The famous Tailgate for the Navy Football team’s Homecoming celebration preceded the game against Delaware University. On a spectacular day, like many a perfect fall Saturday for any outdoor activity, with a clear blue sky and seventy-five degree weather, the tree leaves glistened with sparkling red, yellow, and shades of brown hues this glorious day, so different from our first drizzling grey experience upon arrival.
(Annapolis walking up Main Street toward State Circle: Click on all photos to expand)
Andy Douglas and his wife, Barbara, joined us for a walk through the city to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. We purchased the tickets from another roommate of mine, Mike Pemberton, who had to offer them to the first buyer when he couldn’t make the Reunion. Mike was trying to sell his house in Ventura, California and had unexpected delays. He and I communicated to arrange the transfer and ever since became golfing friends.
(Famous Naval Academy Tailgate Shuckers of Oysters)
Eventually we arrived at the Stadium and walked directly to the most amazing Tailgate ever. Under large white canvas canopies, tables with everything you might expect at ritzy Hotel Del Coronado stood inviting everyone. In the middle people hovered alongside a huge salad bar with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, melon, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, pineapple, apples, oranges lettuce, olives, radishes, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, avocado, red peppers, bacon chips, walnuts, and a wide selection of salad dressings. At the end of the salad bar at least a hundred Bloody Mary cocktails stood waiting for takers at a table where many classmates sipped them mingling with the crowd. Caterers constantly replaced the tall concoctions with celery, olives and horseradish as they disappeared.
(Sumptuous offerings of the Tailgate)
So many classmates from other companies appeared I met friends I had not seen for forty years. Next to the Bloody Mary table, a man in a Budweiser uniform dispensed ice cold Bud Light or Michelob into convenient sixteen-ounce paper cups. To the right outside of the canopy three caterers shucked raw oysters they pulled from barrels of ice. The aroma of roasted garlic, fresh herbs, and oysters fusing into rich chowder lingered beside the shuckers in huge vats. A table with Styrofoam soup bowls stood alongside with plastic spoons, forks, and knives.
(Tables under Tarpaulin for Class of 64 Tailgaters)
A carving table for prime rib roast beef, smoked turkey, and spiral honey glazed ham stood on the other side of the salad bar with a table alongside for rye, wheat, and sourdough bread. All the condiments appeared alongside stacks of paper plates and napkins. Another covered area had more than fifty circular tables that sat eight tailgaters. The next table contained soft drinks, lemonade, ice tea, coffee, and stacks of plastic cups. Across the way, an open bar with bottles of red, rosé, and white wine invited all comers. Another table with vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, and rum with stood next to another full of mixers and ice where many tailgaters gathered with drinks.
(Kathy and Rich Umfrid enjoy ice cream bars for dessert)
Ray Snyder I knew from the Academy baseball team, sat at a table nearby. He attended Long Beach Millikan High and played halfback on the football team and second base on their baseball team. Having tackled him many times as the safety for Long Beach Jordan after he broke away from our lineman, we had much to discuss. Fast, muscular, and always full of energy during a game and cool, calm and collected afterwards, Ray played any sport with intensity and great skill. He mentioned he had served as a Marine and lived in San Diego area. “Are you going to play in the alumni softball game with the other baseball players in our class?” he asked.
“I didn’t receive an invitation and know nothing about it.”
“That makes no sense. I’ll see what I can do to get you on our softball team. I can’t believe what an incredible Plebe baseball season you had. You hit everything they threw at you Plebe year!”
“Yeah, I had a great year then but after that I had to deal with Joe.”
“Joe never gave me any trouble.”
“I know you did well under him, but he got under my skin until I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and eventually quit.”
“Look me up when you are in San Diego and we’ll play some golf.”
“You can find me at the Lowe’s if you find out I can play ball.”
Joan and I carried our plates full of oysters, roast beef, and salad with Bloody Mary’s in hand when I noticed another baseball player,Chuck Pinney, seated at a nearby table, “Hey Chuck, remember me?”
“Yeah Dan, how could I forget. I just told someone Roger Staubach beat me out of an outfield position on the baseball team that wasn’t too bad. How’re you doing?”
“I’m feeling very fine right now. This is my wife, Joan.”
