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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 7 - 1985

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Number 1:

Research Notes:

"The 1954 Lions" by Stan Grosshandler. Though the platoon rule had been in effect for several seasons, it appears that some coaches were still reluctant, either from practice or Iack of talent, to make the switch completely.

"Notes" by Johnny Shevalla. In 1984, five of the "Seven Blocks of Granite" were still living; the Eagles had 11 Hall of Famers; Chuck Mehelich had recently died

"Those '47 Irish" by David Neft. "No single college squad ever sent more players into major league pro football than the 1947 Notre Dame team. No less than 30 members of the undefeated Irish went on to play in either the NFL or the AAFC.

"Opinion" by Bob Carroll. "Apparently, TV Guide believes fans watch football so they can root for the owners.

Sonny Randle by Bob Barnett and Bob Carroll. "His 9.6 speed and sure hands won him respect - even fear - from opposition defensive backs, but the Cards' consistent also-ran status kept his name absent from the average household lexicon. " Ulmo Shannon Randle played 1969-68, mostly for the Cardinals, and was interviewed. The article focuses on his November 4, 1962 game against the Giants. Subtitled "Is There Life After Football"-- he went on to coach Marshall University. From the interview: "If you don't want a life you can keep saying, "I was this and I was that,' but that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee. When playing is over with, brother, you've got to be ready to fire, and you find out what life is really all about. Just be prepared because it will be a real shock. But life after pro football has been very good to me. I think I have worked hard and it's been rewarding."

George Trafton: The Toughest, Meanest by Don Smith. ...and Most Ornery" On induction to the HOF: "Players came quickly and left the same way in relatively short careers.. but there was one notable exception. a player named George Trafton and, over thirteen years from 1920 through 1932, he was the durable, hard-hitting center of the Chicago Bears. At that stage of pro football history, he is the only player of note to have even played that long, let alone with one team."

Tuffy Leemans: A Real Tuffy by Don Smith. "'Tuffy Leemans had it all,' Wayne Millner summarized. 'He could run, pass and catch and he played truly outstanding defense. He was aggressive, dedicated and gave 100 percent at all times to a game he loved. In my opinion, he ranks among the all-time greats.' "In 1978, the Hall's Board of Selectors indirectly seconded Millner's motion by naming Leemans to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This long-awaited recognition came a full 34 years after his final NFL game against Washington in 1943. Until Red Badgro, no other player waited so long after his retirement for Hall of Fame election."

Palmer Method: Passing Stats by Pete Palmer. A history of the NFL's passer rating system, which changed nine times between 1932 and 1973, and the mathematical explanation for the system as of 1985. "Basically the formula is a weighted yards per attempt with a bonus of 20 yards for each completion, an additional 80 yards for each touchdown, and a 100-yard penalty for each interception. It is my opinion that these bonuses and penalties are out of line. A fairer formula, I believe, is one that gives a twenty-yard bonus for each touchdown and a forty-yard penalty for each interception. There would be no bonus for each completion.

Joe Schmidt: He was Always in the Way by Don Smith. "Listing all of Joe's playing honors would take volumes. In short summary, he was voted to the NFL all-star team eight times. He was named to the Pro Bowl nine straight years from 1955 through 1963 and he saw his teammates name him their Most Valuable Player in 1955, 1957, 1958 and again in 1961. For all of these honors, perhaps the finest accolade an athlete can earn is the universal respect of his opponents and teammates and Joe earned this kind of acclaim in abundance."

Willie Davis: Speed, Agility and Size by Don Smith. Willie Davis was blessed with the three attributes - speed, agility and size - that Vince Lombardi considered most important for a successful football lineman. Davis, a dynamic 6-3, 245 pound player, also had the intangible assets -- dedication, intelligence, leadership - that enabled him to climb a cut above almost everyone else. In his 10 seasons with the powerful Green Bay elevens of the 1960s, he became widely recognized as a superior defensive end, one of the very best ever to play in the National Football League.

Number 2:

Research Notes:

"Beattie Was No Feather Merchant" by Jim Campbell; Beattie Feathers "In the league's fifteenth season (1934), a rookie out of the University of Tennessee made such an impact on the game that his accomplishments are sometimes questioned. No one before Beattie Feathers had ever gained 1,000 yards rushing in a season, and no one repeated his feat for another thirteen seasons until Steve Van Buren of the Philadelphia Eagles gained 1,008 yards in 1947."

"They Weren't Always 60-Minute Men" by Tod Maher. Maher discovered that in the early days pro football games would sometimes last less than sixty minutes.

"Almost a Steam Roller" by Pearce B. Johnson. Mel Hein's career with the New York Giants almost didn't happen. In 1930, he had to go to the Pullman, Washington, post office to intercept his acceptance of an offer by Providence.

Potsy Clark by Bob Carroll. "He achieved fame in a variety of sports capacities from 1912 through 1953, but it is as a pro football coach during the 1930's that he is best remembered today. In that critical era when the NFL was moving from its helter-skelter first decade to become in reality a major league, Potsy was considered the equal of such legends as Halas, Lambeau, Owen, and Flaherty. Some would have put him at the top of the list."

