February 13, 2002: From the Editor

A few weeks ago PAW received a not-so-unusual request for help. A woman from the Class of 1987 was searching for information on the origins of collegiate polo. Princeton, she explained, had won the country’s first intercollegiate tournament.

Sure enough, nearly two single-spaced pages of the January 25, 1929 PAW were devoted to “Princeton the Pioneer in College Polo,” as described by A. C. M. Azoy, Jr. ’14. Azoy began his article by quoting “one of the country’s leading sports writers,” who predicted that in five or 10 years polo would supplant baseball as the featured athletic contest at the commencements of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Azoy went on to detail the beginnings of the game at Princeton. In 1903, two polo-playing brothers from Colorado in the Class of 1904, William and Busher Devereux, organized a group of riding enthusiasts who boarded their own horses in town. From those 30 or 40 horsemen, they formed a polo team, the four players borrowing the nonplayers’ mounts throughout the exhausting matches. “The team equipment consisted chiefly of mallets,” wrote Azoy. “Helmets were unknown, and stiff linen collars and neckties were the rule rather than the exception.” The Princeton effort attracted the attention of students at Harvard and Yale, and the three teams played matches for a few years. However, “privately owned polo ponies were then even more of a luxury for an undergrad than the present time-payment coonskin coat,” and once all the founders graduated the team disbanded.

Interest revived in 1920 with the arrival of ROTC on campus. Through the program, the federal government made polo horses available to students, and Princeton’s first unit commander arranged for the squad to practice inside at the State Fair Grounds in Trenton. Although the facilities were “very crude and unsatisfactory,” the team managed to beat Yale in the finals of the first intercollegiate tournament in 1921.

In the fall of that year, Busher Devereux helped incorporate the Princeton Polo Association. He died suddenly two years later, but his contributions to Princeton polo were memorialized in Devereux Polo Field, at the corner of Harrison Street and Western Way, an outdoor field “of regulation size, carefully graded, with a small grandstand with plenty of parking space for motors.”

Eventually, intercollegiate polo was limited to indoor play (the Armory was originally constructed for that purpose), and in 1946 Devereux Field was commandeered for prefab housing for returning GIs. Far from supplanting baseball, polo faded from Princeton’s scene soon after, but those prefab homes — intended to stand only five years — remain today.


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