By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
After 57 years of watching the Blue-Gray Classic college football game on television, I finally attended the historic contest this past weekend.
Well, kind of.
Although the game is no longer the Blue-Gray Classic and is no longer played on Christmas Day, I finally have filled another item on my “bucket list.”
One month ago, I never heard of the Raycom All-Star Classic, but there I was this past Saturday sitting in the press box of Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, watching NFL hopefuls competing before former professional coaches and scores of National Football League scouts in an effort to extend playing days and attain the dream of instant riches in the upcoming NFL draft.
Just being in Cramton Bowl is a dream come true, much less seeing this inaugural game. Built in 1922, this magnificent stadium has been the site of an untold number of college, high school and semi-pro football games, as well as the Blue-Gray Classic, for more than 60 years. In its early days, the stadium also was used for professional baseball games.
The 20,000-seat Cramton Bowl initially opened as a baseball stadium and has been home to both Major League Baseball spring training and minor league baseball games. It is the home stadium for the Faulkner University Eagles and four area high schools.
The stadium hosted the first night football game in the South and, of course, was once home to the Blue-Gray Football Classic.
The venue is named for local businessman F.J. Cramton, who donated the land on which the stadium was built. The location on which the Cramton Bowl now stands originally was a sanitary landfill owned by Cramton, who raised $33,000 to build the sports venue.
On Sept. 23, 1927, the Cramton Bowl became the site of the very first game played “under the lights” in the South, with Cloverdale taking on Pike Road High School.
Began in 1939, the Blue–Gray Football Classic was usually held on Christmas Day through 2001 at the Cramton Bowl. The format, unsurprisingly given the Classic’s name, pitted players who attended college in the states of the former Confederacy, the “Grays,” who wore white jerseys, against players who attended school in the northern half of the country, the “Blues,” who wore blue jerseys.
The contest sometimes included players from western regions of the country. Both teams wore gray pants. Only seniors played in the game, because it was their first venture into professional football, as they were paid for their participation.
So the first Raycom College All-Star Game is in the record books. Granted, it was not the Blue-Gray Classic of years gone by. The game will not even be a Christmas Day tradition, but the game certainly will be an asset for the City of Montgomery. A game in a stadium that has both baseball and football tradition will be a good draw in itself.
The great Babe Ruth, who hit a towering home run in this stadium, and legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who played there while playing for the Crimson Tide in 1934, will no doubt approve.