George Bush: Presidential center forward and scoring machine

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States who died on Friday at age of 94, is remembered as the greatest presidential sportsman.

His grandfather, George Herbert Walker, was president of the U.S. Golf Association in 1920 and father, Prescott Bush, was also a president of the USGA before becoming a U.S. senator in 1952.

Bush played golf but he is best known as a first baseman and captain for Yale University, which participated in the first two editions of the College World Series in 1947 and 1948. He was also a soccer player, starring at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, and playing on Yale's freshman team.

One of the stories retold about Bush after his death is how he once boasted to his mother that he had scored three goals in a match at Andover. “That’s nice, George,” his mother replied, “but how did the team do?”

Brian Wright O’Connor retraces Bush's senior season at Andover in 1941, in the months before Pearl Harbor.

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Photo: Bush 41 Archives

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush is being remembered in the wake of his death last week for kind manners, selfless public service, and a competitive streak that ran throughout his life from the baseball diamonds of the Ivy League to campaigns for the nation’s highest office.

One often-overlooked item on his long resume is his bona fides as the White House’s first genuine soccer star. As a beanpole center forward on a five-man forward line at Andover, “Poppy” Bush was a prep-school scoring machine, notching 14 goals in nine matches during his senior year and captaining the Blues to an undefeated season.

That was the fall of 1941, when the ball had laces and the game little popularity outside the bookends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Bluebloods like Bush, playing with the gilded youth of sepia-toned private academies, embraced the game. So did the factory workers of New England towns like Fall River and New Bedford, where Portuguese immigrants played on lots in the anonymous shadows of brick textile mills.

In the months leading up to the attack at Pearl Harbor, Poppy Bush’s golden season began with scoring four goals in a 7-0 blitz of New Hampton. Playing in every minute of every game, Bush led the Andover squad to victories over the Harvard, Dartmouth, Tufts, and Yale freshmen teams.

In the Harvard match, Bush tied the game on a header in the closing seconds of regulation to set up Andover for a 2-1 overtime victory. Against Deerfield, behind 1-0 in the final minutes, the lanky center forward dribbled by two fullbacks in the muddy penalty area and rocketed a shot off the post to secure a 1-1 tie. In the season finale against arch-rival Exeter, Bush rose above the defenders to nod home the overtime winner to carry Andover to a 2-1 victory and an 8-0-1 season.



His teammates, lads with surnames like Boynton and Bixby, Twombly and Asbury, praised their captain’s leadership in school newspaper accounts of the matches. Fifty years after Bush’s Andover graduation, one of his prep-school coaches, the late Frank “Deke” DiClimente, remembered Poppy as an inspiring presence on the field.

“You hear so much garbage about this so-called leadership quality but George led his teams by example,” DiClimente told me. “He practiced hard, he played hard and he engaged the competition. He was a very slight kid, over six feet tall and skinny, like a one-iron, but with remarkable drive.”

At Yale, Bush played on the freshman soccer team but gave up the game to focus on baseball as a light-hitting first baseman and team captain. But he remained interested in soccer, attending matches during the 1994 World Cup in the U.S, including games at the old Foxboro Stadium.

As you might expect of a soccer player, Bush won praise as president for his work on the international game, showing an adept understanding of the strategies of restraint, as in the first Gulf War when he stopped American troops from overthrowing Saddam Hussein. That was left to his son, a Yale football cheerleader.

With Bush’s passing, an era has closed -- he was the last president to have fought fascism in World War II. In the decades since, soccer has soared in popularity. As we pause to honor President Bush, soccer fans should remember the commander-in-chief who knew how to play with his head and lead with his heart.

19 comments about "George Bush: Presidential center forward and scoring machine".
  1. stewart hayes, December 6, 2018 at 8:42 a.m.

    I never would have imagined this.  Bush, our first soccer playing president and a talent as well.  

  2. Wooden Ships replied, December 6, 2018 at 9:46 a.m.

    Didn’t know that myself. Nice anecdote for all the “soccer is a communist sport” morons. There’s many out there too and some seem to be louder with the sports rise in popularity. It’s know wonder our country is in decline, ignorance on so many fronts.

