Eagle Feathers #66 – The Thanksgiving Miracle
By Bob (Monty) Doherty
If you look at the official city symbol of Worcester, Massachusetts, you will see that it is heart shaped. This image is symbolic because the city is located in the very center of Massachusetts, or the heart of the state.
On November 28,1942, Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross’ football team appropriately had “heart,” and their players’ hearts were beating on all cylinders. For this game, they played against the high-flying Eagles of Boston College, who had won the Cotton Bowl in 1940, the Orange Bowl in 1941 and, in 1942, were streaking toward another title. They were planning to make the mediocre Holy Cross football team their ninth straight win. Holy Cross’ record at that time was 4, 4 and 1.
The game was being played at Fenway Park to a sold-out crowd of fans from all over New England. Boston College, who was number one in the polls at that time, was considered good enough to be a professional team capable of destroying many in its path. The press considered the chance of a Holy Cross victory laughable, but by the end of the game the lowly Crusaders had humbled the mighty Eagles by a punishing score of 55 to 12.
The loss moved Boston College from number one to number eight in the standings, placing them in the Orange Bowl instead of the Cotton Bowl. Somerville’s Carl Lucas, a back-up quarterback got his chance to play in the Orange Bowl loss but shattered his leg seconds before half time. It sounds like an unlucky, tough break for Carl, but he and the Boston College team had been one fortunate football team. Had they won the Thanksgiving Day, Holy Cross game, the team would have attended a victory party at Boston’s Coconut Grove nightclub. That evening, the Grove fire took 492 lives; nine of the victims were Somerville residents.
George Graney, father of Somerville’s retired Fire Chief Tom Graney, was a five-year Boston fire fighter at that time. He was part of the initial fire crew to work at the scene of the horrible inferno. Six years later, this incredible man would establish the famous national, “Fill the Boot” drive for Muscular Dystrophy. To date, that drive has raised over $300 million.
Forty-two years after the Coconut Grove fire, Boston College won the 1984 “Miracle in Miami” game on November 23 against the number-one ranking University of Miami. It was won on a 48-yard, Doug Flutie pass, in cutting wind and pouring rain with zero time on the clock. Somerville’s Peter Casparriello, Boston College’s team captain and left tight end, had the best view in the house. As part of the play, he watched the “Flood Tip, Hail Mary Pass” complete itself in the crowded right end zone.
In the history of New England sports, the real miracle was not in Miami. It was 42 years earlier, when Boston College lost to Holy Cross on that fateful Thanksgiving Day.