Rupert Mills

Only four Notre Dame student athletes have earned monograms in four different sports – Alfred Bergman (Class of 1914), Rupert Mills (1915), Johnny Lujack (1948), and George Ratterman (1949).  Mills earned monograms in baseball, basketball, track, and football.  Along with his athletic ability, Mills was president of the Senior Law Class and appeared in several theatrical productions at Notre Dame, along with his roommate Ray Eichenlaub.

Baseball Game Scene - Player Rupert Mills at bat, c1915.
Baseball Game Scene – Player Rupert Mills at bat, c1915.

After graduating in 1915, Mills signed an iron-clad contract to play professional baseball for the Newark Feds in the Federal Baseball League.  When the team disbanded after the 1915 season, Mills was intent on getting his piece of the $3000 contract.  Pat Powers, President of the ball club, was also under pressure from other players who had contracts.  He tried to buy Mills’ contract in April of 1916 at $500 and to place Mills on a minor league team.  Mills refused the compromise “and then Powers is reported to have said that if Mills wouldn’t be ‘reasonable’ and insist upon the fulfillment of his contract, Mills would have to report each day at the deserted Federal league park… each day at 10am, remain until noon, get back at 2pm and linger until 6pm.  That’s what Mills will have to do seven days a week, over a stretch of twenty-two weeks, rain or shine.  And Powers figures that the loneliness of the job will soon make Mills ‘open to reason'” [Scholastic, April 29, 1916, page 488, quoting an unnamed Newark newspaper].

[photoshelter-img i_id=”I0000ZU_irgYqEWs” buy=”1″ caption=”Men’s Basketball Team, 1913.  Rupert Mills is seated at the far left” width=”576″ height=”401″]

Mills called Powers’ bluff, showing up at the field every day to play “solitaire baseball”:

“I’ve played 12 games since the season started,” said Rupe, “and won ’em all. What’s more, working alone has whipped me into great trim.  It’s kinda hard to slam ’em out, beat the ball down to first and then have to call myself out.  The first thing I know I’ll be chasing myself to the club-house and Pat Powers is liable to fine me $1o.  When I get through in this league I ought to be a valuable utility player.

“If I don’t lead the league in everything but errors it won’t be my fault.  So far I have knocked the cover off the ball every time.  Everything is a hit because Rupe Mills is official scorer.  I simply can’t fail to hit safely, because I do my own pitching.

“The other day I wrenched my ankle while sliding and I had to put myself in to run for me.  I have a dickens of a time trying to pull a double steal.  Everything else is a set-up.

“I do mostly pitching in the morning to get wise to my curves for the afternoon game. So far this year I haven’t been in any extra inning games.”

[Scholastic, May 20, 1916, page 533, quoting the Toledo News Bee].

Football Player Rupert Mills, full-length portrait in uniform and monogram sweater, c1913.
Football Player Rupert Mills, full-length portrait in uniform and monogram sweater, c1913.

Later that summer, after many a game of solitaire baseball, Mills and Powers eventually settled their differences.  Mills went on to play for a farm club associated with the Detroit Lions and for the Denver Bears.  His baseball career sputtered out and he enlisted in the Army during World War I.  After being discharged, Mills decided to concentrate on a career in law.

Roommates Rupert Mills and Ray Eichenlaub in costume for the senior play "What's Next?," April 1914
Roommates Rupert Mills and Ray Eichenlaub in costume for the senior play What’s Next?, April 1914

Professionally, Mills held political positions including State Senator of New Jersey and Under Sheriff of Essex County.  However, he did remain athletically active in local baseball and polo clubs.  Mills was also a representative of Notre Dame in the East, sending reports of potential athletic recruits to his old teammate, Athletic Director Knute Rockne.

On July 20, 1929, Mills was visiting with political friends at Lake Hopatcong when he convinced a reluctant Louis Freeman to explore the lake in a canoe.  Freeman was not a good swimmer, which turned fatal for Mills.  The boat capsized 100 feet out and Freeman panicked, although he was wearing a life vest.  Mills rescued Freeman, towing him back to shore with the help of an oar.  About twenty feet from shore, Mills apparently suffered a heart attack and sank below the water.

