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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 8 - 1986

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Number 1:

Adam Wyant by Robert Van Atta. "Who was the first professional football player to become a United States Congressman?"-- Adam M. Wyant played for Greensburg from 1895-97 and then represented the city in Congress from 1921-33.

Dave Parks by Joseph Hession. Interviewed for a book about the 49ers. The first player chosen in the 1964 college draft soon became "the premier deep threat in the NFL". Parks played for the 49ers 1965-67, the Saints 1968-72, and the Oilers in 1973.

1932 All-Pros by Bob Carroll. The Associated Press polled seven of the eight league coaches for the official all-Pro eleven. United Press made released its own poll. "Interestingly enough, the U.P. choices differed in several spots from those honored on the Official team, underlining the contention made here that all valid All-Pro teams should be preserved as memorials to excellent players who might otherwise be forgotten."

They Call It Gridiron in Australia by Tod Maher. "In fact, North American football has been steadily increasing in popularity outside the United States and Canada - for a long time the only place it was played. Now you can find North American football being played as an organized sport in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, England, Italy, and (yes) Sweden."

Joe Kopcha Recalls 1932 Title Game by Leo R. Joint. After getting his M.D., Dr. Kopcha was a starting guard for the Chicago Bears from 1932-35 and was all-pro in all four seasons. ""Somebody asked me the other day, ''Don't you wish you were playing today at the salaries they're getting?' I said, 'No, because the $90 a game made it possible for me to get through medical school.' Let me put it this way -- if I was making $90,000 like Richard Dent. there wouldn't be any incentive for me to go to school. What would I have been at the end of four, five, six years. I would have been just a regular guy, probably working back in the mills."

Number 2:

The '41 Bears: The Greatest by John Gunn. "A 1979 computer analysis by Jeff Sagarin of Bloomington, Ind., rated the Bears as the "best pro football team of all time," based on "strength-of-schedule ratings and other graded, esoteric numbers. A story of his analysis carried by The Associated Press listed the 1968 Baltimore Colts (15-2) second, 1962 Packers third and 1949 Eagles fourth.

Ken Kavanaugh: The Bears' Home Run Hitter by Bob Carroll. "Ken Kavanaugh probably caught fewer passes than any other wide receiver to be seriously considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His modest total of 162 catches over an eight-year pro career would make a tidy two-year total for some of today's busier wide-outs. But there's quantity and then there's quality. Ken Kavanaugh was definitely a quality receiver. It was never how many passes he caught but what he did with them. He averaged a touchdown for nearly every third catch." Kavanaugh played for the Bears between 1940 and 1950, missing the '42, '43 and '44 seasons to fight in Europe during World War II.

1941 All-Pros by Bob Carroll. "Although the Bears emerged as the top team of 1941, there were plenty of other great players in the NFL. In fact, it could be argued that the league would not be permeated with so much talent again until the merger with the All-America Football Conference in 1950. Outstanding players would be siphoned off to the first the military and then the rival AAFC for the next eight years." A look at polls by the PFWA, the AP, the UPI, the New York Daily News, as well as the sports newspaper Collyer's Eye (not to be confused with Collier's Weekly) and the picks of Chicago sportswriter Jim Corcoran.

1941 Western Division Playoff by Bob Carroll. Chicago Bears 33, Green Bay Packers 14. "After the game, Bear Coach George Halas was asked by a writer to pick the play that gave him the biggest thrill. 'That's easy,' Halas grinned. 'It was Bob Snyder's second field goal.' The interviewer was shocked. 'Because,' Halas explained, 'it meant the Packers would have to get four touchdowns to beat us. I didn't think they could do it.'

1941 Championship Game by Bob Carroll. Bears 37, Giants 9. The attendance at the game, played two weeks after Pearl Harbor, was 13,341. "In part, the crowd was held down by the anticlimactic nature of the game; the Giants were given little chance of derailing the Bears' championship express. Even more responsible was the depressing news coming out of the Pacific where American forces were retreating before the Japanese. Football seemed rather unimportant when viewed in context of the world situation."

1941 Draft by Jim Campbell. Ten teams and twenty rounds. Don Scott (ninth overall) and Forest Evashevski (tenth overall) were both first round picks who didn't play in the NFL.

