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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 21 - 1999

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Number 1:

PFRA Awards. The winners of the first annual writing awards and the Ralph Hay and Nelson Ross awards are announced.

Fantastic Finishes: Three Weeks with the New York Titans by William J. Ryczek. For three consecutive weeks, the Titans saw a game settled by a mad scramble in the last seconds, including two decided by a botched punt on the final play.

Football's Fertile Crescent: Pittsburgh Sandlots by Eric Poole. Pittsburgh’s sandlots are no place for the faint of heart.

Bill Walsh: All-Pro Center by Jim Sargent. Sharing memories with Bill Walsh, an All-Pro center with Pittsburgh who went on to coach 32 years in the AFL and NFL, including the Super Bowl IV champions Chiefs.

Welcome the PIFL and the RFL by Stuart Kantor. Say hello to the Professional Indoor Football League and the Regional Football League—neither of which would turn out to leave much of an impression on the American football landscape. Both ceased operations after one season.

1998 Player Deaths. An alphabetical accounting of all the former players who passed away in 1998, including Ray Nitschke and Sid Luckman.

Jack Pardee - Survivor by Mark Speck. The linebacker-turned-coach survived Bear Bryant, 15 years in the NFL, cancer, and the wild and crazy WFL.

A Perfect Season: the 1948 Browns by Lawrence Lee Jr. Paul Brown’s 1948 Cleveland Browns went 14-0 during the regular season, then won the AAFC title game with a 49-7 rout of the Buffalo Bills.

Johnny Sisk by Stan Grosshandler. Halfback Johnny Sisk played with nine future Hall of Famers during his five years with the Bears, 1932-36.

Don Kindt by Stan Grosshandler. The nine-year veteran and two-way back remembers the Bears’ famous fail against the Dallas Texans in 1952. “George Halas was so mad he rushed the length of the field and kicked me in the shin!”

Number 2:

Rules of the Name by Jim Campbell. Explaining rules changes that can be identified with a particular player, such as the “Deacon Jones rule” banning head-slaps.

Football's Fertile Crescent - Pittsburgh Colts by Eric Poole. For the revived version of the minor-league Pittsburgh Colts, professionalism is a matter of attitude.

The White, Night Football by Alan Ross. The history of the white football, used in night games for decades in order to offset poor lighting.

Trainer Bobby Brown by Kevin Carroll. Bobby Brown was known as “the best hot-patch man in the business” during his many years as trainer.

Three-Peat! The 1931 Season by Bob Carroll. Unwinding the 1931 NFL season, which ended with Green Bay’s controversial cancellation of a final contest with Portsmouth that preserved the Packers’ unprecedented third straight title.

Q-Ratings for the NFL by Bob Carroll. A first attempt to rank players by their popularity. Is Bruce Smith more likable than Reggie White?

Herman Gundlach: The Real Deal by Jim Campbell. Guard Herman Gundlach captained the Harvard team, played in the 1935 Chicago All-Star Game, but lasted only two games in the NFL before getting in an argument with owner George Preston Marshall and concluding his football career.

Number 3:

Ringers by the Van: Ironton vs. Portsmouth Smoke House, 1923 by Carl Becker. A bizarre chapter in the practice of using “ringers” occurred in a bitter 1923 game between the lronton Tanks, a semi-professional eleven in Ironton, and the Smoke House, a squad in Portsmouth. At stake was supremacy of the Ohio Valley.

Lou Rymkus: The Battler by Kevin Carroll. A standout tackle for two of the game’s greatest coaches, Frank Leahy and Paul Brown,Lou Rymkus went on to coach the Houston Oilers to the first AFL title in 1960.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Top 20. The career leaders in passing, rushing, receiving, and scoring at the beginning of the 1999 season.

Fertile Crescent III: High Caliber Talent on Local Sandlot Fields by Eric Poole. Professional teams occasionally plucked high-caliber talent from the western Pennsylvania sandlots—most famously, Johnny Unitas.

1932: 60-yard Circus by Bob Carroll. Revisiting the 1932 NFL season, which culminated with the famous Chicago Bears-Portsmouth Spartans “championship” game squeezed inside Chicago Stadium—“a sham battle played on a Tom Thumb gridiron.”

Elijah Pitts: The Ideal Second String Back by Stan Grosshandler. The 11-year veteran back, a member of all five of Green Bay’s title teams in the ‘60s, was always ready to contribute mentally and physically.

Remembering Gene Brito based on articles by Jim Campbell and Robert L. Cannon. A reminiscence of the veteran end of the 1950s, who died at age 39.

Number 4:

A Cup of Coffee Player: John Stock by Mel Bashore. The onetime Pittsburgh sandlotter, who played two games with his hometown Steelers at the end of the 1956 season, recalls names like Unitas and Stautner.

2,105! Eric Dickerson by Joe Horrigan. Eric Dickerson’s rushing resume included 13,259 yards in 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts, including four rushing titles and a record 2,105 yards in 1984.

Tom Who? Tom Mack by Joe Horrigan. As left guard, Tom Mack was accustomed to obscurity during his 13 seasons (1966-78) with the Los Angeles Rams, never missing a game during his 184-game tenure. But Canton was paying attention.

