The First Crusade Against Football

The First Crusade Against Football

Postby Lost Century » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:19 pm

Injuries, Brutality and Death in American Football from Bloody Monday to the Flying Wedge
Media Reports from 1827 to 1898 ... 1475260121

The First Crusade Against Football is a 600-page time capsule of articles and images from dozens of publications during the first major crisis in American football in the 19th century based on the game's physical danger and brutality.

The index has over 700 headings including injuries by type (bruise, concussion, cripple, disable, dislocate, fracture, sprain) and body part (ankle, arm, brain, collarbone, ear, elbow, eye, face, head, jaw, knee, leg, ligament, limb, mouth, neck, nose, rib, shoulder, skull, spine, tendon, tooth).

Several articles detail the on-field death of University of Georgia star Richard Von Gammon and the fallout which included banning the sport in various states. Football in Georgia was saved by a plea from the dead player’s mother.

Most of the book deals with college football but there are several references to professional football, including:

1890: “It has been foolishly suggested that all difficulties will be solved with the advent of professional football, played steadily for profit. But all whose opinion is supposed to be worth anything agree that professional football is an impossibility for various reasons. Only a small part of the year is suited to the game, for one thing; and, for another, it is well-nigh certain that professional football-players would exterminate one another, faster than their ranks could be recruited.”

[On Nov. 12, 1892, “Pudge” Heffelfinger was paid $500 to play a football game, becoming the first professional player. The transaction was not revealed at the time and Heffelfinger denied it his entire life. He died in 1954. In the 1960s it was proven that he was paid by O. D. Thompson of the Allegheny Athletic Association. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has the account ledger to prove it. The following quote from Heffelfinger was published in the Boston Globe the following day. (Perhaps his nickname should be “Fudge.”)]

Nov. 13, 1892: Heffelfinger:
“Another reason why foot ball is such a popular favorite is because the people know that it is on the square, and cannot have the slightest taint of crooked work. In these days of professional athletics, this means a great deal. Professional foot ball players are unknown yet, and one can only hope they always will be.”

1894: by President of Cornell University:
“…is not the college world the scene of a semi-professional athleticism…?"

1894: by The Nation editor E. L. Godkin:
“The practice on the part of the athletic element in the colleges, of seeking them [prep school players] out, and bribing them by offers of a free education to come to one college rather than another, has become unhappily common, and has ceased to seem discreditable; that is, very young boys are invited to become professionals and take what is in reality a salary for acting as football players in the guise of students.”

The following excerpt is an example of concussion descriptions in the book, from an 1892 article written by Walter Camp about a head injury he witnessed during a game in 1884:

“At a point in the play of the first half, Terry in some way received a severe blow on the head, but such was the force of the bringing up he had enjoyed that he scrambled back into his place after giving up the ball to the centre rush, and only those perfectly familiar with his usual method of play would have noticed, or did notice anything peculiar about his movements. He managed to get through the half, and at intermission a hasty consultation was held in the dressing room by the captain and coaches. Terry was kept away from the rest of the players, for he was manifestly ‘out of his head.’

“Richards said that during the latter part of the half Terry couldn’t get his signals, but that being told what each was when it was given he seemed to carry out the play all right from sheer force of habit. Here was a dilemma indeed. No other half-back was available, and Richards, as well as others, believed that Terry, even in his condition, would mechanically carry out his plays if some one kept telling him when and what his signal was. Finally it was decided to start in with him on the second half and chance it.

“He not only played, but played well, desperately well at times, although he actually knew nothing of his actions, and was placed in a physician’s care immediately after the game. It was some 12 hours before he recovered ordinary power of thought, and then he knew nothing whatever of the game or its results after he was hurt. Up to that point he could tell the progress of the game accurately—beyond that his mind was a blank until the following morning.

“I have heard of one or two similar instances, but this is the only one that has chanced to come under my own observation.”

See more (images, excerpts, Introduction, Table of Contents, Index) at: ... -football/

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