Ranking the Blockers by Bob Carroll. Carroll designed a rating system for linemen, giving 60 points for being on the roster, +10 for being a starter, adding between 1 and 30 for being on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd team of any of the five major all-pros selected in a season, adding 5 for a Pro Bowl, and subtracting between 1 and 48 points for games missed during a season. Under the suggested Carroll System, the Colts' Jim Parker got a 102.3 in 1962 and a 93.8 in 1963; during the same years, the Packers' Jerry Kramer was 100.5 and 106.0 (Bob added, "If you can come up with a rating system for linemen that is NOT based in some way on opinions, I'll be happy to listen. If you want to weight this system differently, say, give more points for the Pro Bowl, be my guest. If you think I've skipped some important rating factor, be my mentor.. But remember, I rate all letters to the editor.")

Ray Renfro: Speed Story by Bob Barnett and Bob Carroll.
"Ray Renfro was so fast that ."
"How fast was he?"
"He was so fast that he averaged a touchdown for every 5.6 passes he caught over a twelve year NFL career!"
The audience yawns. Not funny? Well, it certainly wasn't funny to the defenders who tried in vain to catch Renfro as he raced under a nicely arched Otto Graham or Milt Plum pass. He caused a lot of defensive backs to lose their senses of humor. A profile of Renfro, who played for Cleveland 1952-63.

Number 3:

1925 All-Pros by John Hogrogian. There were two polls, one of NFL city sportswriters (by the Green Bay Press-Gazette), and one by the staff of the "Ohio State Journal" in Columbus.

The Truth About Beattie by Bob Carroll. "Did he or didn't he? It seems like ever since Beattie Feathers had that remarkable season in 1934, Doubting Thomases have been trying to explain it away.. No one ever did it before (gain a thousand rushing yards in one season) and no one has done it since (average 9.9 per on 101 carries for 1,004 yards), Okay, but how do they account for his entry in the record book? It's obviously not a typo and it's been there for 51 years."

Draft Productivity: A Study by Gary Keller. Statistical analysis of the percentage of draft choices being signed by teams. "The AFL's ability to force a merger with the NFL was due to a number of factors. However, like the AAFC, the AFL was able to sign at least 45% (it actually signed 50%) of college seniors drafted by the NFL. This statistic stands the test of time. The primary examples of leagues that failed to repeat the example of this key indicator were the World Football League (1974-75) and most recently the USFL."

Super Bowl IX: Looking at the Numbers by Tod Maher. A statistical look at Super Bowl IX using new statistical tools such as Field Percentage.

Belly Up in Dallas: 1952 by Joe Horrigan. Article about the 1952 Dallas Texans, who earned "the dubious distinction of being the last NFL team to fail", were victims of "a combination of bad management and bad luck" Quoting Coach Jimmy Phelan, "We got all the breaks and they were all bad."

Origin of the Running Species by Jim Campbell. A look at offensive strategies from "the wedge" to the single-wing to the power-I formation. "Trend-setting running backs are remembered fondly, but the reality is that most of their deeds could not have heen performed without the help of blockers - interior linemen and others who helped clear the way. It was that way a century ago ... and it is not different today."

Number 4:

Remember the Cleveland Rams? by Hal Lebovitz. (Reprint from the Cleveland Plain Dealer 1/20/80). A look back at the 1936 American Football League team that joined the NFL in 1937 and went to Los Angeles and then St. Louis. Attorney Homer Marshman, "the real father of the Rams" was interviewed.

1974 Playoff: Vikings-Rams by Joe Zagorski. In a game where the winner would go to Super Bowl IX, the Rams were down 14-10 when "Ram fullback John Cappelleti carried the ball off-tackle to the six-inch line. Six inches away from the lead in a game where every point was important! " The true story of what happened next.

So long, Jack Lambert by Vic Ketchman. (Reprint from the Irwin (Pennsylvania) Standard-Observer, 7/11/1985) A reporter remembers "one of the greatest middle linebackers in pro football history, but, beyond that, a legend in Pittsburgh sports that will live longer than any of us." -- from "his dislike of sissy reporters" to "Lambert always made the kids say please and thank you for the autographs he loved to sign."

Feathers: The Other Side by Mark Purcell. Fourth article about Feathers in 1985, and a response to "The Truth About Beattie" "I have read Bob Carroll's article on Feathers' 1,000 yards in 1934 with much interest since I am almost certainly one of the villainous targets of the piece. Now that Bob and David Neft have summarized the available evidence for us, we anti- Featherites can regroup and try again."

The Steelers' Greatest Victory by Bob Barnett. "If you asked the average Pittsburgh Steeler fan to pick the Steelers' greatest victory ever, he/she would probably select the 1972 AFC playoff victory over the Oakland Raiders which included Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception," or one of the 1974, 1975, 1978, or 1979 Super Bowl victories. Wrong on any of the above.. It is easy to win when you are already a winner. Great victories are won by underdog, outmanned losers who, with the stink of defeat around them, rise up and smite their heavily favored opponent. Kind of the David and Goliath thing. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the greatest victory ever occurred on a cold December 1 in 1952."

