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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 2 - 1980

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Number 1:

Charles Follis by Milt Roberts. A look at the accomplishments and obstacles for "America's first black professional football player", Follis (1879-1910) played for the Shelby (Ohio) Blues 1902-06. First published in Black Sports, Nov. 1975.

Jim Parker by Don Smith. Biography of the Baltimore Colt Hall of Fame offensive lineman. He was the first "pure" offensive lineman inducted into the Hall. The fact that Parker and his teammates did the job well goes a long way toward explaining the unprecedented passing feats of Unitas and the overall success of the Colts.

1955: That Wonderful Year by Bob Carroll. Summary of the 1955 NFL season, including Cleveland's 38-14 title win over the Los Angeles Rams, Ogden Compton's memorable pass to Night Train Lane, the five-man line and the three-end attack.

Number 2:

Chuck Bednarik by Don Smith. Bio of the Hall of Fame linebacker-center for the Philadelphia Eagles. As an offensive center, Bednarik was a bulldozing blocker. On defense, he not only was a true scientist at his job, but a bone-jarring tackler who literally could stop even the best enemy runner "on a dime." Previously published in Pro!

Singles by Robert Sproule. Ever hear of a non-forfeited football game ending with the score 1-0? It happened most recently when the Montreal Alouettes beat the Ottawa Rough Riders on Oct. 30, 1966. It is possible in Canada because they have a way of scoring one point, all by itself. Appropriately enough, it's called a single. Canadian football historian Sproule describes the unique rule.

A Strange Switch by Stan Grosshandler. George Blanda's started college as a T-formation quarterback, before being switched over to other roles - tailback, defensive back, linebacker, and kicker.

1940: That Wonderful Year from the New York Times. This past season ever will be remembered for one reason, the 73-0 massacre of the Washington Redskins by the Chicago Bears, one of the greatest teams, amateur or professional, in the annals of the gridiron sport. A contemporary review of the 1940 NFL season.

YPSG by C.C. Staph. What happens to some of the individual records when adjusted in accord with the number of scheduled games? We re not advocating a ton of Roger Maris Asterisks, but we thought you might be interested. In 1979, Dan Fouts had a record 4,082 yards passing in 16 games for 255 yards per scheduled game, less than Joe Namath's 286.2 in 14 games in 1967.

Number 3:

The Steam Roller by John Hogrogian. More than half a century ago, in 1928, Rhode Island had its own National Football League champions, the Providence Steam Roller. The story of that team is the story of an era of professional football much different from that of today. The definitive history of Providence's seven seasons (1925-31) in the NFL.

Number 4:

The Executives: "We Thought Like Champs" by Stan Grosshandler. The most extensive known interview of the late Henry Jordan (1935-79), the Green Bay Packers' defensive tackle who would later be enshrined at Canton in 1995. The title comes from Vince Lombardi's statement, "You are paid like executives, so you will dress like them, act like them, and have their positive approach."

The Toronto Argonauts (to World War I) by Robert Sproule. Formed in 1874 as an amateur rugby team, the Argonauts are the oldest major-league football team in North America. Traces the Argonauts from the days of keeping a rowing team in shape, up to their first Grey Cup win in 1914.

Number 5:

Dr. Joe [Kopcha]: A Guard's Guard by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. Interview and biography of Chicago Bears' guard Joe Kopcha (1929, 1932-36), who returned to the NFL after getting his M.D. Dr. Joseph Kopcha retired to become an obstetrician in Gary, Indiana and was a charter member of PFRA. While putting together shin-guards, he explained to Paddy Driscoll, "I want to protect my legs from osteomyelitis disease." Driscoll walked away.

Number 6:

Red Badgro by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. Interview and biography of Morris "Red" Badgro, HOF member and one of the best two-way ends to play in the NFL (1930-36).

The Taylorville Scandal by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. The story of how the Green Bay Packers were kicked out of the NFL between the 1921 and 1922 seasons for using college players under assumed names. From the article: "One last piece of trivia: the 'new' Green Bay team of 1922 took as its official nickname the Blues, although most cities around the league continued to call them the Packers."

Number 7:

All-American Football Conference by Stan Grosshandler. A 12-page history of the AAFC, from its inception on June 4, 1944, to its demise on December 9, 1949.

Pro Football Records Should Include the AAFC by Ed Pavlick. A guest editorial, along with an opposing viewpoint, that the PFRA should support statistical recognition of the 1946-49 AAFC.

Number 8:

Cleveland's 1st Title by Joe Horrigan. How the Cleveland Bulldogs became the 1924 NFL champions, despite losing a post-season match with the second place Chicago Bears.

Happy Birthday NFL? by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. Although the NFL dates its existence from September 17, 1920, PFRA researchers Bob Braunwart, Bob Carroll and Joe Horrigan, found that the American Professional Football Conference or APFC was organized a month earlier on August 20, 1920. The NFL Record & Fact Book would later be revised (1987) to reflect the PFRA researchers' discovery.

Now Kicking, Kelsch by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. The little-known story of Christian "Mose" Kelsch, a former sandlot player who might be the first "kicking specialist" in pro football. On October 18, 1933, the 37 year old Kelsch became an unlikely hero when he gave the new Pittsburgh team its first NFL victory. During his two-year NFL career, Kelsch was not only the oldest player in the league, but he was also older than the team's owner, Art Rooney. Tragically, Kelsch was killed in an automobile accident in 1935.

