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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 5 - 1983

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Number 1:

Kenosha Cardinals: Life on the Fringe by Bob Gill. What do Johnny Blood, Beattie Feathers, Jim Gillette and Paul Christman have in common? Answer: All played for Kenosha during the Cardinals' peak seasons, 1940-41. In its final season in 1941, the Wisconsin team played home games against five of the NFLs teams - the Bears, Eagles, Chicago Cardinals, Rams, and Packers, and a game in St. Paul against the Giants. A week after Pearl Harbor, Kenosha's players went off to World War II.

All-Pros of 1930 by John Hogrogian. Everyone had an opinion in 1930, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette published most of them. A writers' poll, a poll of the players, and the opinions of Red Grange, Ernie Nevers, two sportswriters, and one fan, picking thirteen squads in all.

Number 2:

All-Pro Addenda by Bob Gill. Gill found that regardless of how many votes a player received overall, he was credited only with how many votes he received as a quarterback, halfback, ret. As a result, several deserving players - players who had been legitimately chosen by qualified voters - were left off the teams. In 1939, the league's MVP, Parker Hall had 32 points overall, but only 21 as a halfback, six as a quarterback, and five at fullback. In tallying all votes, Gill comes up with some different results.

Redskins from Washington by Bob Kirlin. They played college in the State of Washington, before being on the 1942 champions for the City of Washington. Ray Flaherty, Cecil Hare, Ray Hare, and Ed Justice were all Gonzaga Bulldogs, and Dick Farman and Steve Slivinski were from the Evergreen State as well.

When the Packers Went to War by Bob Barnett. During World War II, the Packers didn't lose as many players to the armed services as did most of the other NFL teams. It wasn't for lack of trying. One of the reasons more of our players weren't drafted was that we were a bunch of broken-down stumblebums, said Buckets Goldenberg. The article includes a list of the 25 players who were in the service, including Smiley Johnson, who was killed at Iwo Jima. Reprinted from Packer Report.

Conversations by Stan Grosshandler. Grosshandler met Ray Nolting, Carl Brumbaugh, John Wiethe and Dick Nesbitt while playing at the University of Cincinnati. "I have always regretted the fact that I did not have the presence of mind to quiz these great players on their pro careers. I am certain they had many wonderful stories to tell." Some good stories came from John Sisk. In 1937, Sisk related, "I broke my thumb tackling Clarke Hinkle. As I was being carried off, the promoter gave me a bottle of alcohol, for I had scored a touchdown. I just gave it to the doctor who operated on me."

Number 3:

The Rock Island Independents by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. During the second quarter of a game against the Cardinals, Rock Island manager Walt Flanigan fired Coach Frank Coughlin and replaced him with Jim Conzelman. The NFL has seen some imprudent team bosses in its more than 60 years, but none has yet duplicated Flanigan's act of hiring a new coach in the middle of a game. From its pre-NFL roots in 1910, to their 1926 departure from the NFL to join the rival AFL, a complete history of the team from Rock Island, Illinois.

All-Pros of 1931 by John Hogrogian. The writers' poll by the Green Bay Press-Gazette made it into the NFL record books as the first official all-pro team, but there were others as well-- United Press, Associated Press, the New York Post, Curly Lambeau, and sports fan H.L. Bassett. Clark, Nevers, Dilweg and Michalske were on everybody's list.

Scoring Binge by Bob Carroll. In the early years the American Football League had a reputation for bombs-away play, and it was never more deserved than on December 22, 1963. Raiders' kicker Mike Mercer tries to break a 49-49 tie. Meanwhile, San Diego leads Denver, 58-20. A time when AFL didn't refer to arena football.

Number 4:

Conversations about Defense by Stan Grosshandler. Buckets Goldenberg, Crazylegs Hirsch, Alex Wojciechowicz,, Hank Soar, Y.A. Tittle and Jack Christiansen talk about defense during the golden age.

The End of the PCPFL by Bob Gill. After the NFL and AAFC added California teams in 1946, the Pacific Coast league added a team in Hawaii. The decline and fall of the league, which was down to four teams in its final season in 1948.

All-Pros of 1928 by John Hogrogian. The Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press picked teams, and were in agreement on ten of the players.

Guides by Joe Cronin. Starting with Amoco's guide to the Washington Redskins in 1947, media guides were made possible by corporate sponsors. A list, complete to 1981, of the backers -- including Sinclair Oil (Falcons), the Carlson Frink Dairy (Broncos), Ron's Chicken (Oilers), Cold Power detergent (Patriots), Shakey's Pizza (Rams), Lou & Son Life Insurance (Saints), and more.

Number 5:

Were West Coast Pros the Real Stars of 1890s? by Bob Carroll. In 1963, Ken Cotanch of Santa Barbara wrote to the newly opened Pro Football Halll of Fame about pro teams that played out West in the 1890s, while Ohio and Pennsylvania teams played in the the East. PFRA researchers, particularly Bob Gill, followed up on teams like the Butte Copper Kings, San Francisco Olympic, Oakland Reliance and the Los Angeles Stars.

