By EARL COX
Okay, so much of Louisville no longer plans its Thanksgiving Dinner around the Male-Manual football game, but it remains a staple on the high school football menu.
The Old Rivals clash again at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Male.
For almost a century Manual Stadium was the place to be on Turkey Day. Then the game was shifted to Fairgrounds Stadium, but it just didn’t have the same atmosphere as when the Purples and Crimsons clashed at Manual Stadium.
When Male High moved into the building that was the home of Durrett High on Preston, the name of Male’s old stadium, Maxwell Field, went with it. The Durrett gym was renamed Glenn Gym for Harry “Pap” Glenn, long-time athletic administrator and basketball coach at Male
The present Manual Stadium was Kentucky’s biggest – bigger even than UK’s old Stoll Field – and the Wildcats used to play some of its Southeastern Conference games there. One memorable game was when the great Harry Gilmer led Alabama to a 60-19 thumping of UK in 1945. Georgia nipped the Cats 7-6 at Manual Stadium.
For a few years, when Paulie Miller produced spectacular teams at Flaget High in the West End, the St. Xavier-Flaget game drew well at the Fairgrounds. When Flaget was closed, newcomer Trinity High in St. Matthews started playing St. X and the rivalry has progressed to where it is now the biggest in the state with crowds of 30,000 or more at UofL’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Since Bob Beatty has been head coach at Trinity, he has developed the St. Matthews school into a national power (11th in the nation in USA Today’s rating) and no public school can compete with the Shamrocks.
When did Kentucky’s oldest football rivalry start?
In 1893. That’s right. The only years the Old Rivalry was not played was 1915-1919 when High School and Manual were consolidated.
That’s right, just High School. And that’s why to this day letter winners proudly wear their athletic sweaters with an “H” on them.
Many famous athletes and educators have played in the Thanksgiving Day games.
Ray Baer of Manual was a Michigan All-American who returned to coach St. Xavier. Baer was Jewish and he was known as Father Baer at the Catholic high school.
The Kuhn brothers starred in the Turkey Day games for Male. Charlie and Dave played at Kentucky and both returned to Male to coach, Charlie as head coach and Dave as an assistant.
Charlie and his friend George Sengel were on opposite sides during their high school days, but played together at UK and later coached together at Male.
Ab Kirwan left Manual as head coach to become the top coach at the University of Kentucky in 1938 and Male’s Wallace Butts left to take the top coaching position at the University of Georgia shortly after that.