Harry Clyde Carver the sportsman

Harry Carver had a reputation as an all-rounder when it came to sports and he was keen to impress his students with his skills. There are a number of variants of what must be the same episodes in different accounts. We present here extracts from two sources. Our third extract reports on Carver using his statistical skills in sport.


  1. Extract from: Cecil C Craig, Harry C Carver, 1890-1977, The Annals of Statistics 6 (1) (1978), 1-4.

    Carver was a natural athlete with unusual physical coordination. As an undergraduate he won his letter as a half-miler on the Michigan track team. For years after graduation he regularly worked out with the cross country team. He was a very good golfer who could take a single club, a five iron, and beat ordinary players with it. This coordination extended to unusual skill at billiards and pool. It is said that when he first arrived in Ann Arbor he was rather a diamond in the rough, and the habitues of the principal billiard hall near the campus thought he should be ripe for the plucking. They were disillusioned for he was good enough at pocket billiards to have made his living at that game had he so chosen. He twice played in the finals of the Western Conference (Big Ten) Faculty Tournament at straight rail billiards, and he was equally good at three cushion billiards. For years he regularly challenged any of his classes to competition with him in five outdoor sports, golf and track events, and five indoor contests such as pool and billiards and card games. If the class could win a majority of these Carver agreed to buy the class a dinner. He did occasionally lose a single event, such as a dash to the sprint champion of Scotland or a golf match to a native of St Andrews in Scotland, but he never had to buy a dinner for a class.

  2. Extract from: Harry Clyde Carver, The Michigan Alumnus 37 (18) (UM Libraries, 21 February 1931), 349-350.

    About this ability of Professor carver to play games! He conducts an advanced class of pretty capable individuals, several of them graduate students. Everyone in the group gets pretty well acquainted with everyone else, the teacher included. Along towards examination time he will make an announcement something along this line"

    "I'll excuse the entire class from final examination if -" and then proceeds to challenge the group to a series of competitions in any kind of games or sport desired, Carver to compete against the picked representative in each event and guaranteeing to win at least seventy-five per cent of the matches; otherwise no examination. Gleefully the class proceeds to choose its gladiators and to name the events. They discover a crack chess player and name the game. A good dash man id found and that event is picked. They unearth four fairly good mile runners and Carver agrees to run the whole four miles against the four-man relay. A billiard player is found. A shot-putter is produced. A bridge duo offers itself. A checker player volunteers. A high jumper offers to save the class from examination. Twelve events are named and the battle starts.

    He picks the first partner he can find and wins the bridge game. He take three straight chess matches and then the class announces that it has found a better opponent for this event. Carver consents to re-play and again wins three straight. In his street clothes he vanquishes the shot-putter. At the end of the hundred yard dash he looks over his shoulder and urges his student to hurry up. He wins at billiards easily after giving the class champion a 15-point handicap. He offers to play the match over, spotting the student 25 points and playing himself with a broom handle. Again he wins by a top-heavy margin. He takes on the relay team. The first runner manages to keep abreast of the Professor, but Carver runs easily in order to save himself for the three miles yet to come. He finishes but - behind. And he shamefacedly announces that it was a bad error of judgement not to run that first racer into the ground. And said racer admits from a sick bed that if Carver had stepped out fast at the start of the mile the race would have been his by default right there in the first quarter.

    About this time the class decides it has had enough. And what an examination they face the next week! Carver has done this not once but two or three times. And the undergraduates bite on the bait avidly each time.

  3. Extract from: Conning the Campus, The Michigan Alumnus 45 (8) (1938), 139.

    Harry C Carver, former varsity athlete and now Professor of Mathematics and specialist in the statistical phase of his science, called to his office a small group of his students and proceeded to do things with figures. ... He has a system. Systems are numerous as individuals who perpetrate them, but the Carver method of rating football teams seems to have merit. His students call it the Carver Multiple Correlation System and they are willing to back its merits ahead of the so-called Dickinson System and all the rest. The reason for their approval lies in the fact that it worked out perfectly in forecasting the results of the games of November 19, and also because, in its final form, it seems to indicate accurately the values which should be attached to the accomplishments of the various Big Ten football teams during the past season. Professor Carver had shown these same students his ratings a few nights before the final games of the season. On the basis of those ratings he had predicted the results of last Saturday's games. He hit every one of them on the dot - and there wasn't much difference between his prophecies as to scores and the actual results. ... the so-called Carver Multiple Correlation System takes almost everything into account. Its results bear a definite relationship to the calibre of the teams which have appeared on each eleven's schedule. It takes into account the completeness of each victory and defeat. ... It's accurate statistically and, in view of everything which has happened on Western conference gridirons this season, it appears to be a pretty keen analysis of the abilities of the various teams as they have won or lost during the fall of 1938.


JOC/EFR April 2015

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