  3. frank schoon, December 6, 2018 at 10:10 a.m.

    Great to hear, Wow.
    I noticed he has soccer legs too, by his muscle structure..

  4. Wooden Ships replied, December 6, 2018 at 12:29 p.m.

    That good ole 2-3-5. 

  5. frank schoon replied, December 7, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    Guardiola sometimes uses it,also  3-2-5...lot of these systems all come down to moving a couple backward or forwards.. Actually the 5 up front is really a 2-3. 
    Can you imagine ,today, playing a 2-3-5(2-3). The coach of the opponent wouldn't know what to do, especially if you play with a lot of ball possession. The trick is to play a system the opponents are not used to playing against which tended to pull on the opponents...

  6. Steve Rustige, December 6, 2018 at 1:46 p.m.

    Back in the day we played a 3-2-5 - much more offence minded.  So rare nowadays...

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, December 6, 2018 at 6:22 p.m.

    235 and 325 (WM) are still conventional attacking shapes in USSF youth soccer. I nearly choked when I read a USSF coaching educational slide describing the 235 shape as "modern". This was just 2 years ago.

  8. Cale Coelho, December 6, 2018 at 1:48 p.m.

    Wow!, I never knew that. What an amazing story!

  9. Right Winger, December 6, 2018 at 8:23 p.m.

    God bless Pres. Bush and playing the game of all games doesn’t surprise me.

    i am a bit older a lot older than most here but we used to play the pyramid. 2,3,5.  Anybody here ever hear of “inside right”?

    Mr. Bush Rest In Peace and the rest of us will play on.

  10. Wooden Ships replied, December 6, 2018 at 10:42 p.m.

    RW, that was my position, inside right. Steve Moyers and I cycled between inside left and right. 

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, December 7, 2018 at 1:16 a.m.

    I played half, but I remember passing to the inside right! Do I get points for that? :)

  12. frank schoon replied, December 7, 2018 at 9:56 a.m.

    I played centerforward #9, also leftwing #11, and right wing#7, in that system...What I liked about the system is that the numbers pertained to the position. Rinus Michels would never name his players but mentioned the # then you knew right away who he was talking about.
    Ships , you played either #8or, #10

  13. Right Winger replied, December 7, 2018 at 3:23 p.m.

    I love you guys.  I was defense playing the Fullback on the right side.

  14. stewart hayes replied, December 7, 2018 at 7:06 p.m.

    I played 7 or 11 in 1965 9th grade.  

  15. frank schoon replied, December 7, 2018 at 9:21 p.m.

    Stewart, and to remain true to yourself you own a 7/11

  16. schultz rockne, December 9, 2018 at 9:10 p.m.

    Shrub Sr. was a mediocre president who, apart from merely behaving himself, did nothing but carry on Reagan's reactionary (regressive) platform to do little for common/needy people while eroding protections for most of us. Was he a wealthy elitist and decent businessman? You bet.
    Pope John Paul II was allegedly a keeper in his youth, but he made sure that the AIDS crisis was neglected here in the states and in Africa and continued the perpetuation of rapist-priest culture all over the Catholic world.
    Better to be a 'left' winger.

  17. schultz rockne, December 9, 2018 at 9:10 p.m.

    Shrub Sr. was a mediocre president who, apart from merely behaving himself, did nothing but carry on Reagan's reactionary (regressive) platform to do little for common/needy people while eroding protections for most of us. Was he a wealthy elitist and decent businessman? You bet.
    Pope John Paul II was allegedly a keeper in his youth, but he made sure that the AIDS crisis was neglected here in the states and in Africa and continued the perpetuation of rapist-priest culture all over the Catholic world.
    Better to be a 'left' winger.

  18. schultz rockne, December 9, 2018 at 9:31 p.m.

    He also raised a fairly dopey kid who was spectacularly installed in the top office and turned out to be a war criminal (as of yet, uncharged).

  19. Craig Cummings, December 10, 2018 at 3:11 p.m.

    W S you played  with Sreve moyers WOW. He played with California SURF of old NASL when I played for SURF JRS. He also played for NY Cosmos.

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