Wizard: Ozzie Newsome by Joe Horrigan. Ozzie Newsome boasted great hands, fine speed, exceptional concentration, and the ability to get things done on the field. Newsome, who Bear Bryant dubbed “The Wizard,” retired as the leading tight end receiver in NFL history with 662 receptions in 13 seasons (1987-90), all with the Browns.

An Aw Shucks Guy: Billy Shaw by Joe Horrigan. Equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking, perennial All-AFL guard Billy Shaw was an integral part of the Buffalo team that won three straight division titles and back-to-back AFL championships in 1964-65.

LT: Lawrence Taylor by Joe Horrigan. During 13 remarkable seasons with the New York Giants, Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the outside linebacker position from that of “read and react” to an aggressive attack style of play. An intense player, he had the speed to run past offensive linemen and the strength to out-muscle them—a combination that resulted in the Giants winning two Super Bowls during his tenure.

Murray City's Mighty Tigers by Roy Cross. The hard-nosed semipro squad from Ohio took on all comers in the 1920s. They’re all gone now, but the stories linger.

A Cup of Coffee Player: Jack Shapiro by Mel Bashore. Jack Shapiro of the 1929 Staten Island Stapletons has the distinction of being the smallest player ever to play in the NFL: just a hair over 5 feet tall and about 120 pounds.

Riot in Yankee Stadium by Tom Farley. Flashing back to December 7, 1959, when fans rioted at Yankee Stadium in the final minutes of the Giants’ blowout win over the rival Browns.

Pat O'Dea: The Kangaroo Kicker by Stuart Kantor. The fascinating tale of the dropkicking Australian import of the 1890s, Patrick John O’Dea, who one day vanished without a trace.

Number 5:

Frank Varrichione: All-American and Pro Tackle by Jim Sargent. A wide-ranging interview with Frank Varrichione, an offensive tackle in the National Football League for 11 seasons (1955-65) with the Steelers and Rams.

Five Men I Wish I Could Have Interviewed by Stan Grosshandler. The writer rues missed opportunities.

St. Vincent's Achilles Heel by Dan Heilman. Was Vince Lombardi a lousy judge of college talent?

$500? Why Not? by Bob Carroll. The writer takes issue with a Latrobe man filing a lawsuit against the NFL for recognizing “Pudge” Heffelfinger as the first authenticated pro football player instead of John Brallier.

Mike Holovak: The Forgotten Founder by Harold Aurand, Jr. A short profile of Mike Holovak, whose playing, coaching, and scouting career in the college and pro ranks stretched from ? to 1998.

Don Stonesifer: The Greatest Recever of the Chicago Cardinals by Jim Sargent. Despite often being double- and even triple-teamed, Don Stonesifer retired after six standout seasons in the 1950s as the Chicago Cardinals’ all-time receiver.

1932 Individual Statistics compiled by Bob Carroll from Total Football. Individual and team statistics from the first season the NFL kept official stats.

Number 6:

Hap Moran, My Dad by Mike Moran. A son reconstructs his late father’s eight-year NFL career in the 1920s and ‘30s through contemporary news clippings.

Rushing Leaders (with per game average) compiled by Bob Carroll. Listing the yearly league rushing leaders from 1932 through 1998 on a yards-per-game basis, not total yards.

Ray Mansfield - A sense of History by Jim Campbell. Ray Mansfield was a two-time Super Bowl champion during his 14 seasons (1963-76), all but the first spent with Pittsburgh. The self-aware center also knew when he was in the midst of history in the making.

Carruth Not the First. In 1951, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerry Nuzum was arrested and tried for murdering a young lady two years earlier—a trial that ended with a surprising twist.

George an' Me by Bob Carroll. The writer imagines working himself into a biography of George Halas, offering advice to Papa Bear throughout the years.

Hugh Gallarneau submitted by John Gunn. Described in the Bears’ media guide as a “quick-opening artist,” Hugh Gallarneau gained 1,421 yards on 343 carries in his five-season pro career and scored 35 touchdowns rushing, receiving, and on kickoff returns. In 1946, he was All-Pro and the Bears’ leading ground gainer as Chicago notched the championship.

Lance Alworth's 96 game receiving streak ended at 92 games by Paul Lovett. The researcher discovers conclusive film evidence that the San Diego receiver’s well-publicized breaking of Don Hutson’s 95-game receiving streak on the last day of the 1969 season was a mistake. The error lay in record-keepers overlooking Alworth’s brief appearance in a game in 1962, his rookie year.

Elias Answers by Bob Carroll. The discovery of Pete Emelianchik. Finding justice for Pete Emelianchik, a special teams player who appeared in one NFL game in 1967 but wasn’t listed in Total Football.

Pro Football's Most Consistent Contenders by Richard Hack. Examining the handful of teams that have been contenders for a full decade or more.

The Packer Fullbacks by Stan Grosshandler. From Bo Molenda and Clark Hinkle to Jimmy Taylor and John Brockington, Green Bay has had its share of “real fullbacks.”

Blitz! By Scott M. Johnson. A study of the evolution of the defensive technique known as “blitzing” or “red dogging.”

The Last Dropkick by John Hogrogian. Move aside, Dutch Clark. The last verified drop-kick was a successful extra point by Chicago’s Ray McLean in the 1941 NFL title game.

1920 Season Scoring compiled by Bob Carroll. Individual and team scoring for the NFL’s inaugural season.

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