by Dusty Luthy
* On Mondays, take a trip into Paducah’s football history with Dusty Luthy, a library clerk and former sports writer. We’ll explore Paducah’s firsts, bests and funny vignettes in between. *
It’s thought to be the second-oldest rivalry in the state of Kentucky, and one of the oldest and most prestigious even in the nation.
Mayfield Cardinals. Paducah Tilghman Tornado. Over 100 years of storied rivalry games officially dating back to 1911. The rivalry is so steeped the two programs can’t agree on exact records – each claiming the win during the 1911 season.
Unofficially, however, the rivalry dates back to the teams’ first meeting in 1904.
What we learned last week in this space is Mayfield traveled by morning train to Paducah’s Wallace Park baseball field on Oct. 22, 1904. Reports in the Paducah Evening Sun two days later included the headline “Football Game a Fizzle”, discussing how Mayfield brought a bunch of men to play a group of boys, and leading 12-0 after the first half, wouldn’t finish the game once Paducah beefed up its own roster.
However, a look into the The Daily Messenger, Mayfield’s newspaper, on Oct. 24, 1904 called the game “A Gentle Walk Over” on behalf of the Mayfield team.
Much was made over a difference in weights, one of only a few statistics easily gleaned at the time in the early days of the young sport. The Paducah team, the Messenger stated, averaged 128 pounds for “a total of 1408 pounds of goose egg material.”
Them’s fightin’ words nowadays.
The Mayfield team averaged 130 pounds, for a total of 1430. The 22-pound difference was enough, the Messenger declared.
The Messenger wasn’t completely biased against Paducah, perhaps almost complimentary: “The Paducah team had all the encouragement of many fair maidens at the Park but our boys were undaunted and went after the city boys in great shape, as the above result clearly shows.”
The 1904 meeting might have been enough to cement the rivalry, but the 1907 game alone would have etched it on immutable stone.
“Paducah High School Boys Return in Disgust” reads the headline of the Nov. 11, 1907 article in the Paducah Evening Sun. The short article only quotes an unnamed Paducah High School team member:
“Speaking about raw deals, we got one at Mayfield. We went through the lines four abreast and mopped up with the home boys. In the last half, when we had the score 5 to 0 in our favor, a fumble by one of the Mayfield boys was picked up by a Mayfield substitute, who made a touchdown. The substitute was not in the game. We played all around the boys, but they tried to take the game from us by fair or foul means.”
And if we have learned anything about history, sports, football or rivalries, we know there are two sides to every coin. The final score – a 5-5 tie – seems undisputed, at least. (Also, we’re slightly befuddled at a touchdown being considered 5 points, but we’re just reporting the facts here.)
The Mayfield Daily Messenger reported on Nov. 12, 1907 that there was a fair amount of disgust among Mayfield’s own ranks. The visiting boys, the article stated, began their “ugly tactics” as soon as the game began.
“The Paducah boys were a set of rowdies and tried in every way to injure the home boys and one made a break for his pocket as if to bring out a weapon,” the article said.
The article said the mood was “warlike” before the “big city dudes” vacated the grounds.
And to think, those goose eggs, ugly tactics and city boys got it all started.
In the past decade, the rivalry doesn’t look like too much on paper: Mayfield has won nine straight and Tilghman hasn’t scored more than three touchdowns against the Cardinals in 10 years.
But in any good rivalry, fortunes can change at the blow of a whistle. Check in Friday night at Tilghman’s McRight Field to see if the Tornado can end its longest program losing streak to the Cardinals.
For more information on sports, football, Paducah and all things periodical, visit us at the Local and Family History Department of the McCracken Count y Public Library. And if you like the photo with this story, be sure and check back later this week with our Digital Collection atwww.mclib.net for the full program from the 1933 Mayfield vs. Tilghman football game.
Join us next time as we delve into the early health effects football caused for local athletes in next week’s “Monday Night Football with Dusty”.
*Special thanks to Steve Millizer, former Paducah Sun sports editor, for supplying historical statistics.