The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK

The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK

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by Michael P. Connelly

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President John F. Kennedy, a former naval hero and a passionate football fan, was looking forward to watching the Midshipmen take on the Cadets at the annual Army-Navy game on November 30, 1963. "I hope to be on the winning side when the game ends," he telegrammed the Navy coach on November 20. Two days later, the president was assassinated in Dallas, changing the


President John F. Kennedy, a former naval hero and a passionate football fan, was looking forward to watching the Midshipmen take on the Cadets at the annual Army-Navy game on November 30, 1963. "I hope to be on the winning side when the game ends," he telegrammed the Navy coach on November 20. Two days later, the president was assassinated in Dallas, changing the nation forever.

                Exploring the close relationship between President Kennedy and the Navy football squad of the early 1960s, author Michael Connelly describes how the 1963 Army-Navy game---which was played on December 7 after an initial postponement---served as a welcome distraction for a nation in mourning while provding a opportunity to honor JFK's memory. Connelly ties together the historic Army-Navy rivalry with the changing political landscape of the 1960s, both at home and overseas. The President's Team delves into Kennedy's love of football and the special bond he established with many of the Navy players, including Heisman winner and former Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Boston Herald sportswriter Connelly (Rebound!) offers a fresh take on the early 1960s by exploring the connection between touch-football-playing war hero President John F. Kennedy and the successful Naval Academy football team that produced two Heisman Trophy winners, Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, in four years. Relying on research and on his own interviews, the author goes through the 1963 season game by game with the nationally ranked Midshipmen losing only to Southern Methodist in a rough October contest in Dallas. Just before the much-anticipated annual battle with 7-2 Army, though, the President was assassinated in the seminal horrific event of the era. With the nation in mourning, the game was delayed, but when the sobered service teams finally met, it was a thrilling contest that wasn't decided until the final play at the goal line. Navy won and was invited to play top-ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl, but on New Year's Day Navy once again met defeat in Dallas. Connelly concludes the book by telling where the players are now. VERDICT A fascinating glimpse at a time still in memory but far gone from today; recommended for all college football fans.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ

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From the Publisher
Connelly did a superb job of weaving the incidents of the final year of Kennedy's presidency into his narrative on the Army-Navy rivalry and 1963 game. It's an emotional history lesson for those who lived that year, a very entertaining read.

Boston Herald sports reporter Michael Connelly takes readers back to the time period and tells the parallel stories in an engaging, though occasionally verbose, manner. He has read almost every press account of the subject and also spoke with the players and coaches who are still alive. Mr. Connelly doesn't break a great deal of new ground, but synthesizes information well. As a decorated Navy hero, Mr. Kennedy had a special bond with the football team of the U.S. Naval Academy that predated his presidency. There is an extensive discussion of Mr. Kennedy's naval heroics as well as his love of football, including much detail about the Kennedy family's frequent football games on the lawn of their estate in Hyannis Port, MA… As Mr. Connelly noted, during the season Mr. Staubach "scrambled, dodged and avoided the fastest and biggest football players in the country, but there was no escaping the wrath of Ethel." Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy poked his finger in the face of Navy Coach Wayne Hardin and said "I thought you knew, how important that game was to my family.' Such behind-the-scenes revelations make "The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game & The Assassination of JFK" an enjoyable book.

The Washington Times

Booklist Online, January 13, 2009

With even Kennedy’s assassination gradually fading into history as just another national tragedy, Connelly’s reframing of the event in terms of a very specific context manages to capture the anguish of a nation in a new and surprisingly compelling way.

Meet the Author

Michael Connelly is the author of Rebound! and 26 Miles to Boston, as well as a writer for the Boston Herald, where he hosts a regular blog.

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President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well-written, touching, inspiring true story of some of the most incredible leaders and human beings our country has ever known.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Rating: 4 of 5 stars – very good Review: November 22, 1963 is a date that is etched in every American’s memory. Whether or not a person was alive to say where he or she was when the news was announced, the date always brings a sad thought or memory at the thought of John F. Kennedy dying in the presidential limousine in Dallas. Kennedy was a Navy veteran and a huge fan of the Naval Academy football team. The two are interwoven in Michael Connelly’s book about both the man and the football team. Connelly interweaves biological information about Kennedy and analysis of the football teams of the Naval Academy of the early 1960’s. The latter is an important point because while most of the football portion of the book is about Navy’s 1963 season, the information Connelly shares about the team illustrates the bond between the President and the football team. The information shared on President Kennedy is not too detailed, but for a book of this nature, with football as the main bond between the two main subjects, it is more than adequate to describe the highlights of his time in office and also of his love for football. Of course, the famous Kennedy touch football games are given their proper due in this book. If the reader is more interested in the football than the history or politics, then consider this an excellent source of information about the 1963 Navy football team and its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach. The previous two years were the buildup to this season in which ironically, the two losses they suffered were in Dallas. The connection between that fact and that it was where the assassination took place is made by Connelly in a wonder manner. Each game of Navy’s 1963 season has its own chapter and recap. Just like with the Kennedy pieces, the writing is detailed enough for a football fan to enjoy, but not so much so that even non-football fans will enjoy these passages as well. The book will bring back memories for those readers who were around for the events of that time. For those who were not (or too young to remember them), readers will get to experience a glimpse of not only a nation in deep mourning for the loss of its leader, but also will get to experience a glimpse of what it was like to be a football player for the Naval Academy at the time. A very good book that should appeal to readers of many topics. Did I skim? No Did I learn something new? Yes. I did learn a little more about Kennedy’s military career and his heroics, but the bulk of new information I learned was about the Navy football teams of that time. I knew about Staubach and his fantastic junior year, but I did not realize just how good a complete football team this group of Midshipmen was. Pace of the book: Good – switching between the football and the politics of the time kept the reader involved in both sections. Positives: There are many of them. The writing style is very good – technical enough to show that the writer was very knowledgeable of the topic, yet in a style that was easy to read. Those who may not know much about football or Presidential history will be able to read and understand these topics just fine. I also liked the format of the game-by-game recap of the 1963 Navy season. It felt like being a fan who was lucky enough to attend every game of that season in which the last two months darkened an otherwise bright year for the program. Negatives: While the book was about Kennedy, I would have liked to have read more about the Army team of 1963 as well. While yes, Kennedy was first and foremost a Navy fan, he was the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, so the Cadets at West Point also lost their leader as well and felt the loss as much as the Midshipmen. Do I recommend? Yes, for college football fans and historians as there is good information on both the Army-Navy game and on John F. Kennedy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In depth look at an historical part of Jack Kennedy and the Navy football team.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Koepp More than 1 year ago
This was an extraordinary time in history and Connelly brought the events and the amazing people clearly to light in his book. For the tradition and rivalry of the game to have be directly tied to one of the most devastating periods in American history secured it one of the most important games of it's time and I'm glad that I now know about it. Connelly's books are always a great read but this may just be his best yet. Anyone who enjoys football, is associated with Army or Navy, or is a Kennedy buff will, of course, enjoy the book but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it since I was too young to remember 1963 firsthand and have never been associated with the Army-Navy game. I found that I could not put the book down as I learned more about the people and as the Army Navy game approached. It's amazing to think of the leaders who came out of that team and that their brotherhood carries forward even today. It was an easy and very enjoyable read.