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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 9 - 1987

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Number 1:

Glamourless Gridirons: 1907-09 by Bob Carroll. "Most of pro football's story is worth a second look; the years immediately following the disaster of 1906 deserve a first look. Those seasons are consistently ignored in most histories as though pro football fans in Ohio spent several autumns with their heads buried in sand and those local football players not enrolled in academic institutions took up knitting. Not so! Professional football was alive and well and living in Buckeyeland."

Squirmin' Herman by Bob Carroll. Article about Herman Wedemeyer, native Hawaiian who became an AAFC star with the L.A. Dons. so called because of his ability to elude tacklers during kick returns. "In two seasons of pro football, he continued to star as a kick-returner, leading the AAFC in punt return yardage in 1948 and kickoff return yardage in 1949, but he found only limited success running from the T-formation." After football, he attained new fame as "Duke" on Hawaii Five-O

The Duluth Connection by David Neft. "Maybe it was something in the water." In the mid-1920s, "everyone came from Duluth!" - or at least 43 players did, with Johnny Blood heading the list.

Number 2:

When Stinky Stuffed the Pack (Bill Hewitt) by Bob Carroll. Hewitt played eight NFL seasons for the Bears (1932-36) and the Eagles (1937-39), then was lured out of retirement for the Steagles in 1943. "Fans knew him as "The Off-Sides Kid," so named because his charge at the snap was so quick opponents insisted he was off-sides on every play. Officials watched him carefully and swore he was legal - just fast. His Bear teammates were delighted to have the zebras watch Hewitt so carefully; it left them unobserved for whatever frolics they cared to work on their enemies."

Paul Krause: Defender by Joe Zagorski. "I was always a baseball player first, a centerfielder, and I wanted to play in the big leagues," remembers Krause. "One day, while I was playing for the University of Iowa baseball team, I ruined my shoulder - tore everything in it. After that, it had to be football." Krause played 16 NFL seasons, for Washington (1964-67) and Minnesota (1968-79), and made 81 interceptions, "as the greatest pass stealing free safety in NFL history."

Frankford Yellow Jackets: Pre-NFL by Richard Pagano & Bob Carroll. Before they were in the NFL, the Jackets were nationally famous. From 1920 to 1923, they played as independents. In 1922, they were 3-0-1 against the NFL, in 1923, 3-2-0.

Number 3:

Jackie Robinson: Pro Football Prelude by Bob Gill. Yes, THAT Jackie Robinson. Before he went into baseball, he played for the Hollywood Bears in 1941 for the Pacific Coast League, at that time the strongest league west of the Mississippi. After serving in World War II, he returned in 1944 for the Los Angeles Bulldogs.

Gil Bouley 1945-50 by Joseph Hession. As an offensive lineman, Interview with the Rams' tackle, who played for the Rams in Cleveland and Los Angeles and went to 3 title games in 6 years.

1949 Los Angeles Rams by Joseph Hession. "Prior to the start of the 1949 season, the NFL took a giant step toward modernizing professional football when it adopted the free-substitution rule. Coaches were now able to platoon players and establish offensive and defensive squads, rather than have the same 11 players on the field for most of the game.. When Los Angeles hosted the NFL championship for the first time ever, "the game was played in a downpour at the Coliseum with only 25,245 fans in attendance. The muddy field hampered the Ram passing attack. They were able to cross the 50-yard line only twice and were unable to score". Philadelphia won, 14-0.

Number 4:

Frankford Yellow Jackets: 1924-26 by Richard Pagano and Bob Carroll. Subtitled "Part 2: The Good Years" "The Frankford Yellow Jackets entered the National Football League in 1924 as the league's first solid east coast team." In 1926, they won the NFL championship.

Looking into Your Locals by Bob Carroll. "If there's one area of pro football history that we really don't know much about, it's the pre-World War II, non-major league pro teams. Some of them, particularly in the '20s and early '30s, were on a par with many NFL teams. Others, while not so strong overall, employed some outstanding individuals. Yet, in many cases, we don't even know the names of the teams, much less the players. Yet, it seems, from what we do know, that virtually every community in America at one time or another took a shot at pro football. Probably yours did." Tips on how to ANYBODY can contribute to pro football history.

Number 5:

Herb Adderley: Cornerback by Don Smith. "Starting with his first regular-season game in the National Football League, Herb Adderley proved to be a "big-play" star who could and many times did turn apparent defeat into important victory. Adderley, who excelled for the Green Bay Packers from 1961 through 1969 and then wound up his 12-year career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1970, 1971 and 1972, demoralized the opposition in a variety of ways.. In Super Bowl II, he returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown in the Packers' 33-14 win over the Raiders."