All-Pros of 1929 by John Hogrogian. Lots of Packers and Giants, as lists of teams were published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Post and the Chicago Tribune.

Alumni in Politics by Legends Magazine. Meet Congressmen Chet Chesney, Laverne Dilweg, Winfield Denton, Jack Kemp and Steve Largent; Governor Edward King; Mayor Bob St. Clair; Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White; and lots of state legislators.

Leemans & Rogers by Bob Carroll. The Giants' Tuffy Leemans of 1936 is compared to the Saints' George Rogers in 1981.

Conversations about Elephants by Stan Grosshandler. They were the 1951 Rams' backfield - Deacon Dan Towler, Dick Hoerner and Tank Younger - three ball carriers with more than 600 pounds between them.

Number 6:

The First Draft by Bob Barnett. It wasn't covered by ESPN, and it took place on February 8, 1936 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Not only did the Eagles fail to sign first-ever pick Jay Berwanger, they failed to sign any of their eight draft picks. The complete story as nine teams went nine rounds.

All-Pros of 1926 by John Hogrogian. The Green Bay Press-Gazette surveyed 17 writers and team officials from NFL cities. Wilfred Smith of the Chicago Tribune included eight players from the American Football League with 14 NFL players when picking his first and second team.

Conversations about the A by Stan Grosshandler. The A-formation was devised by Giants coach Steve Owen in 1937. The name came from the fact that Owen had intended to use several formations and planned to call the A, B, C, etc. He found he had his most success with the A. Grosshandler interviewed former Giant Hank Soar, who had by then become a major league umpire.

Number 7:

Streak! Unitas' Consecutive TD Games by Larry Bortstein. Baseball has DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. It may never be broken. Perhaps the equivalent pro football record is John Unitas' 47-game touchdown-pass streak. The streak went for four years, starting with the December 9, 1956 at Los Angeles, until being snapped on Decmeber 11, 1960 at Los Angeles.

1922 All-Pros by John Hogrogian. Papa Bear George Halas offered his picks, while Canton's Guy Chamberlin made a different selection. Chamberlin (a first team pick by Halas) modestly omitted his own name despite a marvelous season the field.

Ollie's All-Stars: St. Louis' First NFL Team by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. Ollie Kraehe thought he had it made, as owner of the first NFL franchise in St. Louis. The St. Louis All-Stars scored only two touchdowns in NFL competition, and on December 12, 1923, became the first and only NFL team to lose a game to Benld, Illinois. A roster, season summary, and a mystery - just who was that "star player" that Kraehe sold to Green Bay?

Number 8:

Bull Behman and the Jackets by Al Myers. Largely forgotten, Russell Behman was one of the greatest linemen of the NFL's 1920s, as well as a placekicker and later a coach. The Bull, at 5'10", carried 210 to 230 pounds. In the Twenties, that was mighty big. Given his agility, it's little wonder he was a nightmare to block. From 1924 to 1931, Behman was a major player in Philadelphia, mostly for the Frankford Yellow Jackets. In 1926, he captained the Philadelphia Quakers to the American Football League title.

All-Pros of 1923 by John Hogrogian. The Green Bay Press-Gazette published its first annual selection of all-pro teams on December 21, but earlier in the month, teams were picked by Collier's magazine and the Canton Daily News. The Green Bay list was from a poll of 14 writers, while the others were picked by sports editors E.G. Brands and Vince Dolan, and Canton's Guy Chamberlin. As in later years, Chamberlin left himself off the list.

Now 'n Then by Bob Carroll. "No" was 1981; "Then" was 1940. What's changed since then? The stats prove the theory that they pass more now, they kick more (but punt less); they run less-- but not that much less. Altogether, you'll see about 21 more plays in a game today than you would have seen in 1940.

Stopping the Force: 1963 NFL Title Game by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. In a classic case of immovable object and irresistible force, the Chicago Bears and New York Giants met on December 29, 1963, for the NFL championship. The turning point was when Chicago's Larry Morris got passed two blockers and tackled Y.A. Tittle. Despite torn ligaments in his left knee, the Giants' passer didn't quit. After two injections to kill the pain, Tittle hobbled back in for the second half, but he couldn't plant his left leg and his throws lacked their normal snap. Conclusion - the immovable object was superior to the irrestible force - when the force was hobbled on one leg.

Number 9:

Buddy Young by Bob Carroll. One of the first blacks to play pro football after the "unofficial" ban from 1934 to 1945, Buddy experienced the humiliations of prejudice. When the Yankees first played in Baltimore, racists showed up at the stadium in blackface. But he always insisted that the worst prejudice he encountered was against his size. At 5'4" and 172 pounds, running back Young was both one of the smallest and one of the biggest men in pro football history.

John Alexander: First Outside Linebacker by Chris Thorne. PFRA member John Alexander's first year in the NFL was 1922, for the Milwaukee Badgers, and on October 1 of that year, he introduced a new style of playing defensive tackle. Alexander recounted his memories sixty years later at the age of 87. Originally printed in the Newark Sunday Star-Ledger. The even older Mike Wittpenn, who helped coach Alexander in 1919, shared his memories with The Coffin Corner as well.