All-Pros: The Missing Votes in 1938 by Bob Carroll. "At first glance (or even second or third), a few missing votes from the 1938 Official All-NFL Team might not seem like anything worth worrying about. To tell you the truth, I may not lose any sleep. Nevertheless, it is curious, and I thought you might like to know.." Ace Parker of the Dodgers was selected as the All-NFL quarterback, by a 26-13 margin; but, Carroll noted, there were 16 points that were missing in the final tally-- theoretically, it might have been Riley Smith by a 29-26 vote. "But," he adds, "I doubt that very much."

Number 5:

The 1920's All-Pros in Retrospect by Bob Carroll. Carroll selected the 18 players that he'd pick as the best of the 1920s.

1914: Ohio by Bob Carroll. The 1914 season included the fatal injury of Harry Turner during Canton's 6-0 win over Akron. In a rematch, Peggy Parratt's Akron Indians beat Canton 21-0 to win the Ohio Championship (as mythical as Santa Claus, but. the extra few paying customers a credible championship claim might bring in could make the difference between profit and loss - and the difference between closing up shop and playing another season.)

A Place to Play by Joe Zagorski. All of the 28 NFL Stadiums have their own flavor and mystique. Some are larger, some are older, and some are simply better places to watch from. Some have astroturf, and some have grass that could make a satiated sheep salivate. Some have luxury suites that include wet bars and chandeliers, and some are strictly beer and pretzels. Nevertheless, all are cathedrals of capacity crowds and houses of hits and hustle. Pro football's places of play are mighty special indeed.

Mr. 49er: Frankie Albert by Joseph Hession. Book excerpt from "Forty Niners: Looking Back" pfoling 49er quarterback Frankie Albert.

Feathers Again! by Mark Purcell. More arguments about whether or not Beattie Feathers gained 1000 yards rushing in 1934.

1936-37 Draft by Jim Campbell. The first two NFL drafts, and some history of how the system has changed.

The Real System by Bob Carroll. The "Cynical Ranking of Advertising Potential System" essentially ranks the best quarterbacks by which six NFL teams had the best records in any year, from 1945 to 1984. "I had a little trouble with the order in the last few years because of the annoying habit of wild card teams winning playoff games, so I used an involved tie-breaking system which I've since forgotten. If you want to have fun, assign point values for each position. I suggest 110 for the Number One slot in honor of the percent they are said to give."

Number 6:

When Notre Dame Won Rockford City Championship by Emil Klosinski. In 1919, Notre Dame beat Purdue, 33-13. The next day, six of its players, including George Gipp, were ringers for the Rockford Grands in the game against Rockford AAC for the championship of the Illinois town. Playing also were two members of the South Bend Arrows, including John Klosinski, the writer's father. Playing as "Baker", the Gipper assisted in the Grands' 17-9 win.

The Staten Island Stapletons by John Hogrogian. A complete history of the team that played on New York's Staten Island from 1915 to 1933, including its years as an NFL team from 1929 to 1932.

1938 Draft by Jim Campbell. Results of the draft held on December 12, 1937, with information on which players went on to play in the NFL.

PFI Picks the Early All-Pros by Bob Gill. A 1947 issue of Pro Football Illustrated included a selection of the "All-time all-NFL team" for the years from 1921 to 1946. "It's too bad, in retrospect, that the editors of PFI hadn't been charged with selecting members of the Hall of Fame from the pre-World War II era - or at least, that the Hall of Fame selectors didn't pay more attention to this list."

Annual:

1922: Birth, Rebirth, and Resuscitation by Bob Carroll. Details of two owners' meetings that determined the transition of the APFA to the NFL. The first was held in Canton on January 28, and the second in Cleveland on June 24. A companion article, called "A Few More Loose Ends", chronicles the 1922 season. "It was a year when money talked -- loudly at the league meetings but softly to the press. It was a year when players gained ground on the field and lost ground to the owners. It was a year of great moral outrage and sharp practices. It was also the first year that the National Football League actually called itself that."

Ontario Rugby Football Union: 1883-1906 by Robert Sproule. In both the U.S. and Canada, a system of downs and lines of scrimmage altered rugby into a new game. A history not only of the ORFU, but of the parallel direction that the game took north of the border.

Joe Pisarcik: The Professional by Joe Zagorski. "Joe Pisarcik has conquered his past, and has played his part. This is enough to withstand the pains of failure." After the disastrous "Miracle in the Meadowlands" (November 19, 1978), Piasarcik played six more seasons in the NFL, as a backup for the Eagles.

Early Black Professionals by Joe Horrigan. "1934-45: No blacks played in the National Football League during this period." A comprehensive look at the other years. Focus is on four African-American pro players before 1920, thirteen who played in the NFL before the color line took over, and the four who re-integrated pro ball in 1946 (Kenny Washington and Woody Strode for the NFL Rams, and Bill Willis and Marion Motley for the AAFC Browns). Also listed are the first black players on each pro team-- the Washington Redskins didn't integrate until 1962.

2020 Convention
June 18-21, 2020
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Canton, Ohio

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