C.M. Woolley, Yale & Polo

Clarence Mott Woolley Jr. led, for a time, a charmed existence.

Clarence Mott Woolley Sr. made central heating possible in America by providing cast iron radiators for millions of homes; for this, he was well compensated, so young Clarence’s educational options were not limited. He attended Phillips Andover and then Yale. Because his father had a ranch in New Mexico (reached by a railroad of which he was a director), and the ranch had a polo field, the younger Mott Woolley arrived at Yale with a grip on the rudiments of the game.

He was joined on the polo team by Alan Lyle Corey Jr., who had learned to play polo as a student at Aiken Prep in South Carolina; he was already a veteran of play on the polo fields of Long Island when he arrived on campus.

Also on the Yale team was Collister Johnson, a similarly gifted young terror. Together, they inspired New York Times headlines like “Yale Polo Squad Crushes Harvard.” In that particular indoor game, Corey and Johnson each scored nine goals, Mott Woolley had seven, and one of the Yale ponies scored as well to make it 26-6 on a day best forgotten by fans of Harvard polo.

Clarence Mott Woolley graduated in 1939. That summer, he was playing in the Brook League at Meadow Brook, in Westbury, Long Island. Alan Corey was at Meadow Brook, too, playing on Tommy Hitchcock’s team. On July 5th, Woolley was playing at #1 for Broad Hollow against East Williston when his pony’s front legs became tangled with the rear legs of a pony ridden by Winston Guest. Woolley’s pony went down, and the young man struck his head. He was rushed to the hospital, but never regained consciousness. He was 22 years old.

A glimpse of what might have been for Woolley can be seen in the life of his teammate, Alan Corey. In 1940, he captained the Yale team, and that same year, playing with Gerald Smith, Robert Gerry Jr. and Elbridge Gerry on the Aknusti team, won his first U.S. Open Polo Championship. Corey won four more U.S. Opens, plus the Monty Waterbury Cup five times and the National Twenty Goal four times. Over the years, he played polo in England, France and Argentina. He was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1992.

One wonders how many times Alan sent the ball forward, and wished for a moment that his teammate from Yale was there to take it to the goal.

Quite a Day

“Julie Benz plays an abused teenage runaway that becomes a single mom and bank executive who is then stalked, kidnapped by masked gunmen, held hostage for 14 hours and forced to rob a bank to save her child’s life.”

— “Held Hostage,” The Syracuse Post-Standard, July 19, 2009

As the local paper lets more and more writers go, I am sure we have more and more of these lovely bits to look forward to.

An Invention of the Devil

“I went straight from Houston to New York over the Iron Mountain Railroad. I anticipated a rather solitary trip; but, fortunately, I met General Baird, whom I knew, and some other Army officers, who had been down on the Mexican border to settle some troubles in the ‘free zone.’ We amused ourselves on the long journey with whist and woman suffrage discussions. We noticed a dyspeptic-looking clergyman, evidently of a bilious temperament, eyeing us very steadily and disapprovingly the first day, and in a quiet way we warned each other that, in due time, he would give us a sermon on the sin of card playing.

“Sitting alone, early next morning, he seated himself by my side, and asked me if I would allow him to express his opinion on card playing. I said, ‘Oh, yes! I fully believe in free speech.’

“‘Well,’ said he, ‘I never touch cards. I think they are an invention of the devil to lead unwary souls from all serious thought of the stern duties of life and the realities of eternity! I was sorry to see you, with your white hair, probably near the end of your earthly career, playing cards and talking with those reckless army officers, who delight in killing their fellow beings. No! I do not believe in war or card playing; such things do not prepare the soul for heaven.’

“‘Well,’ said I, ‘you are quite right, with your views, to abjure the society of army officers and all games of cards. You, no doubt, enjoy your own thoughts and the book you are reading more than you would the conversation of those gentlemen and a game of whist. We must regulate our conduct by our highest ideal. While I deplore the necessity of war, yet I know in our army many of the noblest types of manhood, whose acquaintance I prize most highly. I enjoy all games, too, from chess down to dominoes. There is so much that is sad and stern in life that we need sometimes to lay down its burdens and indulge in innocent amusements. Thus, you see, what is wise from my standpoint is unwise from yours. I am sorry that you repudiate all amusements, as they contribute to the health of body and soul. You are sorry that I do not think as you do, and regulate my life accordingly. You are sure you are right. I am equally sure that I am. Hence there is nothing to be done in either case but to let each other alone, and wait for the slow process of evolution to give to each of us a higher standard.’

“Just then one of the officers asked me if I was ready for a game of whist, and I excused myself from further discussion. I met many of these dolorous saints in my travels, who spent so much thought on eternity and saving their souls that they lost all the joys of time, as well as those sweet virtues of courtesy and charity that might best fit them for good works on earth and happiness in heaven.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton, circa 1873, in Elizabeth Cady Stanton: As Revealed in Her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences (1898)