Charles L. Yeager
September 25, 1930 – November 3, 2019
YEAGER - Charles L. November 3, 2019. Son of the late Orson and Dorothy Yeager; survived by many loving friends. Friends may call Saturday 10 AM - 12 PM at the DENGLER, ROBERTS, PERNA FUNERAL HOME, 3070 Delaware Ave., Kenmore. Charles was a retired insurance executive with Yeager and Durant Insurance. He attended Nichols School, was a 1953 graduate of Yale, and member of Yale’s Wolf Head Society. He was also a member of the Cherry Hill Golf Club and Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club. Go to our website to read the NY Times article about Charlie’s famous catch in the 1952 Yale Harvard Game. www.denglerrobertspernafuneral.com
Fifty Novembers later, Harvardians still bristle at the memory of this ultimate Yale football insult.
It was Nov. 22, 1952. There were still four minutes left in the third quarter, and there was Yale lining up for yet another extra-point conversion in this Harvard nightmare -- the score was 40-7 and counting.
As 38,111 people in Harvard Stadium watched on a dark and drizzly afternoon, Yale quarterback Ed Molloy knelt as the holder for place-kicker Bob Parcells. Molloy had just completed his fourth touchdown pass, a 57-yarder to Ed Woodsum.
But upon taking the snap, Molloy sprang upright and rolled to his right.
You could almost hear a collective gasp from Harvard fans. What was going on here? What kind of cheap, rub-it-in trick was this?
Molloy spotted his target, a 5-foot-5, 138-pound senior wearing an unsoiled blue jersey, No. 99. Molloy lobbed the football into the end zone, where No. 99 clutched it for dear life and forever inscribed the name Charles Yeager into Harvard-Yale lore.
Of the 2,922 points scored in the history of The Game, there has not been another one like this one. It is the only one ever scored by an undergraduate team manager.
''Nothing has gotten me the notoriety that this one play has,'' Charlie Yeager said recently from his home in Buffalo. ''And I guess it will be with me forever.
''I still hear about it all the time, particularly from Yale and Harvard people.''
He will, no doubt, hear about it Saturday, when the Bulldogs and the Crimson play for the 119th time. It is the 50th anniversary of Yeager's pre-Rudy, as he calls it. He will not be returning to Harvard Stadium, but will be watching The Game on closed-circuit television in Rochester, where the city's Yale Club will be host to alumni from the two universities. He will make the hour drive from Buffalo with a Harvard man, his close friend and business partner for 25 years, Web Durant, a catcher on the 1949 Crimson baseball team.
While some Cambridge die-hards with long memories look humorlessly upon this devilish twist to the 1952 game, Yeager said no meanness or humiliation was intended.
''The idea certainly was not to embarrass Harvard,'' said Yeager, 72, a retired insurance executive. ''It really was kind of a Walter Mitty fantasy thing.''
Yeager suspects Jordan Olivar, then Yale's coach, regretted the stunt afterward, but Yeager feels the exploit may have helped to preserve this ancient football rivalry.
''I doubt that Jordan had any idea of the huge impact, how Harvard would be outraged and consider it such an insult,'' Yeager said. ''I suspect he was kind of sorry afterward because of the repercussions.
''Yet the incident may have helped Harvard. Its football program had been going through tough times, and there even was talk of dropping the sport. But this so fired up everyone in Cambridge that it rallied them behind football. At least that's what I've been told by a number of Harvard people.''
Noting that Harvard responded in 1953 by defeating Yale, 13-0, Yeager added: ''So, perhaps I did Harvard a favor.
''Sure, it was kind of a slap, but it all began innocently enough.''
As Yeager tells it, Angelo Bertelli, the 1943 Heisman Trophy quarterback from Notre Dame, joined Yale's coaching staff in 1952, and every day before practice the student manager would ask him to throw passes to him for the fun of it.
''Olivar noticed and took interest in this small guy who worked so enthusiastically at catching a football,'' said Yeager, whose only experience had been in six-man football at Milford (Conn.) Academy. Olivar told Yeager that he would put him in for an extra point in the last game if the opportunity presented itself. Yeager promised to practice his place-kicking.
'' 'No, no -- we'll throw the ball to you,' '' Yeager said he was told. '' 'Continue to work on your pass-catching.' ''
Yeager did, and it became sort of a team joke the rest of the season.
''On the Friday morning before the Harvard game,'' Yeager recalled, ''I drew a uniform and equipment for our final workout at New Haven. That's when we practiced the play for the only time -- in warm-up suits before catching the train to Boston.''
On Saturday, Yale led by 27-7 at the half, and Olivar told Yeager to suit up. Then, late in the third quarter, Molloy hit Woodsum on that 57-yard pass. Yeager didn't even have time to get nervous.
''Boom -- on one play we go from around our 40 to Harvard's end zone,'' Yeager said, ''and now here I am running onto the field.''
It was David among Goliaths, and as he lined up for the play, David felt fear on two counts.
''I knew there was a distinct possibility I might get creamed,'' Yeager said. ''I also knew I could mess up and drop a perfectly good pass.''
As it happened, Yeager, lining up at right end, was a little slow getting off on the count and was belted by a Harvard defender trying to block a point-after kick. Teams always kicked in those days, because all conversions counted for 1 point no matter how they were scored.