Number 3:

The Best End We Ever Forgot: Lavie Dilweg by Bob Carroll. "Lavie Dilweg, by nearly all contemporary accounts and measurements, was the best end in pro football almost from his first game until his last. He had an unusually long career, played on the best team of his time, and followed his playing days with a life of public service that took him all the way to Washington. What more could anyone ask?.. How about being remembered?" Dilweg played for the Packers from 1927 to 1934, after a rookie season with the Milwaukee Badgers.

Cash and Carry No More by Joe Horrigan. Only nominally about C.C. Pyle. The article was written after all player agents had to be certified by the NFLPA. "If conformity is a measure of success, then the NFLPA's certification program must be considered one. Since the program began in 1982, more than 11,000 agents have registered." A must-read for anyone who wants to be an agent.

Willie Thrower: The First Black QB in NFL by Robert Van Atta. In 1953, Thrower became the first black quarterback in the NFL, serving as a backup for starter George Blanda. He made history on October 18, 1953, "opening the way for those who have followed". Afterward, he played for the Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, until a shoulder injury ended his career in 1956. Little known fact "He was also Blanda's roommate, a coincidence since both quarterbacks were from Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania. That county then was one of the most productive sources of college and pro talent in the nation."

The Chris Crew by Stan Grosshandler. . Altogether, 18 men came and went on the Detroit Lions' defensive line. "From 1951 through 1958 this group was instrumental in winning three league and four divisional titles. 'We were not ahead of our time in the mechanism of defense,' stated Hall of Famer Jack Christiansen, the man for whom the crew was named.

1939 Draft by Jim Campbell. A total of 200 men were selected by the NFL's ten teams. I.B. Hale of TCU was the only first-rounder not to go on to the NFL.

Number 4:

Hugh McElhenny: The King by Joseph Hession. "But his reputation as a game breaker made him a marked man around the league. Everywhere he went defenses devised plans to stop him. Some devised ways to cripple him. The didn't want to just tackle him; they wanted him out of the lineup." Interviews with "The King" who played for the 49ers from 1952 to 1960 (his last four seasons were with the Vikings, Giants and Lions). McElhenny was an 8-time Pro Bowl selection. From an interview: "To be a good running back, well, it's just God's gift. It's not something you can teach. I did things by instinct. Running, balance, all of it was instinct. You also have to know where other people are in the field."

1905: Challenge from Canton by Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll. Before they were Bulldogs, the Canton A.C. had a big season, including a 121-0 win over a team from the U.S.S. Michigan ("in what may have been the most horrendous naval defeat since the Spanish Armada") and 107-0 over Dayton AC. Meanwhile, the defending champion Massillon Tigers were going unbeaten as well. When the two teams met on Thanksgiving Day for the title, Canton's only points were on a field goal. Final score, Massilon 14, Canton 4.

Blood Scored Last Pottsville TD by Doug Costello. Johnny "Blood" McNally had died three weeks earlier, 57 years after guiding the Pottsville Maroons to a 26-0 win over the Green Bay Packers on November 25, 1928, the last NFL game in Pottsville.

1940 Draft by Jim Campbell. Ten teams, 200 players selected. First round choices Doyle Nave (sixth overall) and Ed Boell (eighth overall) never played in the NFL.

Number 5:

He Wasn't Shy on Talent: Jim Musick by Janis Carr. Musick played only briefly (as a fullback for the Boston Redskins in 1932, 1933, 1935 and 1936) but in 1933, he was the NFL's rushing leader, with 809 yards on 173 carries. His career was ended by injuries: ""I was carrying the football, made a sharp cut in the turf and snapped my knee. Although it healed, it really never was the same." After the NFL, he was the Sheriff of Orange County, California, for 28 years.

1942 Draft by Jim Campbell. The 200 selections of the ten NFL teams, made a couple of weeks after Pearl Harbor. More than half-- 101-- would go on to play pro football, though some would have to wait until after the War.

