1959      

Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia

My dad grew up in the Highbridge/Sacred Heart section of the Bronx, NY, three blocks from Yankee Stadium and in close walking distance to the Polo Grounds, a stadium since demolished but then home to the NY baseball Giants. He lived at home through high school and college and during those seven consecutive summer baseball seasons from 1949 – 1955, he worked at each stadium as a vendor of peanuts, hot dogs and beer. In six of those seven baseball seasons, either the Yankees or the Giants won the World Series. This was, some say, the Golden Era of New York baseball.

In the fall, both Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds also hosted college football games which my dad regularly attended as a non-ticket holding spectator, illegally hopping the fence at his places of employment along with his Highbridge buddies. It was at the conclusion of these college football games where he amassed his collection of goalpost pieces.

My wife and I each graduated from Holy Cross in the late 1980’s, where we met, and from Fordham University graduate school in the early 1990’s.  My dad, in recognition of our two alma maters, gave me a goalpost piece he had “acquired” as a teenager at a 1954 football game at the Polo Grounds between Holy Cross and Fordham. 

The piece is roughly two feet long, the white paint dull and faded, with jagged raw exposed wood at one end where it had splintered from the larger goalpost. On the face of the piece, he memorialized the event with the following inscription:

Holy Cross 21   Fordham 19     

November 13, 1954    

Polo Grounds  

I was happy to have the unique item involving both Holy Cross and Fordham and after displaying it in my house for a few days, I followed my dad’s example and found a more appropriate spot in my garage for my wooden treasure.

Fifteen or so years later, I received an unexpected package in the mail from my Aunt Susan, one of my mother’s siblings. Susan explained that decades earlier, when emptying my grandparent’s New Jersey home after they had passed, she had taken with her a box from the garage that included her father’s collection of goalpost pieces.  Reviewing them all these years later, Susan thought I might be enjoy having this particular memento.    

My grandfather, a judge, enjoyed attending college football games with his family. Though dressed in the era appropriate tie, jacket, topcoat and hat, he was prone to charge the field at the end of these games, enter the fray of goalpost destruction, and emerge from the melee with a piece of the goalpost. Once home, he too would record the game details on the face of the fragment and then add it to his garage collection of goalpost pieces.  

Studying the newly arrived faded old white goalpost piece from my maternal grandfather’s collection, I understood why Susan thought of me and I was thrilled to read the inscription and learn that it was also from a football game between Holy Cross and Fordham. Curious, I brought my grandfather’s piece to my garage and found the piece my father had given me years earlier from his own collection gathered during his youth in the Bronx.

Holding the two pieces side by side, I realized I was looking at two pieces of the same goalpost. The game statistics scrawled across each piece were identical:  

Holy Cross 20   Fordham 19   

November 13, 1954    

Polo Grounds

Though they had not yet met, my then 19 year-old father from the Bronx and his then 49 year-old future father-in-law from New Jersey had each been at the same 1954 game at the Polo Grounds between Holy Cross and Fordham. They had each rushed the field afterward and participated in the goal post destruction ritual. I imagine the two of them in the end zone scuffle, successfully competing shoulder to shoulder for the same souvenir, and then going their separate ways.  

The coincidental connection from the Polo Grounds end zone was never made while they were each alive but now, 65 years later, that connection is made and their respective prizes from the 1954 version of the Holy Cross-Fordham football rivalry are reunited in my own garage.  

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