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Annapolis Cup: Annual USNA vs. St. John's Croquet Match

Apr 23, 2019 8:20:00 AM

Annapolis Cup - USNA vs. St. Johns Croquet Match

Go Navy Beat St. John’s!

Saturday, April 27th is the big day when Navy will come face to face (or mallet to mallet) with St. John’s for that much awaited annual ritual – the Annapolis Cup – a celebration of competitive croquet, and a sure sign of spring. Tickets for this year’s match are sold out, but you can still get in on the action here. And if you’re twelve or younger, you can always get in for free, no tickets required.

What happens when you put the free-spirited St. John’s College against their cross-town rival, the disciplined and dutiful USNA? Some truly memorable moments. Here’s the history and some fun facts from this storied event’s colorful legacy.

Let the Games Begin!

No one knows the exact origin of this rivalry, but rumor has it that it began in 1982 when the commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy was speaking with a St. John’s freshman, Kevin Heyburn. The former stated that the Midshipmen could beat the Johnnies in any sport. “What about croquet?” Heyburn posited. He then proposed the match to a group of Midshipmen to build goodwill among the schools.

Fast forward to today, where you’ll need to buy tickets to the Annapolis Cup months in advance. Several thousand people from the Annapolis area will descend on the city for a fun and fanciful lawn party that includes crazy costumes, old school picnics, vivacious swing dancing, and a raucous (is that possible?) croquet competition at the center of it all.

How to Croquet

For this event, each team has twelve players that are divided into two-person teams. They battle it out on a full-sized rectangular court measuring 100 feet long and 50 feet wide by hitting balls with a mallet through nine metal wickets and two wooden stakes that follow a double diamond pattern. Players score a point for each wicket and stake made in the correct order and direction. When the first side scores fourteen wicket points and two stake points for each of its balls, the team claims victory.

Fun Annapolis Cup Facts

For the record, what’s the record? St. John’s won the last round in 2018. They have also clinched the Annapolis Cup 29 out of the last 36 matches, and the Midshipmen have won the trophy seven times. The trophy is kept with the victor as the spoils of war. In the past, this cup has been kept in Galway Bay (then Little Campus), a storage closet and the front window of 49 West in Annapolis.

Good sportsmanship is a rule. There is no “trash talk,” and players may not throw a mallet or hit a ball in protest or anger. It is all very civilized play.

There is pre-match practice. To ensure that they are in peak condition for the game, both teams have challenged the Ginger Cove Croquet Team, from the Ginger Cove retirement community, to a match a few weeks before the Annapolis Cup since 1992. The day prior to this match, the Academy mess hall hosts a lunch where the Imperial Wicket for the Johnnies formally challenges the Midshipmen to a match.

There is music. To kick off the Ginger Cove Match, the St. John’s Freshman Chorus sings and the Naval Academy Trident Brass band plays. The Johnnies emerge in their surprise uniforms. At 1 p.m., they hit the ceremonial first ball to begin the game.

There’s more croquet. Both teams also compete in the United States Croquet Association Collegiate National Championships, held this weekend, April 6th-7th at the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, PA. So you can start watching them play now!

It’s a tale of two teams. The Midshipmen don their crisp white U.S. Croquet Association uniforms for the event and top these with a team tie that changes every year. Plebes in dress mess uniforms handle player refreshments. The Johnnies don’t reveal their outfits till right before the match, and these also change every year. They’ve worn tuxes, kilts, Viking outfits, camo and even USNA Crackerjack uniforms.

Don’t forget your best dress. Usually played on a beautiful spring day, this event showcases everything from larger-than-life hats and old-fashioned dresses to costumes that rival Mardi Gras. The whole point is good-natured cross-town rivalry – and a ton of fun!

Are you ready for some croquet? Now’s the time to get geared up for the match on April 27th! We have Navy t-shirts, umbrellas, all-weather checker mats and plenty of other Navy gear to make it a day to remember. Our last victory was in 2014. Let’s take back the trophy!

Topics: Insider

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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