''The whack I'd taken spun me around and knocked me into our right tackle, Pete Radulovic,'' Yeager said. ''Pete propped me up and actually shoved me across the goal line, and I reeled into the end zone.
''Now here comes Molloy rolling out, and he can't find me. So he's sprinting for the corner with a posse of Harvard players chasing him. Ed could have run it in himself, but spotted me toward the back of the end zone and just flipped the ball to me on what by now was something of a busted play.
''Thank God, I caught it.''
Inexplicably, he began running with it.
''I grabbed the ball and ran as fast as I could,'' the excited 22-year-old Yeager is quoted in news accounts after the 41-14 trouncing. It was Harvard's most lopsided loss to Yale since 1884. Reminded that he was already in the end zone when he caught the ball, Yeager said: ''Yes, but I had to get out of there so I wouldn't get hit. Do you think I wanted to get killed?''
Yeager did not get far, because his teammates embraced him as Crimson players wondered what all the fuss was about for the 41st point of a blowout.
While the gleeful Bulldogs romped in the end zone and along their sideline, there was confusion in the press box. No. 99 was not listed on the rosters. An Eli publicist, Stan Benoit, trotted down the 100-plus stairs to solve the mystery. The public-address announcer, Charlie Dale, broke the news of No. 99's identity.
''I can still hear the awful groan from the Harvard side,'' Yeager said, ''and the cheering from the Yale side.''
The deed attracted national attention; Life, Time and The Saturday Evening Post published articles.
While Old Blues were delighted, Harvardians thought it all unconscionable and unsporting. A half-century later, some are still furious: one, Francis Duehay (class of '55), a former mayor of Cambridge, last week labeled the incident ''inexcusable.'' Still.
Yet Yeager says he has encountered no hostility or hard feelings from Harvardians over the years.
''To the contrary,'' he said, ''Harvard people have always been invariably nice about it, most gracious and gentlemanly. There's never been an ugly comment or incident.
''And except for a couple of negative comments in the press at the time, it's been that way from the start.
''Not long after that game, when I went home for the holidays, I was contacted by the publisher of a Syracuse newspaper. He was a Harvard man and invited me to address the Harvard Club there. They were wonderful and presented me with a Harvard chair, and I've gotten great use from it all these years.
''Even the Harvard players have been most cordial. Like John Nichols, the captain. He told me he was madder than hell the day it happened, but has no hard feelings.
''So it's all been a wonderful experience for me, and the topic has led to a lot of pleasant associations.''
The broadcaster Jim Lampley made a videotape of the play for Yeager from the original 16-millimeter film.
It clearly recaptures the day a puny Yale football manager made his point at Harvard Stadium and instantly became a legend at two great universities.
- Visitation Saturday, November 9, 2019
Charles L. Yeager
November 21, 2019
Another tale of Chuck's athletic prowess - As an inveterate member of the Class C division at Cherry Hill Club, our friend Chuck Yeager was persistent in working on his golf game, both on the course and on the range. Words cannot describe the joy it brought Chuck when he scored a hole-in-one on the 16th hole many years ago. At the time there was no hole-in-one insurance in effect, therefore, the burden was on the individual to buy everyone a celebratory drink.
Chuck graciously offered "drinks for the house!" Now, Chuck had long since ceased to patronize the 19th hole, so he headed off to the practice range to "work on his game." Some time later, a young busboy came running from the Clubhouse to the range, proclaiming, "Mr Yeager, Mr. Yeager, the bar tab is up to $700!"
Chuck turned away from addressing the ball and calmly said, "When it gets to a thousand... cut it off." And Chuck resumed his address...
November 18, 2019
I still talk about our trip to Ithaca for Yale-Cornell football game and our driver ran out of gas about 10 miles outside Ithaca. We still made it for kickoff. Also remember night at Saturn Club with your fellow Yalies, Joe Dufek, Seymour H, for dinner. I was a kid growing up in New Haven when you scored the point after against Harvard. Ed Molloy, who threw you that pass, was one of my favorites.
November 15, 2019
Thank you for your kindness and knowledge that you shared with me. We will miss you at park lane💕
November 15, 2019
We always enjoyed having you at our surprise family birthdays hosted in the library at the Park Lane... Rest In Peace ❣️
November 9, 2019
A true gentleman, Mr Yeager was always kind and caring. We will miss talking with him at the T&S and seeing him walking on Elmwood (oftentimes in his Buffalo Bills jacket, what a fan!).
November 7, 2019
Charlie, my friend, Rest in Peace. Wonderful, fun times! I enjoyed all the fun lunches, Bill's games and talking history with you! I'll never forget you & your wonderful stories of old days! Judge Bill Boller.
November 7, 2019
Charles "Tony" Yeager lived across the street and our families were great friends. I have lots of wonderful memories of visiting the Yeagers and their maid, Adelaide. Dorothy and Orson Yeager were real characters. Tony was a great history buff and I loved to get him talking about it. He had a motorbike and gave us rides; he was a super guy and as nice as could be.
November 7, 2019
I always enjoyed knowing you, sharing some Thanksgivings, and having you as a tennis partner.