Number 6:

Al Blozis: Jersey City Giant by Bob Carroll, V. Mastro, et al. Profile of tackle Al Blozis, "The Human Howitzer". Blozis played three seasons for the New York Giants (1942-44) and was all-pro in the 1943 season "Blozis entered the service right after the [1944] championship game. He didn't have to go. His size put him outside the limits of the draft, but he was determined to do his part. Six weeks later, he was killed." Blozis was one of 21 NFL players killed in World War II, dying on January 31, 1945 in France, where he is now buried.

Buckets: Charles Goldenberg by Stan Grosshandler. Written after Charles Goldenberg's death in 1986. A native of the Ukraine, he grew up to play 13 seasons for the Green Bay Packers and was listed by the HOF as one of the best players of the 1930s, though he is not enshrined at Canton. "When he hung up his cleats, only Blood and Mel Hein with 15 seasons each had played more years in the league than Goldenberg." Quotes from Goldenberg's interviews are included, with his observations about Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson, Danny Fortmann, Johnny Blood, and the 1939 Packers. ""People did not realize how poor the clubs really were. Once after an exhibition game the team appointed Ernie Smith, Hutson, and me to go to the bank with Curly and make sure the team got paid."

The Least Remembered Championship (1944) by Bob Carroll. Green Bay Packers 14, New York Giants 7 "There was lots of great defense and a couple of big plays. It almost had a great comeback, and it did have some human interest in Arnie Herber versus his old team. It was Al Blozis' last game. It even had one of those screwy twists people like to remember - the biggest offensive threats for both teams, Hutson and Paschal, were used almost exclusively as decoys.. But you never hear fans fondly reminiscing about the 'Decoy Game.' Instead it's 'Who played?' 'Who won?'" 'Who cares?' Fans forget a lot of games, of course, even championships, but - if such a thing could be measured - this one would win the cup as least remembered. And they'd probably forget to inscribe it. Mostly it was the war.

1943 Draft by Jim Campbell. The NFL draft went 32 rounds and 300 players were selected, but a more important draft took precedence during World War II. Most of the selections played in the NFL or the AAFC after the war, including all of the first round picks. Dave Schreiner (#11), Dick Ashcom (#16) and George Ceithaml (#19) didn't play.

Number 7:

Kilroy Was There by Bob Barnett and Bob Carroll. Colorful article (including interview) about Frank "Bucko" Kilroy, lineman for the Eagles from 1944 to 1955, as well as playing for the "Steagles" in 1943. Kilroy was once fined $250 for kicking the Bears' Ray Bray in the groin during a preseason game. After Mrs. Kilroy called the NFL Commissioner to complain, Bert Bell promised a refund "if he doesn't get tossed out of any more games this season." At season's end, Bell gave Kilroy a check for $500 "and made him endorse it over to Mrs. Kilroy" Bucko's reputation for rock-'em-sock-'em football may have been deserved, but so was his recognition as one of the top linemen of his day. In 1949, the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS named him a first team all-NFL guard. They repeated the honor in 1950, putting him on their offensive team (Bray was named to the first team on defense.) Bucko was also selected for the Pro Bowl after the 1952 and 1953 seasons Kilroy won a judgment for libel against LIFE Magazine in 1955.

Dr. Joe: The Last Renaissance Man by Stan Grosshandler. Recollections of Joe Kopcha, who often gave interviews "One of Kopcha's most vivid memories was the game in which Ernie Nevers of the Cardinals scored six touchdowns and four PATs for 40 points against the Bears. 'I broke in and threw Ernie for a loss. In frustration, I hit him in the face. "Ernie smiled at me and said, `Don't do that. My face is too pretty to get marked up!'"

The Facts About Friedman by Jim Whalen and Bob Carroll. Written four years after Friedman's suicide. "According to some reports, Benny Friedman thought the greatest football player who ever lived was Benny Friedman. As he grew older, he made more and more statements along that line, while sometimes sneering at the abilities of modern players. Apparently, he never tired of talking about his own accomplishments but seldom had much energy for other subjects." The conclusion: "He was controversial and to some abrasive. But when it came to estimating his abilities, he was a pretty good judge."

Number 8:

Friedman's Last Hurrah by Bob Gill. "In 1939, five years after making his final appearance in an NFL game, Benny Friedman, then head football coach at City College of New York, made a comeback in pro ball. He did it with a semi-pro team called the Cedarhurst (Long Island) Wolverines, for whom he served as player-coach."

