Mayer: KU-MU moved before
Lew Perkins and The Suits on Mount Oread stirred up a mess of pottage when they shifted the Nov. 24 Kansas-Missouri football game from the KU campus to Kansas City.
That’s supposed to dump a million bucks or so into the Jayhawk cash drawer, to hell with the mucho bucks the move on a Thanksgiving weekend will cost local people who’ve carried the load so long and so well.
But conflict involving KU, MU and Kansas City is at least a hundred years old. In 1907 both Kansas and Missouri rebelled over a Kansas City ripoff attempt and played their game in St. Joseph, Mo. The first 16 games had been in K.C.
It began on Aug. 22, 1907. KU athletics manager W.C. Lansdon informed the Lawrence Daily World that the Thanksgiving Day KU-MU game would be at McCook Field here rather than at the Association Ball Park in K.C. The park was owned by a baseball magnate, George Tebeau. Tebeau suddenly was demanding 25 percent of the gate receipts rather than the long-established 12.5 percent. No other K.C. field was suitable.
KU’s Lansdon said Tebeau’s 25 percent zinger was out of the question. One of the sub-headlines on The World story noted: “KC manager plays hog.” Rumor was that the Kansas City Star and Journal were peeved at KU and MU because they hadn’t been given some game tickets they counted on and put Tebeau up to the double-take to “discipline” the schools. Whatever, Lansdon wasn’t buying it.
But how could little McCook Field handle as many as 8,000 people anticipated for KU-MU? Lansdon said special bleachers were being arranged to seat at least 5,000 for the Nebraska game and that further arrangements somehow could be made to accommodate the MU visit. Without the Tebeau lug, both KU and Missouri stood to make more money than planned.
Sound familiar? Faculty people at KU and local businessmen long had felt the annual game should be on the respective campuses to help local economies. They were delighted. KU coach Bert Kennedy was “heartily in favor” and also preferred the annual battle the Saturday before Thanksgiving, “as they do in all the big eastern games.”
Then St. Joseph offered its League Park where its Western League baseball team played. St. Joe agreed to cover all the expenses and let the managers split the proceeds. Everybody seemed to benefit. A crowd of more than 10,000 was estimated, about 750 from KU and 350 from MU, the rest St. Joe-area enthusiasts.
Football fever up north? Not really. “People, men and women, who don’t know a tackle from an offside penalty got involved and went because it was fashionable. St. Joe never has had anything like this, and probably never will again,” one city official said. “It caught fire early and really took off.” But never again.
The teams cleared $2,000 each, far better than they would have done in K.C. or Lawrence, and Kansas fans were particularly happy. Sam Forter kicked a 40-yard field goal (worth four points then), and KU came home with a 4-0 victory and a 5-3 season record. The next season, Kansas roared to a 9-0 record and beat Missouri, 10-6, back in Kansas City.
All you have to do is mention KU and MU and you can drum up a sports hassle. Kansas changed the scene in 1907 and made a then-hefty $2,000. This year, Perkins and Co. will bring home 500 times that amount.