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By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Thursday, October 18, former Harvard football captain Vic Gatto gave a talk at the Needham Library Community room about the most memorable game in his alma mater’s football history.
The lecture was the last of a four-part series on the Beanpot, which is a hockey tournament in New England every year featuring Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University. The library has had one speaker who attended each of four schools give a lecture about a topic.
“I am not much of hockey fan, but I am very much of a college football fan,” explained Chairman of the Library Trustees and creator of the Beanpot lecture series Tom Harkins. “Being in the Boston area, we have access to four very good institutions, and [I thought] we should take advantage of them for a lecture series.”
The library hosted three other lectures in the spring, bringing Northeastern’s athletic director, a Boston College provost, and a professor from Boston University.
Part four of the lecture series was held at this time because it is the 50th anniversary of “The Game” between Harvard and Yale, and because the two teams are playing at Fenway Park this year.
The most memorable Harvard football game was played on November 23, 1968 against undefeated Yale for the Ivy league championship. The headline at Harvard Crimson’s newspaper the next day read “Harvard beats Yale 29-29” because Harvard won the Ivy league by tying Yale at the last second.
“In those days, you could have a tie,” said Harkins. “[Harvard scored] a two-point conversion when time was out.”
The game was a significant event in Harvard history, and it happened at an important time.
“It was one of the greatest football games, and I am a Notre Dame graduate,” said Harkins. “Everybody remembers where they were.”
“1968 was a very pivotal year, especially at colleges,” Harkins added. “That’s when Harvard went out on strike … It started out with a protest …against Harvard taking low housing away in Allston … There was [also] the Vietnam War situation, and they actually closed the university for a while.”
Many members from the community showed up to the lecture to listen to the former Harvard football player and Needham athlete talk about the special game.
“I knew the whole [Gatto] family when Vic was a young kid,” said Needham resident Walter Kochanek. “I want to hear [Gatto] talk about [the game]… It was a big deal, and I am glad they at least tied.”
“I was there,” said Needham resident Dick Carey. “The only Harvard-Yale game I’ve ever been to. I went on the spur of the moment … [A student] sold a ticket [to me] at face value … I sat on the steps, probably at the 45 yard line of the Harvard side, and I recall very vividly [the comeback]… It was really amazing.”
“Gatto was coaching at Bates when my daughter went to college,” added Wellesley resident Doug Mansfield. “I thought it would be nice to hear what he has to say about the game, because it was quite a game.”
Harkins introduced Gatto to the group, and then showed a long documentary about the game to the audience.
“I think it’s just good memories and an exciting game to remember,” Harkins said.