Union College in Schenectady, New York has a football tradition that extends back to 1886. The Union College Dutchman have been playing football for 126 seasons. They did not play in 1906 due to the death of Harold Moore. It was this moment, in a game against New York University in late 1905 that Moore died, due to a kick in the head. That kick created a cerebral hemorrhage, which killed him. As fate would have it, Teddy Roosevelt was already actively campaigning for changes in rules in football due to his son playing at Harvard. After Moore’s death, Roosevelt helped create the NCAA, which implemented many rule changes, and has saved countless lives over the years.
10 years before the series of events which would change the game of football forever, the Union College Dutchmen were coached by E.M. Church, and their captain was J.G. Beckwith. They played a total of 9 games, and were 4-4-1. In preparation for the season, Beckwith and Church laid out the plays, and created a series of hand gestures that would be used to communicate the play from the coach to the player. This document is fascinating for many reasons. I love stuff like this, that makes sense to the people who create it, but is designed to be nonsensical to anyone else. This is also an example of how simple sports really were back then.First off, I love really old handwriting. My hand writing is awful, and the handwriting from the late 19th century looks astounding. For a document that is as old as it is, it is in great shape. It’s also interesting because if you look at it carefully, it is designed to make sense only to the people who are looking at it. To me, the words are written in such a way that if someone who isn’t a football player is reading it, they won’t understand.