Giant of a Man: Jack Lummus by John Gunn. He played as a backup for ten games with the New York Giants in 1941 and had one reception for five yards, then joined the USMC. Lt. Lummus was killed at Iwo Jima and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Lummus was only one of two NFL players to received the nation's highest honor (the other was Maurice Britt of the Lions).

Short Man - Long Legacy: Shorty Ray by Bob Carroll. "Probably the least-known enshrinee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Hugh L. "Shorty" Ray was National Football League Supervisor of Officials from 1938 through 1952. He never played or coached a down in the NFL, but he deserves much credit for the success the pro game achieved by the 1950s."

The Salinas Packers by Tod Maher. The "Iceberg Packers" of little Salinas, California, played from 1936 to 1938. In their first year, they played post-season exhibitions against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Green Bay Packers, and a team of NFL All-Stars. In 1937, they played six games against teams of the "second AFL."

Number 6:

When Did They Start? by Pearce Johnson. From 1888 to 1919, a list of when pre-NFL non-college and pro teams began play. Teams include the Homestead Library (1899), the Asbury Park Oreos (1903), the Portsmouth Shoe Steels (1910), and the Bridgeport American Chain (1916).

Minor-League Records by Steve Brainerd. Claude Watts had 666 total points from 1963-75, and they were all on touchdowns. Other stars include King Corcoran, Tom Bland, Tom McKinney, Marv Pettaway, Pottsville Firebirds QB Corcoran also played 2 games for the Patriots in 1968.

Snags, Clippers, and Lombardi: Pre-War Minors by Bob Gill. "A couple of [1937]'s most interesting football stories took place not in the NFL, but in the nether-world of football's minor leagues. As a result, they were quickly consigned to oblivion, the common fate of most chapters of non-NFL pro football history. It was a fate they didn't deserve. Stories of the bizarre 1937 American Association post-season (with three teams claiming the title), and Vince Lombardi's pro player days with the Wilmington Clippers, Brooklyn Eagles and Churchill Pros."

Number 7:

23 Guys with Hobbies by Bob Davids. A 1987 list (before Bo and Deion) of 22 men who played Major League Baseball and NFL in the same season. Pete Layden played for the AAFC Yankees and the AL Browns in 1948. Steve Filipowicz played as both an outfielder and a halfback for the New York Giants teams in 1948.

Terry Baker: A Different Success by Beau Riffenburgh. The 1962 Heisman Trophy winner "suffered through a pro career as disappointing as his college years had been glorious", playing quarterback and then running back with the Rams (1963-65). " 'Maybe I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,' Baker says. 'The Rams were so unorganized when I joined them that the coaches didn't know what was going on. I started my first game, and I was no more prepared to do that than the man in the moon. I threw three interceptions, and I think [Rams head coach] Harland Svare lost confidence in me right there.' "Baker passed up an offer from the Giants, played for the CFL with Edmonton in 1966, then returned to Oregon to become a successful attorney.

Ice Princes: 1934 Giants by Bob Carroll. "The 1934 New York Giants are forever damned in pro football lore as freaks of footwear. The story of how they donned sneakers in the second official NFL Championship Game and snuck to victory while the traditionally-shod Big Bad Bears slipped, skidded, and slid to defeat has been told more often than 'the check's in the mail' or 'I'll respect you in the morning.' " Was it just the shoes? Carroll's conclusion-- "On a normal field, the Giants just might have won that 1934 Championship fair and square. We'll never know."

Number 8:

Old-Timers Played More for Love Than Money by Tony Barnhart. According to a 1987 survey of NFL old-timers by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, players were expected to play with pain and injury. Of 130 former players who responded, 73% said they regularly played games when they were injured. And more than a fourth, 26.2 %, said they are currently disabled in some fashion due to playing pro football.

The Way It Was by And How Players Feel Today by Tony Barnhart. The complete results of the 1987 survey by the Atlanta Journal Constitution for the NFL Alumni, along with comments from Lee Artoe, Lou Brock, Chester Bulger, Gerry Conlee, Bill Dudley, Richard Edlitz, Otto Graham, Art Jones, Thomas Jones, Ken Kavanaugh, Nolan Luhan, Armand Nicolai, Robert Reinhard, Paul Stenn, Earl Svendsen, and Al Wistert.

The '40's: NFL Goes to War by Tony Barnhart. A total of 638 NFL players served, and 21 died during the war. Others didn't see combat: "Many players considered "essential" to the war effort found their duty limited to service teams around the world. The better players were considered valuable commodities." -- quote from Bullet Bill Dudley about being discharged in 1945-- "My CO comes to me and said I had two choices. I could get on a freighter right then and be in Fort Dix the following week, or I could play four football games for his major and get a flight straight home. So I played the four games, and after the last one they had a car waiting for me and took me straight to the airport."