“Glad to meet you Joan, I knew Dan on the baseball team.”
“Well, we’re going to sit over there with some of my 20th company classmates. Good to see you again.”As we made it to a table with Charles and Elisabeth Heath, I had to laugh about Chuck’s remark, he had such a “gung-ho” attitude that made him a natural for the Marine Corps.
(Naval Academy Cheerleaders held up high Singing and Yelling Cheers)
Halfway into our meal the Naval Academy Cheerleaders arrived to energize the alumni with a strong dose of Navy spirit in preparation for the Delaware game an hour from starting. Shapely and attractive female midshipmen, or should it be midshipwomen, performed admirably making me glad they had advanced into areas only men previously filled. Their hard sensual bodies made me wonder how smooth the transition first occurred.
(Lon Cooke Shouting a word of Encouragement Looking for Seats before Game)
Since that time, unfortunately, a number of Naval Academy Midshipmen, like Air Force Academy, and West Point Cadets, had sexually abused some women. That criminal behavior ended in severe discipline and expulsion from the Academies for some and at least one criminal prosecution. Regardless of that dark side of the relationship, these cheerleaders seemed a welcome addition to the fighting spirit of the Naval Academy Football Team. They performed a pre-game series of acrobatic maneuvers and rousing cheers and songs. When they concluded we gave them a standing ovation.
(Naval Academy Choir Warming up before Football Game)
Harmonic voices drifted through the stadium from it’s loudspeaker system magnifying the men’s choir singing“The Star Spangled Banner” a cappella. Since I belonged to two choirs and loved singing, I quickly moved to a location close enough to see the singers. The Naval Academy Choir, stood behind their director, warming up for the game, and began by singing Navy Blue and Gold. Their rendition sung with feeling in four-part harmony sent chills down my spine. They measured up to my highest expectations as I moved even closer with Joan.
(Navy Mascot Billy The Goat with Handlers before Game)
The sound of drums in cadence with the Naval Academy Marching Band signaled the Brigade had entered the stadium. The crowd had nearly filled the stadium, so Andy, Barbara, Joan and I made our way to the end zone with the alumni. By the time we found our seats through the crowd, the Brigade had filled half of the football field. We watched the precision of the midshipmen making their column right maneuver to the end of the next available portion of the football field.
(Brigade Beginning a Column Left Maneuver before Game)
Each company filed in one by one until all twenty-four filled the field. On command, they shouted in unison a cheer to beat their opponent for today’s game, the Delaware University Blue Hens. That name should not fool anyone into thinking Navy faced a weak team. First in the Atlantic-10 Conference, they had won six of their seven games and led East Coast colleges sending many graduates to the National Football League.
(Brigade Facing Choir and Home Crowd before Game)
After shouting a cheer for Navy, the Brigade on the next command made a classy about-face in unison. They acknowledged the Delaware supporters with a cheer for the Blue Hens followed by tipping their white dress caps toward the opposing fans. Joan mentioned she had never seen such an act of good sportsmanship at any football games she attended in Chicago or at the University of Florida. After the game went back and forth with neither team dominating the score, half time intervened.
By the time the players returned to the field a group of huge Delaware fans some said were their freshman team because of their size, lined up behind the alumni section. They loudly screamed for their team during the most of the third quarter. Some of them made snide and obscene remarks to the alumni fans that offended a few who had more than enough alcohol to challenge them verbally from their seats. Many of us yelled back remarks to their solid line of brutes abusing us with obnoxious taunts to everyone in the Navy end zone section.
Fortunately, Navy got a few breaks, made some good runs and passes to win the game 34-20 overwhelming the Blue Hens and silencing the despicable hoodlums standing behind us. The Brigade with the Naval Academy Choir and Band played and sang with Navy fans standing, a traditional song the midshipmen sing at the end of every football game:
(Naval Academy Choir Singing the National Anthem Facing Brigade)
NAVY BLUE AND GOLD
Now, colleges from sea to sea
May sing of colors true.
But who has better right than we
To hoist a symbol hue?
For sailors brave in battle fair
Since fighting days of old
Have proved a sailor's right to wear
The Navy Blue and Gold.
GO NAVY – BEAT ARMY!