Chances are most members of the Wabash family have heard the story of Ralph Lee Wilson. He was the football player who died in 1910 as a result of injuries he received in the Washington University game in St. Louis. He regained consciousness long enough to ask, “Did Wabash win?” That quote now hangs over the exit of the home locker room in the Allen Center.
I thought that in this posting I would share a little more information and some pictures connected to it.
Ralph Lee Wilson was a talented local boy who, doubtless, had watched the Little Giants playing football for years. He enrolled at Wabash and Coach Harper (later of Notre Dame fame) put this young player in the halfback position. The photo of Wilson in his football uniform, above, is one of the few that we have of him. In this photo we can see that Ralph was a slight fellow.
The Harper team of 1910 was off to a roaring good start. In the first four games of the season the team was not scored on and beat Georgetown by 57 points, Purdue by 3 and Butler by 30. The fourth game of the season was in St. Louis at Washington University. From the history Wabash College the First Hundred Years, “Ralph Wilson, freshman halfback, received an injury from which he died a few hours after the game. He had fractured his skull against an opponent’s knee in making a tackle; and the fracture had not at first been suspected.”
Wabash did win that game 10-0 and that was the last game of that season. All further games were cancelled without dissent. Wilson was popular on campus and immediately calls went out for a permanent memorial to the fallen player. The memorial was created by the same sculptor who did the Thomson (Senior) Bench, the Civil War Roll of Honor on the east face of Center Hall and the bust of President Tuttle. This memorial shows a torch that has been dropped and the plaque hangs on Hollett Stadium yet today. Ralph Lee Wilson is well remembered on this campus.