I Remember Benny by Ernest Cuneo. "I played guard for the Orange Tornadoes in 1929, their only season in the National Football League. We weren't great but we were no slouches. In our opening league game, we fought the New York Giants to a bloody 0-0 tie. Here I encountered a great - Benny Friedman of Michigan."

1944 Draft by Jim Campbell. Eleven teams and 32 rounds Three first round picks never played pro ball, including Creighton Miller (#3 overall). Only one of the Steelers' first six choices played after college.

Number 9:

Bucking the (Passer Rating) System by Bob Carroll. "The NFL's Passer Rating System is alive and well in its yearly rankings, but it breaks down in career ratings because of circumstances beyond its control. Let's fix it."

Number 10:

The Packers' Greatest Game by Stan Grosshandler. "The Packers' greatest game! Was it the famous Ice Bowl? Super Bowl I? Super Bowl II? One of the title games with the Giants or Browns? None of the above." How the 1967 Western Conference playoff (Green Bay Packers 28, Los Angeles Rams 7) was won by "a couple of third-string running backs", and a key quarterback sack by Henry Jordan.

Dale Memmelaar by Bob Barnett and Bob Carroll. "Dale Memmelaar was a journeyman offensive lineman." After nine seasons for four NFL teams (1959-67), he introduced the Cowboys' offense at Washingtonville (NY) High School. "'"Obviously I had to water it down a little bit for high school kids, but the concepts were the same,' he says.. "He signed on on as a free agent with Cleveland just in time to play for the Browns' championship team of 1964. The title game - in which Cleveland surprised favored Baltimore, 27-0 - ranks as his greatest thrill in football. "[I]n 1964 the Browns felt we could be 40 points behind and still win. We just had a winning attitude."

Coaldale's Man of Action: Casey Gildea by Joe Zagorski. Gildea created the Coaldale Big Green, champions of the Anthracite League in 1921, 1922 and 1923, and later went on to become a U.S. Congressman. Interviewed at age 97, he offered observations about James Bonner, Jack Evans, and Les Asplundh.

1945 Draft by Jim Campbell. Eleven teams and 32 rounds First round picks Joe Renfroe (third overall) and Don Lund (seventh) didn't go on to pro ball.

Annual:

National Football League Professional Football Synopsis by "Nelson Ross". "Until a fellow walked into Dan Rooney's office in the early 1960's and handed the Pittsburgh Steeler executive a typed, 49- page manuscript, the accepted wisdom was that professional football began in1895 in Latrobe, Pa.. When Rooney read the manuscript, he discovered that the accepted wisdom was 40 miles and three years off target. Unfortunately, by the time Rooney realized what he had in his hand, the writer had vanished. As nearly as Rooney could recall, the fellow's name was "Nelson Ross," or something like that. Whoever he was, he never returned." The very first publication of the legendary "Nelson Ross Manuscript", which first tipped off researchers that pro football had started in 1892 with Pudge Heffelfinger, and that the first pro game Allegheny Athletics 4-0 win over Pittsburgh Athletic Club on November 12, 1892. "Ross", whose real name was forgotten by Dan Rooney, included a list of "Major Independent Non-collegiate Football Teams"; Editors Bob Braunwart & Bob Carroll added annotations.

Canadian All-Stars, 1932-50 by Bob Braunwart. The Canadian Press wire service made annual selections of the "All West" (WIFU) and the "All Big Four" (IRFU).

Football in the United Kingdom by Alan Needham. On September 7, 1982, Channel 4 premiered a new series called "American Football", explained the rules, and showed Pittsburgh's 36-28 win over Dallas to a curious public. ITV had, since 1977, showed 30 minutes worth of Super Bowl highlights each year as part of its "World of Sport" program. A summary of the two leagues that existed in 1986--the BAFL and the Budweiser League.

The Death of an All-Star Game by John C. Hibner. The rise and decline of the annual College All-Star Game (1934-76), which pitted the NFL champions against the nation's best college players. The college kids won only 9 of the 42 meetings. The 1948 game attracted 101,200 spectators. On July 23, 1976, a downpour interrupted play before the end of the 3rd quarter, the crowd fans tore down the goalposts, and the all-star game was never resumed-- nor ever played again.

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