Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Al's Last Run

Barabas Makes his Historic Run in the '34 Rose Bowl

Game of the Day (Day 81)

December 1, 1935

Columbia 13 Dartmouth 7

Most Columbia fans know the name Al Barabas and its significance. He was the back who scored the lone touchdown in Columbia's 7-0 win over Stanford in the 1934 Rose Bowl.

Barabas was just a sophomore then, and by his 1935 senior campaign he was a senior quarterback. But by that season most of the Rose Bowl stars were gone, and the Lions stumbled to a 3-4-1 record before the final game of his career against another team known as the "Indians", Dartmouth.

Still, 20,000 people showed up to Baker Field to watch the Lions finish a year that had already featured thrilling games against the likes of Michigan, Syracuse and Navy.

Columbia struck first in opening quarter with a one-yard QB sneak by Barabas into the end zone on fourth and goal. Barabas then kicked the PAT himself for the 7-0 lead.

Dartmouth knotted the score at 7 early in the second quarter and it remained that way until early in the fourth when back-up Lion junior halfback Joe Vollmer made a thrilling 63-yard dash for a touchdown that New York Times writer Joseph C. Nichols described in the following superb detail:

"(Vollmer) started around his own right end, apparently heading into a herd of Dartmouth tacklers. Just as a number of eager arms reached out to grab him, the nimble Columbia back reversed himself, stepped inside his own tackle, and crossed into Dartmouth's zone. There Vollmer was immediately surrounded by the Green secondaries and appeared to be stopped completely. But Nick Pistolas came to his rescue with a herculean effort that took two men out and left the path to the goal clear for the ball-carrier, except for the safety man, Joe Kiernan.

Vollmer had to take his chance with the safety and he went to it. He raced along the middle of the field as fast as his legs could carry him and Kiernan ran too, setting himself to gauge a tackle. Near the Dartmouth 10-yard line Kiernan lunged at Vollmer, got his hands on one arm, but could not hold him. Vollmer pulled away, still in stride, and raced to the goal line standing up."

I doubt even a major play in the Super Bowl would be described in so much detail nowadays.

Vollmer's run gave the Lions a 13-7 lead, but they fumbled the snap on the PAT try and the Green fans had plenty of reasons for hope. The Lions defense stepped up, however, and the lead held.

Columbia finished a respectable 4-4-1 with wins over VMI, Rutgers, Brown, and this most impressive win of all against the Indians.

For Barabas, it was a great way to finish his football career. But his time at Columbia was not over... not by a long shot. He still was a big star on the baseball team, and he had a strong senior campaign in the spring.

After graduation, he spent three years playing football with the old Brooklyn Dodgers and baseball with the Red Sox triple-A farm team in Little Rock, Arkansas.

He was a naval officer in World War II, and in 1960 returned to Columbia as executive director of the college's fund-raising office. He retired in 1977 as one of the most successful fundraisers in school history, (can you imagine asking alums for money after 1968?). Al Barabas died in January, 1988.


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