Number 9:

Glenn Dobbs by Bob Braunwart and; Bob Carroll. Although he played eight seasons of outstanding professional football and ranks among the greatest triple threats of all time, Glenn Dobbs will probably never be elected to the Hall of Fame. Why? Because four of his seasons were played in the All-America Football Conference (1946-49) and the other four were played in Canada (1951-54).

Iron Men by Vic Frolund. An article about college football in the 1920s and prior, when entire teams would play the full game without a substitution. The author concludes that the term "iron man" to describe a 60-minute player, pro or college, was first applied to describe the Brown University team of 1926.

Iron Words by Joe Horrigan. A companion to "Iron Men". When asked why football games should be played while America was in the Second World War, Cardinals' head coach Jimmy Conzelman gave an eloquent answer. Prior to the war, college graduates "have been taught to build. Now they must learn to destroy."

6 by Sayers by Associated Press. A look back at December 12, 1965, when Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns in the Bears' 61-20 win over the 49ers. Quoting from the Assoociated Press article, Mankin adds, "Believe it or not, he could have scored a seventh touchdown. Jon Arnett zipped over on a short plunge for the last TD and I believe Sayers was on the field at the time."

Number 10:

The Spartans Live on (in Detroit) by C. Robert Barnett. Had it not been for some Wisconsin "cheese" and a Colorado basketball game, the little town of Portsmouth, Ohio, might be able to fly two National League championship pennants over Spartan Municipal Stadium. After coming close to being NFL champions in both 1931 and 1932, the Spartans were sold in 1934 to George A. Richards, who moved the team and renamed in the Detroit Lions.

Football Players Are Better Than Ever, Right? by David Shapiro. Wrong, says Dr. Shapiro. The NFL's official measurement of season performance has never been corrected for the different number of games in the seasons being compared. This is no different than keeping track records without regard to whether the distances are measured in feet, yards, or meters. The Shapiro measure shows 12 "new" NFL season records, courtesy of logic and a pocket calculator, and seven of them unbroken since the 1940's.

Number 11:

The First AFL Game by Larry Bortstein. Seconds after 8 o'clock on the night of Sept. 9, 1980, Tony Discenzo, a 245-pound Boston Patriots' tackle from Michigan State University, ran a few steps and kicked a football to the Denver Broncos. Discenzo's boot kicked off an adventure called the "American Football League. An 11-page recollection of the Broncos' origins, including an interview with founder Bob Howsam. First published in the Denver Post.

Firsts [in the AFL] by Larry Bortstein. From the first coin toss to the first extra point attempt to miss, first-time assembly of firsts from the Broncos 13-10 win over the Patriots in the AFL's inaugural game.

Number 12:

The Mugging of Bobby Layne by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. A review of the Ed Meadows incident and other violent moments in football history. The title comes from the December 16, 1956 game between the Lions and Bears, in which Detroit quarterback Layne was injured.

Ken Haycraft Remembers the Way It Was by James E. Odenkirk. Life for the average NFL player in the 1929 and 1930, as recounted by end Ken Haycraft. Haycraft played for the Minneapolis Redjackets and one game for Green Bay, and later became an attorney. While in New York City, the team stayed in a first class hotel near Central Park. The players dressed in their uniforms while in their rooms, then walked from their hotel to Central Park in tennis shoes and practiced, often to the delight of pedestrians.

Hutson Brings Down the House by Pat Livingston. Recollection of a 1942 Bears-Packers game, where Don Hutson made "the most incredible premeditated play I ever saw on a football field." Originally published in the Pittsburgh Press.

Annual:

Before the Beginning: The Roots of Pro Football by Bob Braunwart. Of today's seven major football codes - American, Association (soccer), Australian, Canadian, Gaelic, Rugby League and Rugby Union -- are descended from a common source which probably resembled rugby. A history going back to Shrove Tuesday, 217 A.D., and the Roman game of harpastum.

Latrobe, PA: Cradle of Pro Football by Robert Van Atta. A 21 page history of the Latrobe Athletics (1895-1907), starting from a 12-0 win over Jeanette on September 3, 1895, and John Braillier's first game as one of the first pro football players. Starting with a 12-0 win over Jeanette PA, Latrobe played until 1907. Dr. Braillier died on September 17, 1960, forty years to the day after the NFL organizational meeting.

Dave Berry and the Philadelphia Story by Bob Carroll. Berry, owner of the Pittsburgh Stars, and Philadelphia baseball owners John I. Rogers (Phillies) and Ben Shibe (Athletics) put together a three team round-robin for a pro football championship in 1902, and dubbed the arrangement the National Football League.

Tom O'Rourke's World Series by Bob Carroll. The story (8 pages) of a pro football tournament held in 1902 and 1903, at New York's Madison Square Garden. Tom O'Rourke, the Garden's manager, arranged the indoor tournament, on a 70-by-35 yard field.

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Hall of Very Good Logo

This month's Coffin Corner

1958 Baltimore Colts

The 1966 Green Bay Packers

The All-America Football Conference

The Early History of Professional Football

A Minor Masterpiece