For those thinking that since baseball season is over it’s time to put away the orange clothing, you are mistaken. On November 9th, the Orange & Black of the Baltimore City College Knights will take on the Orange & Blue of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Engineers in the 125th City-Poly football game. While many associate Maryland’s football history with the professional teams of the Colts and the Ravens, or the college programs of the University of Maryland or Navy, Baltimore City College (BCC) and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (BPI) represent, perhaps, the state’s two most storied programs.
In 1889, the two schools began competing in an annual football game, creating what has become the second oldest active rivalry in the nation and the oldest among public schools. Founded in 1839, City College opened its doors to Baltimore youths as a college preparatory institute with a curriculum centered on the liberal arts. BCC offered courses in Latin, English, Philosophy and the sciences, and for the next half-century remained Baltimore’s premier public institution. However in 1883, when the public school system opened the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute with an engineering curriculum featuring advanced courses in math and science, a challenger was born.
Six years later, Poly decided to test the strength of its recently established football program by challenging City to a competitive scrimmage at Clifton Park. Since Poly’s program at the time consisted only of a Junior Varsity squad, City showed mercy by fielding its Varsity reserves. The Knights still proved too much for the Engineers, taking home the victory in the first City-Poly game. While City went on to dominate the next few meetings, Poly emerged as an able competitor. Over the next century each school experienced periods of dominance, with the current tally showing Poly in the lead 62-55-6.
Until 1992, the game was featured as the headliner in a local Thanksgiving doubleheader, following a game between Catholic school rivals Calvert Hall and Loyola. However when both schools entered the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), the game had to move to accommodate the new playoff schedule. These days the contest is held at the end of the regular season, generally in early November. On a side note, due to the flexible nature of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)—the private school athletics association—the Calvert Hall-Loyola game is still played on Thanksgiving Day.Outside of their rivalry on the football field, the two schools have historically clashed in other areas as well. City is Baltimore’s magnet liberal arts school whereas Poly represents the region’s math/science magnet. In the past, both schools offered two course levels, A and B, but over the past few decades the institutions have adopted modern advanced curriculums to attract top students. Poly offers the Ingenuity Project, a program that has received national attention for its teachings in the sciences. City is Baltimore’s only secondary school that can claim membership to the International Baccalaureate Program. Baltimore even pitted the schools against one another with their sister schools, pairing the men of City with the women of Eastern and the men of Poly with the women of Western. While both schools are now co-ed, and both offer excellent educations, all these small factors simply feed the fire of the great rivalry.
So, if you desire a little local flavor in your life this weekend, drop by Ravens’ Stadium this Saturday. Kick off is at noon. If you’d like to hear an inspiring verse of “City Forever” or be attacked by the Poly Parrot, I recommend wearing orange, but don’t pair it with blue or black. And if you want to see some memorabilia and artifacts from the games of years past, come to MdHS after the game and check out the City and Poly materials we have in the collection. We’ve got souvenir pins, programs, school songs, and tons of photos. Enjoy the video below!
Good luck to both sides!
Go City, Beat Poly!
Go Poly, Beat City!
To the losers, there’s always next year…
Clips recapping the 100th annual Poly-City football game which took place in Baltimore on November 24, 1988. This video was produced by Baltimore’s public access channel 44. Video duplications were funded and donated by Poly-City Football Game Archivist James DeWald. DeWald provided copies to each school and select archives in Baltimore for the purposes of public use. Editing done by Benjamin Koshland.
Sources and Further Reading:
Peterson, Ted, Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)