Georgetown's Thanksgiving Football Game, 1894

Georgetown traditionally played a football game on Thanksgiving Day. In 1894, the opponent was the Columbia Athletic Club (C.A.C.). The game was expected to be a close one. Ten thousand people gathered at National Park, the home of the Washington Senators baseball team at Georgia Avenue and 5th Street, N.W., to watch.  Anticipation grew as the start time approached and the crowd had a festive air.  Fish-horns, cow-bells, and every device for making noise known to the small boy at Christmas time and the Fourth of July was forced into service to supplement the refined efforts of lung power to give expression to the pent-up feelings of the excited multitude, according to the Georgetown College Journal, November 1894.

on the way to the Thanksgiving football game 1894

On the way to the Thanksgiving football game, 1894.

The C.A.C. won by a score of 20-0 in what The Washington Post described as the fiercest football game ever played in Washington. Four Georgetown players were carried off the field injured, including right-half and captain George Bahen and quarterback Bob Carmody; one CAC player broke his collarbone. At one point, a sideline fight broke out between the substitutes for both teams.

The Post attributed many of the injuries to the hardness of the ground; Georgetown supporters thought otherwise and the Georgetown student body passed a resolution the following day stating that, in view of the methods employed by the C.A.C. in the game, no member of the Georgetown Athletic Association would compete in any athletic contest with representatives of the Club. A later decision by University President J. Havens Richards went further and suspended all football.

George Daniel Bahen, known as “Shorty,” was the most seriously injured player.  Medical assessment after the game suggested that his spinal injury would result in permanent paralysis, assuming he lived.  His family kept a constant vigil at his bedside. Friends from Georgetown College visited as did, to their credit, every member of the C.A.C. team after they had been assured by Bahen’s brother than he bore them no ill-will. 

Bahen benefit program

A benefit, organized by the Law Department, was held for Bahen on March 7, 1895 to raise money to cover his medical costs. Nineteen days later he died. A memorial to him made of Virginia blue granite stands in Mount Calvary Cemetery, close to the James River, in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. It bears the following inscription: George D. Bahen, born Jan. 12, 1874, died on the 26th of March, 1895, at Washington, D.C., from injuries sustained on Thanksgiving Day, 1894, in heroically upholding the Blue and Gray of Georgetown, on the field of athletics. 

Georgetown students did not field a football team again until 1897 when intramural play resumed.  Varsity play restarted in 1898.

Lynn Conway, University Archivist

December 19, 2016