Rupe was only 35 years old and his death was a shock to the Notre Dame and New Jersey communities.  Notre Dame Alumnus reported that “twenty thousand persons lined the blocks around St. Augustine’s Church.  The funeral procession was one of the largest and most impressive ever seen in the county” [September 1929, page 22].  The New York Herald Tribune reported, “Troop A of the 102nd Cavalry, of which Mr. Mills had been captain since the World War, led the procession from the home to the church. … Behind the regiment came the mourners and behind them marched World War veterans in uniforms, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Essex Troop.  A police platoon under the command of Police Commissioner McGregor and a contingent of 200 firemen completed the procession” [July 25, 1929, page 2].



PATH:  Rupert Mills
UATH 16/78-79
Baseball Anecdotes by Daniel Okrent
GMIL 1/11
GTJS 7/28
GNDS 28/24
GKLI 1/12

Baseball Clubs

For most of the second half of the 19th century, baseball was the king of sports at Notre Dame.  Games were played in the spring and fall and at special events such as Founder’s Day, Commencement, and field days.  The students organized baseball clubs, complete with directors (usually faculty or staff members) and students filling the traditional officer positions of president, treasurer, and secretary.  An 1894 topographical survey of campus shows five baseball fields and one football field at Notre Dame.  Certainly pick-up games also occurred on good-weather days elsewhere on campus.

Star of the East Baseball Club Team, including John Nester, Crawford, T. Mall (?), McNulty [Anthony or Joseph], and James Rahilly, c1885

Some clubs only lasted a season or two, while others remained organized for many years.  The more successful teams included Juanita, Enterprise, Star of the East, Star of the West, Excelsior, Mutual, Young America, University Reds, and University Blues.  The most famous player to come out of the Notre Dame Baseball Clubs was Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson, who was a student from 1866-1868 and a member of the Juanita team.

Full page from a scrapbook with a photo of the Minim Baseball Team, 1889, and the University Blues Baseball Club

In the 1890s, Notre Dame assembled a varsity team to compete against teams from other colleges and universities.  The growth of the student population at the end of the 19th century necessitated more dormitories, which transformed the look of intramural athletics at Notre Dame.  Students formed an allegiance to their dorm and their place of residence was a part of their identity.  They formed teams with fellow dorm-mates and took the name of the hall as their team name.  In the early part of the 1900s, competition was fierce between the teams from Sorin, Corby, Carroll, Brownson, and Walsh Halls, as the names of Juanita and and Excelsior faded into the history books.

Star of the West Baseball Club, Champions of Notre Dame, 1872. Individual portraits of Leo McOsker, Samuel Dum, William Dum, Charles Berdel, Brother Camillus, Charles Dodge, Dennis Hogan, Peter Reilly, Charles Hutchings, Benjamin Roberts, Mark Foote, and Frank Arentz [or Arantz]


Notre Dame: One Hundred Years by Arthur J. Hope, CSC
GNEG 9A/24:  Topographical Survey Map of Notre Dame Campus, 1894
GFCL 61/06
GSBA 2/18
GMLS 4/01

Y’er Out!

April 24-26, 1912, Notre Dame played Arkansas in a series of three baseball games.  Notre Dame won the series 2-1 “in one of the most remarkable games ever played on Cartier Field” [see South Bend News clipping below].  The series was tied 1-1 and the third game was decided in the ninth inning nail-biter with Notre Dame winning 10-9.

Baseball Game Scene – ND vs. Arkansas, April 1912. Hinton of Arkansas coaching on first base
Baseball Game Scene – ND vs. Arkansas, April 1912. View of the field from the grandstand

After the wins, the Notre Dame students celebrated with a snake dance through campus. The student celebrations continued even after University President Rev. John W. Cavanaugh, CSC, “issued an order that there be no further demonstrations of any kind.”  Cavanaugh stuck to his guns and expelled about twenty students for their continued celebrations.

The Snake Dance on campus after Notre Dame won the Baseball series vs. Arkansas, April 1912. “Dummy” Smith leading, Brussard second, Brennan third — the fellows expelled for the celebration demonstration
South Bend News clipping (04/29/1912) regarding the twenty or so students who were expelled from Notre Dame after celebrations of the victories of the baseball games vs. Arkansas

Baseball Game Scene – ND vs. Rose Poly, 1912.  View of the empty grandstand and bleachers after a number of students were expelled for celebrating the previous series vs. Arkansas — the students refused to honor any athletics

GNDS 9/19 (Warren Baldwin Scrapbook)
Dome yearbook 1913
PNDP 04-Di-01