Rough Play in the 1950s by Tony Barnhart. "[A]s the game reached its Golden Age, as some have called it, a disquieting trait began to emerge. Some called them Black Hats, some called them enforcers. They were the practitioners of a form of exceptionally violent play that was still technically legal. All about the "Hi-Lo" ("in which two players would tackle a ball carrier with the express purpose of making an accordion of his spine"), the "Missouri Block" (an elbow to the face), and techniques for twisting a neck or flicking dirt in an opponent's eye.

The Way It Was by Tony Barnhart. Quotes from Hein and Wistert, and a list of people whom the "pre-59ers" constantly referred to as unforgettable (including some less well-known, such as Art "Tarzan" White and Wee Willie Wilkin). This includes some of the most concise descriptions ever written about the what made a particular person great-- Grange, Thorpe, Baugh, Layne, Hutson, Van Buren, Hein, Graham, Luckman, Motley, Blood, Donovan, Conzelman, and Neale, as well as Halas, Lambeau and C.C. Pyle.

Number 9:

Lou Rymkus: The Battler by Bob Carroll. "Rymkus can tick off the names of players he 'handled' until he's listed just about every important lineman of his day. It's an honesty that can be both refreshing and aggravating. Either way, the record seems to support him. In every one of his six seasons with the Browns, Lou was namedeither first or second team on one of the major All- Pro or All-League teams."

The Rivalry: Browns and Bengals by Morris Ekhouse. "The first meeting between the Browns and the Bengals - on August 29, 1970 - stands as a classic. On the surface, the game was just another meaningless pre-season warm-up contest. But the underlying dynamics made it one of the most eagerly anticipated and noteworthy games in the history of Cleveland sports. Both teams had been created in the image of Paul E. Brown."

1957: They Broke Their Heart in San Franciso by Joseph Hession. "The year 1957 was both magical and tragic for San Francisco football fans. Heart-stopping finishes became the 49ers' trademark as the team continued its winning ways and innovative tradition." On the last day of the regular season, the 49ers forced a playoff with the Detroit Lions. Playing at home, they had a 20 point lead over the Lions in the 3rd quarter and were on their way to their first NFL title game, until.

R.C. Owens: Alley Oop by Joseph Hession. "It seemed unlikely that a rookie receiver playing in his sixth NFL game would leap into the stratosphere, gram a 50-yard pass above Detroit's All-Pro secondary and score a winning touchdown with 10 seconds on the clock.

But that's exactly what R. C. Owens did in 1957 when he and Y.A. Tittle made the Alley-Oop pass as much a part of San Francisco as Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge." Lots of quotes from the vertical jumping 49ers star: ""It was noticed that I could outjump the defenders," said Owens. "Red Hickey, Frankie Albert and Y. A. Tittle all decided this might be something we could use in a game. Then we wondered what to call it. Somehow we decided on Alley-Oop."

Number 10:

Tony Latone: The Hero of Pottsville by Joe Zagorski. "He came out of the coal mines to play pro football - a shy but rugged individual whose actions did his talking for him." George Halas once said, "If Latone had gone to college and played college ball, he would certainly have been one of the greatest pro players of all time." During his six seasons in the NFL, Latone had an estimated 2,648 yards rushing over 65 games.

Annual:

Pioneer in Pro Football by Jack Cusak. As the intro notes, Cusack "is the man who brought the celebrated Jim Thorpe into professional football". Cusack, 97 years old when his article "Let the Chips Fall Where They May" was published, shared an eyewitness account of pro football's early events. He was general manager of the pre-NFL Canton Bulldogs 1912-17, and later the NFL Cleveland Indians, from 1921 to 1922.

The Anthacite League by Joe Zagorski. Pro football history reconstructed by Zagorski, about a forgotten NFL competitor. "The Anthracite League was conceived by a group of people who attempted, in a somewhat feeble way, to imitate the five-year-old National Football League." During its lone season, the league had NFL players-- Ben Shaw, Cecil Grigg, Lou Smyth, and a fellow named Fritz Pollard played for the Gilberton Catamounts. After the 1924 season, the Pottsville Maroons went from the 5-team league to the NFL.

The Visionary Chief by Joe Zagorski. "In the 1960's, Lamar Hunt's irrepressible gaze into the state of professional football helped to restore the sight of the blind hierarchy of the National Football League. His views and persistence changed the course of the game, and his innovative ideas soon became the corrective lenses for many of today's pro football franchises." Quotes from Hunt-- "Pro football is a business in the context of a game. The AFL won its share (and lost its share, too) of the talent. We had a major advantage in that the AFL had only 8 teams, where the NFL had 14 teams. We only had to sign about 1 out of every top 3 players to get our share. This we did easily, but expensively."

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