March 22, 2011 in General
The history of American football is full of drama, surprises and just a touch of bravado. Take for example the four players who made up the backfield of the University of Notre Dame’s 1924 football team. The four now immortalized players were under the tutelage of the legendary Knute Rockne. The term ‘four horseman’ was coined by sportswriter Grantland Rice, known for his poetic style, and given an extra boost of publicity by a quick-thinking and clever student publicity aid. These two efforts combined to create what becam the most mythical quartet in football history, known as the ‘Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.”
The four players, quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, right halfback Don Miller, and fullback Elmer Layden had been decimating their opposition since 1922 when Rockne first put the four together. Both in 1922 and 1923 Notre Dame only lost two games, one each year, both to Nebraska in Lincoln.
Despite their amazing talent, to achieve the immortality that these talented boys deserved they needed a bit of help from two directions. Grantland Rice was a sportswriter for the New York Herald Tribune. Rice wrote a famous piece after witnessing the upset victory of Notre Dame over the excellent Army team in 1924 on October 18 by a score of 13-7.
“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.”
Next step was the famous photo. George Strickler was Rockne’s student publicity aide at the time who later became a sports editor of the Chicago Tribune. When the team returned to South Bend Strickler posed the four in their uniforms on horseback. The wire services pounced on the photo thus sealing the fate and immortality of the four.
“At the time, I didn’t realize the impact it would have,” Crowley said later. “But the thing just mushroomed. After the splurge in the press, the sports fans of the nation got interested in us along with other sportswriters. Our record helped, too. If we’d lost a couple. I don’t think we would have been remembered.”