RRS: Rating the Catchers by Rick Bysina. Like the NFL's Pass Rating System, Bysina's proposed Receiver Rating System (RRS) measures quality as well as quantity. RRS looks at how much a receiver compares to the standards of 3 receptions per game, 10 average yards per reception, and 10% of receptions yielding touchdowns, then converts it into a rating, with 100 being the average.

Number 10:

Pack Only Tied Monsters by John Gunn. Until 1984, the NFL Record Manual listed the record for 2nd Half as 48, by the Cardinals and the Giants in two separate games in 1950 against the Colts. Sportswriter Gunn discovered that the Chicago Bears had held the record all along-- 49 second-half points in a November 30, 1941 game against the Eagles. The day after Green Bay "broke" the record against Tampa Bay in 1983, the NFL's error was discovered and fixed in future editions. Interesting note - the 49 point second half came after Chicago was down 14-0. Asks Gunn, "What did Coach George Halas tell the Bears at halftime?"

Mel Hein: Middle Man by Bob Carroll. Mel Hein was quite possibly the best two-way center ever to play pro football. On offense, he snapped the ball unerringly and blocked like a demon. On defense, he was known for his bone- crushing tackles and his ability to cover pass receivers. Yet, unbelievably, he had to scrape to find a job when he turned pro. After writing letters to three teams, Mel was given a tryout by the Giants, for whom he played from 1931 to 1945. He was all-league for eight straight years and one of the original enshrinees at Canton.

The First Grey Cup: 1909 by Bob Sproule. All teams in good standing were eligible for the first playoff, and Canada's Governor-General donated the trophy. On December 4, Toronto University beat the Parkdale Canoe Club, 26-6. A play-by-play of the first championship, when a touchdown was called a "try" and most of the college scoring was done one point at a time.

Down with FGs by Stan Grosshandler. A proposal to do away the field goal attempt.

Fabulous Fatman: Wilbur Henry by Bob Carroll. Wilbur Henry loved to eat and loved to play football. The result was the biggest and best tackle of the NFL's early years. In 1963, eleven years after his death, he was in the original group enshrined at Canton.

Number 11:

The Greatest Game Ever: 1958 NFL Championship by Rick Gonsalves. Yes, it was the 1958 NFL Championship, but the greatest game had a boring start, with a 14-3 Baltimore lead at the half. The Colts were three yards away from another touchdown when the Giants stopped them.

The Best of the Rest: Minors All-Stars, Part 1 by Bob Gill. More minor league all-stars teams from 1934 to 1939.

Number 12:

The Best of the Rest: Minors All-Stars Part 2 by Bob Gill. More about the best non-NFL pro football players, from 1940-1946.

Ray Kemp Blazed Important Trail by Bob Barnett. When Art Rooney put an NFL team in Pittsburgh in 1933, he asked Ray Kemp to be a lineman. Kemp was one of only two African-American players in the NFL. After 3 games he was released. "I talked with Art Rooney and I can recall his exact words: 'Ray, I feel you are as good a ball player as we have on the club, but I am not going over the head of the coach.'" At season's end, Kemp was asked to come back, but a New York hotel wouldn't let him stay with his team. Kemp was urged to sue, but declined. "I didn't want to file a suit which might hurt Rooney. He had given me a chance." From 1934 through 1945, there were no black players in the NFL.

Annual:

History of Pro Football in Greensburg, Pa. by Bob Van Atta. The most comprehensive record of one of the great teams of the '90s - the 1890s. Starting with Lawson Fiscus of Princeton, the Greensburg team signed a host of former college stars to pro football contracts. The uniform colors weren't green - they were maroon and white.

Football in Armour: An Englishman Looks at the American Game by C.E. Cook. Written in 1897 for the British magazine, The Strand, a Victorian-Era description of the gridiron game.

St. Louis Gunners by Bob Gill. Even before 1934, the Gunners had played against NFL teams. When the 0-8-0 NFL Cincinnati Reds folded during the regular season, St. Louis replaced them for the last three games, winning one (6-0 over Pittsburgh ). They finished 1934 heavily in debt.

For the Love of the Game by Kimball McIlroy. Reprinted from a 1941 issue of the Canadian magazine Saturday Night. A criticism of hypocrisy in the amateur rules of the day.

Analysis of Strategy by Pete Palmer. A statistcal look at the relationship between field position and scoring potential, based on play-by-play data from 50 games.

That Wonderful Year: Canadian Football in 1907 by Robert Sproule. What would later become the Eastern Division of the CFL, started when Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto formed the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union or IRFU. Each team played a home-and-away against the other three for a six-game schedule. Unlike the first APFA games, the exact kickoff time is known for the first IRFU game - 3:24 pm on October 5, 1907, Montreal 17, Toronto 8. Details about all twelve matchups, with Montreal finishing ahead of Hamilton for the first title.

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