In an often forgotten game, he is the hitherto unknown man.
Until recently, only 14 of the American team which lost 14-5 to France in Paris on October 10, 1920, could be identified.
Gene Vidal, who joined up with the USA squad after its September 5 win over the Tricolors at the Antwerp Olympic Games, played at center, according to newly uncovered newspaper accounts and archives at the United States Military Academy.
The match culminated a hastily arranged four-game tour following America's surprise gold medal. But several of the team's stars, including fullback Charles 'Dink' Templeton and wing Cornelius 'Swede' Righter, could not extend their stay in Europe, scrambling the US test lineup, which featured six changes from a month earlier.
The historical gap surfaced this summer by consequence of the gold medal teams' induction into the International Rugby Board's Hall of Fame, and USARFU's corresponding designation of five contests in 1920 and 1924 as internationals.
IRB historian Chris Thau spotted the omission in USARFU's records, and then located newspaper clips listing a 'Vidal' with no first name. While this was evidently a player not on the Olympic roster, there was a bare suggestion of ties to West Point. And so to Army director of rugby Rich Pohlidal, who located material pointing to a 1918 graduate named Eugene Luther Vidal who had been at the 1920 Games.
According to a passage written by Vidal in his official biography: 'Following USMA graduation ... I was an Olympic team coach and participated in a couple of such games, placing both in the pentathlon and decathlon as well as playing on the Olympic rugby team.'
Vidal, considered one of Army's greatest athletes, later played for the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, according to his biography. He went on to serve in the Roosevelt administration as Director of Air Commerce, then a new field. Gene Vidal also fathered a famous novelist, named Gore.
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