Over the next 10 days, the Prox will be recapping one year in Princeton sports from the 1950s. Why? Well, as we near the end of 2010, why not take a look back 60 some odd years and see what sports looked like before many of our parents were born. We start, unsurprisingly, with 1950.
By Hilary Bartlett '12
Though the tradition of sportsmanship and excellence remains unchanged, Princeton athletics in 1950 barely resemble the Princeton athletics of today. Though certain sports teams like football and basketball were comprised of committed athletes in 1950 as they are today, Princeton also fielded teams in smaller, lesser-known sports on a much more casual basis. In many ways these teams operated similarly to Princeton’s current club sports, which have informal practices and fewer competitions.Sports like polo, riflery, cricket, and box lacrosse cropped gained University support in an era of Princeton athletics defined more by the “casual, all-around sportsman,” than the highly-competitive, single-sport athlete.
1950 marked the first full year of competition for Princeton’s budding rifle team, for example. The squad competed in “postal matches,” according to a 1950 issue of the Daily Princetonian, which means that all firing was done on the team’s home range and results were communicated to opposing teams by mail to determine the winner. Harvard was the only Ivy League school to outshoot the Tigers at the William Randolph Hearst National Rifle Matches, where Princeton placed 18th out of 73.
In more conventional college sports, however, 1950 was a very successful year for Princeton. George Chandler ’51 captained the Princeton Football team to an undefeated season in which Princeton won the Lambert Trophy as the top team in the East and was named the national champion by leading polls. Dick Kazmaier ’52, the future Heisman Trophy winner, was named an All-American for the 1950 season, and Princeton head coach Charles Caldwell ’25 was elected National Coach of the Year.
Men’s basketball won the Eastern Intercollegiate Championship in 1950 and to demonstrate the team’s balanced play, for the first time in history the entire starting line-up won the B. Franklin Bunn Trophy, the annual award presented to Princeton’s most outstanding player. Princeton’s 1950 offense became the highest-scoring unit in school history with 1307 points in 23 games and its five starters were known as the “iron-men” for their strong play.
As I was rummaging through Daily Princetonian archives, I found a letter written to the editor by the “iron men” that requested “the Undergraduate body to refrain from booing opposing teams and referees at basketball games.” Though the level of competition in college sports across the country has increased since 1950 and Princeton itself has moved away from cultivating the “casual, all-around sportsman,” Princeton’s 1950 men’s basketball team exemplifies the combination of athletic excellence and sportsmanship that Princeton will forever strive to instill in its student-athletes, regardless of the decade.