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In this club, life begins at 50

Richard W.S. Jones has been to more than half the games played in college football's most-played rivalry.

Richard W.S. Jones ’54 was a toddler when his father, Walter ’27, took him to his first Lehigh-Lafayette football game in 1933. He was quickly hooked.

“Lehigh is literally in my blood,” said the 78-year-old Jones, who will attend his 75th Lehigh-Lafayette game Saturday in Easton. “My grandfather went to Lehigh, my dad went to Lehigh and one of my sons (Andrew) graduated from Lehigh.

“Lehigh-Lafayette football games are my obsession, I guess.”

Jones clearly is not alone in that regard.

Lehigh held its annual “Beat Lafayette” reception in Room 308 of the University Center Friday, followed by lunch in the Asa Packer Dining Room for the 50-Game Club, made up of alumni who have attended 50 or more Lehigh-Lafayette games in their lives. The additions of the three “newbies” to the 50-game club—J. Dixon Earley ‘63, Bob Littner ’53 and Newt Wilson ’63 (a trio that will attend their 50th game on Saturday)—brought the total number of living members in the club to 31.

Lehigh and Lafayette first started playing football against one another in 1884, the same year that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn and Grover Cleveland was elected the 22nd president of the United States. This Saturday will mark the 144th meeting in college football’s most-played rivalry—and Jones has seen more than half of them.

His eyesight is failing and he is in a wheelchair these days, but Jones—with radio earplugs in his ears to listen to the local broadcast of the game—will be in the crowd at Fisher Field, sitting alongside his son, Purnell, who drove his dad over from Muncy, Pa. (10 miles east of Williamsport). Purnell Jones is now in his mid-40s and has seen close to 40 of these rivalry games himself.

“My wife once asked me whether Christmas Day or Lehigh-Lafayette game day was a more important day to me,” Richard Jones recalled. “I simply said, ‘That’s a silly question .... It’s Lehigh-Lafayette, of course.’”

Over the course of his life, Jones has only missed a handful of Lehigh-Lafayette games—all of them away games. During World War II, when gas was rationed, Jones’ father would save enough of his monthly ration so that the family could drive up from Philadelphia to the Lehigh Valley for the game.

"This rivalry gets into your blood"

Bill Smith '52, left, and his wife, Barbara, talk with Lehigh football coach Andy Coen at the 50-Game Club luncheon.

Jones wasn’t the only one who has gone to extraordinary lengths to attend “The Game.” In fact, everywhere you turned at the 50-Game Club, there were stories—ranging from John Harmon ’59, who started attending games with his father, Herbert ’27, (for whom the press box at Goodman Stadium is named) to Earley, who has attended 50 consecutive Lehigh-Lafayette games, a streak kept alive 39 years ago when he was married on Lehigh-Lafayette weekend and “honeymooned with my wife” by coming to the game.

Then, there are guys like Bill Smith ’52 and Newt Wilson ‘63, both of whom played in the rivalry for legendary Lehigh coach Bill Leckonby.

“I played on Coach Leck’s undefeated team in 1950 and it was one of the great thrills of my life to play in this rivalry,” recalled Smith, who attended the luncheon with his wife, Barbara, a Cedar Crest College alumna who has actually attended a couple more Lehigh-Lafayette games than he has.

“There’s no rivalry quite like Lehigh-Lafayette,” Smith said. “Over the years, we’ve lived all over the place—Pittsburgh, Chicago and Toronto—but I’ve tried to make it back here for the games here as often as humanly possible. Ask anyone in this room and they’ll tell you that this rivalry gets into your blood.”

Sam Wechsler ’08, currently a grad student in engineering, was one of the youngest people at the luncheon—at just 22 years of age. His father Jay, a 50-Game Club member, is certain that his son will one day join him in reaching the milestone.

‘He’s only 22 years old, but he’ll attend his 23rd Lehigh-Lafayette tomorrow, if you count the one that he attended with my wife while she was pregnant with him,” Wechsler said.

While young Sam will have to wait a few decades for his inclusion in the exclusive group, here’s a list of the current Lehigh alums in the 50-Game Club—with each one’s graduating class and the number of games attended, including the 2008 tussle in Easton:


Richard W.S. Jones ’54 75 games
Michael Drozd ’46 72 games
Pete Facchiano ’45 67 games
Charles Sandwick ’50 67 games
Dan Bayer ’59 66 games
Kit Diefenderfer ’44 65 games
Richard Yeager ’59 63 games
Mark Parseghian ’49 62 games
Bob Shurts ’48 62 games
Bill Abbott ’53 60 games
Larry Sheridan ’58 60 games
Charlie Kucher ’43 59 games
Jay Wechsler ’56 59 games
Cass Camarda ’52 58 games
Bill DeCamp ’54 58 games
Bob Haft ’51 58 games
Allan Kime ’56 57 games
Joe Workman ’53 57 games
Bob Bevan ’60 56 games
Bill Smith ’49 56 games
Harry Levine ’56 55 games
Jeff Hahn ’59 54 games
Keith Rust ’57 54 games
Bill Smith ’52 54 games
Bruce Waechter ’56 54 games
John Harmon ’59 53 games
Bob Teufel ’59 53 games
Bob Hoyt ’51 51 games
J. Dixon Earley ’63 50 games
Bob Littner ’53 50 games
Newt Wilson ’63 50 games


--Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2008

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