Who was Parke Davis?
Parke H. Davis was a contemporary of Walter Camp recognized by many as the "Father of American Football." Writing in the 1925 Football Guide, his friend and admirer, Parke H. Davis, recounted Camp's career at Yale: When he entered Yale in 1876 he instantly became one of the best all-around athletes in the university. In his undergraduate days he made every varsity team that existed in that period. He was pitcher and captain of the nine. He was halfback and captain of the eleven. He ran the hurdles and is credited at Yale with having invented the present hurdle step. In swimming he repeatedly won races from short distances up to five miles. In the rising game of tennis he was a leader. He rowed upon his class crew .... In 1876, when Captain Eugene V. Baker called for candidates for the Yale rugby team, freshman Camp was right there. Within a day or so, young Walter won the a regular halfback position. He was exceptionally fast and extraordinarily strong, but, more important for a rugby player, he was a terrific kicker, excelling at both punting and dropkicking. No doubt, he'd have been a star had he been a complete dodo (although he might have had trouble staying in Yale). However, when contemporaries spoke of Camp's outstanding abilities, the first thing always mentioned was his mind. Remember, the game of rugby was still new at Yale. New problems arose virtually every time the team went on the field whether in a game or practice. Camp always credited Eugene Baker with teaching him more about the game than anyone else, but it's obvious from the remembrances of teammates that Baker very soon treated Camp as an equal. In Davis words, Camp was "resourceful, courageous, thinking continually in terms of football, swiftly solving new situations, and indomitable." Despite his great abilities, Davis maintained that Camp was unlucky as a player, detailing several "breaks" that went against him. Although the stories told by Davis lose much of their tragic quality to a modern reader, they are worth recounting if only to show how the game was played in Camp's day: No player in the history of the game contended against greater misfortune in his scoring plays than Walter Camp. Four times in his career he actually accomplished scoring plays only to have them nullified. The first of these catastrophes occurred in the Princeton- Yale game of 1877. In the preliminaries to the game, Captain Eugene V. Baker of Yale exacted the special rule that touchdowns should not count at all in determining the score, but that the latter should be based upon goals alone. As the playing eventuated, Walter Camp, in the first half, catching a long, sailing punt, dashed 80 yards up the field through the entire Princeton team and made a touchdown. In the second half, getting the ball out of "scrum", Camp again dashed up the field, fifty yards. As he was crossing Princeton's line, he was sharply tackled by McNair, Minor, and Clarke thrown in, but, rising to his feet, he shook off his tacklers and by the great strength that was his forced his way over the line for a second touchdown. In both instances the try was missed. No score by either side occurred and the game technically thus ended in a draw, 0-0. His third misfortune came in the Harvard-Yale game of 1878. It is near the end of the first half. Wetherbee of Harvard has carried the ball almost to the Yale goal line, where it is lost. Watson and Camp of Yale, alternately carrying the ball, sweep down the field. Finally Camp bursts away and carries the ball to a point thirty-five yards from Harvard's goal line. Here, as he was about to be tackled, he suddenly stops in his flight, drops the ball, and, with a drop kick, lifts it high in the air. The ball spins down its groove directly towards Harvard's goal. While it is in the air the whistle sounds the end of the half. The ball continues accurately on its way and cleaves the posts high above the cross-bar. The rule in that period, however, terminated the half the instant the whistle sounded, and thus this brilliant goal was nullified. The fourth of these curious coincidences came in the Harvard-Yale contest of 1879. Again it was the closing moments of the first half. The ball is directly in front of Harvard's goal, but forty-five long and difficult yards away. Camp gets the ball out of "scrum" and essays to conquer the long distance by a goal from the field. He drops the ball, lifts it with a powerful kick, and the ball, spinning and tumbling, covers the long flight and crosses squarely between the posts. The referee, Bland Ballard of Princeton, however, has detected holding, and so the beautiful goal which would have won an otherwise scoreless game went for naught. Eligibility requirements were different in Camp's day from today's four year maximum, or, to be precise, there were no eligibility requirements at all except a generally accepted idea that a school's player should in some way be connected with the school. By 1880, Camp had graduated, but he continued his studies in the Yale Medical School, and so he also continued at his regular halfback slot on the rugby team in both '80 and '81. It was in '80 during the Yale-Harvard game that he made another big scoring play and this time it counted. With less than five minutes to play, he sent a 35-yard placekick through Harvard's goal posts for the first score of the game to lead a sensational Yale win.