Today in History

Today in History: September 16

Amos Alonzo Stagg

A. A. Stagg
A. A. Stagg,
c 1906.
Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

No coach ever won a game by what he knows; it's what his players have learned.

Amos Alonzo Stagg

On September 16, 1960, college football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862-1965), then ninety-eight years old, announced his retirement after seventy years on the field. Stagg's career coincided with the evolution of the game from an amalgam of soccer and rugby into American football as we know it. Stagg also coached track, baseball, and basketball.

Football Team
University of Chicago Football Team Posing in Front of a Fence, Coach Alonzo Stagg is Standing on the Left Side of the Image,
Photographs from the Chicago Daily News

Born and raised in West Orange, New Jersey, Stagg played football and baseball for Yale University. He attended Yale as a divinity student and graduated in 1888. In 1890, he began his career as a football coach at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (now Springfield College), where he also was a graduate student and faculty member.

Prior to the television age, football was a college sport. A master strategist, Stagg is credited with many innovations in the game of football—from formations and plays to equipment and uniforms. His innovations include the lateral pass, tackling dummy, fake punt, quick-kick, and backfield shift, as well as padded goal posts, and uniform numbers. The "Grand Old Man of the Midway" also helped to organize the Big Ten Conference (then known as the Western Conference) and served on the first rules committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Stagg retired as coach from the University of Chicago Maroons in 1932 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of seventy. He remained an active college coach until 1960 when he stepped down from his position as an advisory coach—a volunteer job that he held for seven years—at Stockton Junior College. He was elected a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as both a player and a coach and was enshrined as a contributor to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.

Learn more about football in American Memory:

Cry of Dolores

My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.

Cry of Dolores, attributed to Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, September 16, 1810.

The Palace from the Cathedral, city of Mexico
The [National] Palace from the Cathedral, city of Mexico,
William Henry Jackson, photographer,
between 1880 and 1897.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

Early on the morning of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the largely Indian and mestizo congregation of his small Dolores parish church and urged them to take up arms and fight for Mexico's independence from Spain. His El Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, which was spoken—not written—is commemorated on September 16 as Mexican Independence Day.

Father Hidalgo was born into a moderately wealthy family in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City, in 1753. He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the authorities, however, by openly challenging both church doctrine and aspects of Spanish rule by developing Mexican agriculture and industry.

In 1803, Hidalgo accepted the curacy of the small parish of Dolores, not far from his native city of Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he directed most of his energy to improving the economic prospects of his parishioners. He also joined the Academia Literaria, a committee seeking Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Guanajuato, Mexico
Guanajuato, Mexico,
William Henry Jackson, photographer,
between 1880 and 1897.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

In September 1810, Spanish authorities learned of the group's plot to incite a rebellion. On September 13, they searched the home of Emeterio González in the city of Queretaro where they found a large supply of weapons and ammunition. Warned of his impending arrest, Hidalgo preempted authorities by issuing the El Grito de Dolores on the morning of September 16. Attracting enthusiastic support from the Indian and mestizo population, he and his band of supporters moved toward the town of San Miguel.

The rebel army encountered its first serious resistance at Guanajuato. After a fierce battle that took the lives of more than 500 Spaniards and 2,200 Indians, the rebels won the city. By October, the rebel army, now 80,000 strong, was close to taking Mexico City. Hidalgo, fearful of unleashing the army on the capital city, hesitated, then retreated to the north. He was captured in Texas, then still a part of the Spanish empire, and executed by firing squad on July 31, 1811. After ten more years of fighting, a weakened and divided Mexico finally won independence from Spain with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba on August 24, 1821.

Learn more about Mexico: