Perhaps no individual is more responsible for lifting Ohio State football to national prominence than the school’s first three-time All-American, Charles “Chic” Harley. Chic helped the Buckeyes to undefeated seasons and Western Conference Championships in both 1916 and 1917 before leaving for flight training in San Antonio, Texas, to prepare for World War I.
Harley’s experience in the service quickly became unpleasant because of a commanding Lieutenant who had a vendetta. After a couple of conjured charges by the superior, Chic was sentenced for three months confinement at Kelly Field. Ohio State Athletic Director Lynn St. John got wind of Harley's unfair treatment and worked hard to get his star player released and back to Columbus. With the 1919 season rapidly approaching, Harley authored this spectacular note to St. John casting doubt on his availability for his senior season.
He would not only make his way back to Columbus, but he would lead the Buckeyes to arguably the biggest win in school history. With an unbeaten record, Harley and the Buckeyes traveled to Ferry Field with high hopes of the school’s first victory over Michigan. The All-American intercepted two passes on defense and broke three tackles during a jaw-dropping 42-yard touchdown run to lead Ohio State to a 13-3 win over their rival. Following the win, Fielding Yost addressed the Buckeyes in their visiting locker room saying, “You deserve your victory, you fought brilliantly. You boys gave a grand exhibition of football strategy and while I am sorry, dreadfully sorry, that we lost I want to congratulate you. And you, Mr. Harley, I believe, are one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.”
While Yost may have been correct with him being a machine on the football field, his life off the gridiron was far from it. Combine the frustration and stress of confinement with the panic of getting back to Columbus, Harley clearly shows his human side by erroneously dating this note June 31, 1919. According to an article that appeared in The Lantern a couple weeks later, Harley returned to campus on July 17, 1919.
Harley’s autograph is one of the most coveted by all college football collectors and is widely considered the Holy Grail for Ohio State collectors. This note serves as one of the most significant Ohio State pieces ever offered to the public and lends a rare look into the struggles of Ohio State’s Superman. Chic Harley’s contributions to OSU’s football program are second-to-none. Ohio State’s rise that coincided with his time at the university led to the construction of Ohio Stadium, which has since been nicknamed appropriately, “The House That Harley Built.”
In 1950, Chic was picked as a First Team All-American for the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press and was also voted one of 44 charter members inducted into the inaugural 1951 College Football Hall of Fame class.
BECKETT FULL LETTER OF AUTHENTICITY