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THE COFFIN CORNER - VOLUME 16 - 1994

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Number 1:

American Football Association Hall of Fame. A list of the 174 players, coaches, executives, and other personnel inducted into the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame during the previous 13 years.

Evolution of NFL Players by Jim Campbell. A survey of the position-by-position changes that have taken place in pro football since the NFL’s beginnings.

Top 20 Passers by Pro Football Hall of Fame. The top 20 career passers in various categories through the 1993 season.

1953: When the NFL Had Character by Stan Grosshandler. It was a different game in the 1950s: 33-man rosters, two-way players, and pass attempts and field goal tries were a 50-50 proposition.

Byron White: Benchwarmer Supreme by Jim Campbell. The accomplished life of Byron “Whizzer” White, who won rushing titles with Pittsburgh and Detroit during his brief three-season NFL stint, was a Rhodes scholar, served in the Navy during World War II, and was appointed to the U. S. Supreme Court by President Kennedy.

Doctors in the Huddle by Jim Campbell. Pro footballers who have combined a playing career with a medical career comprise an elite group. Listed are members of the game’s “Doctors Club,” including physicians, dentists, chiropractors, and veterinarians.

Number 2:

John Alexander: Pro Football Pioneer by Jim Campbell. In a lengthy interview, John Alexander, a tackle credited with being the game’s first outside linebacker, describes Fritz Pollard, Paul Robeson, and other famous figures from pro football’s rag days. “What you had was a bunch of young men who didn’t quite have all of their football out of their systems and needed to play a year or two before they settled down and got on with their life’s work,” he says. “There wasn’t enough money in it for it to be otherwise.”

Top 20 Receivers, Rushers by Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lists of the top 20 lifetime receivers and rushers.

Podunk vs Gotham (Cleveland vs New York, 1946) by Jack Ziegler. Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns and Ray Flaherty’s New York Yankees battled for supremacy in the first season of the All-America Football Conference.

Riley Matheson (mini-bio) by Bob Carroll. A brief profile of guard-linebacker Riley “Snake” Matheson, who earned his nickname by being twice bitten by rattlesnakes.

John Riggins: The Diesel by Don Smith. It was full steam ahead for the fun-loving, free-thinking workhorse, whose superlative postseason performances with Washington and record 24 rushing touchdowns in 1983 gained him a berth at Canton.

Dick Stanfel by Bob Carroll. The Hall-of-Fame guard was an important cog in the Detroit team that captured three straight division titles and two NFL championships between 1952 and 1954.

Number 3:

Stapletons: Just Staten Out on the Island (pre-NFL) by Bob Gill. Revisiting the Staten Island Stapletons’ 1927 and 1928 seasons, their last before entering the NFL.

Top 20 Scorers, Combined Yards, Coaches by Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lifetime leaders in scoring and combined net yards, as well as the top 20 coaches in career victories.

Don Jonas: Best Little Quarterback You Never Heard of by Bob Gill. NFL cast-off Don Jonas piled up 32,000 passing yards, 269 TD passes, 922 points, and 5 MVP awards in one of the greatest careers ever enjoyed by a minor-league quarterback.

Research Notes: 1894 League? by Bob Gill. Early rumblings of professionalism in a football hotbed.

Rote & Blanda: Tale of 2 QBs by Bob Gill. The birth of the American Football League changed the course of the careers of Tobin Rote and George Blanda, grizzled NFL vets who went on to win championships in “the other league.”

Florida Blazers 1974: Study in Focus by Mark Speck. The Florida Blazers of the World Football League had to contend with bounced paychecks, apathetic fans, eviction notices, and even a lack of toilet paper in the clubhouse. They persevered, finally losing by a point to Birmingham in the 1974 World Bowl.

Number 4:

First 25 Years by Jack Clary. The first of three installments commemorating the 75th anniversary season of the NFL. Part one covers the momentous first quarter-century, 1920 through 1944, which saw the introduction of a balanced schedule, divisional play concluding with a championship game, and an annual player draft.

Ralph E. Hay by Bob Carroll. A short bio of the moving force behind the NFL’s creation—the owner of an auto agency in Canton, Ohio.

When the Best Team Lost by Bob Carroll. The stories of several NFL teams who were denied the championship by a lesser competitor: the 1921 Buffalo All-Americans, the 1925 Pottsville Maroons, the ’32 Packers, and the ’34 and ’42 Bears.

Indoors at the (Boston) Garden by Philip J. Carver. A 1935 indoor football game at the Boston Garden featuring the Notre Dame Alumni vs. a squad of all-stars was a big-league grift.

Johnny Drake, (mini-bio) by Bob Carroll. During his five seasons with the Cleveland Rams, fullback Johnny Drake was noted for his strong running and bruising blocking.

Number 5:

Second 25 Years by Jack Clary. The second of three articles commemorating the NFL’s 75th season. This 25-year segment covers 1945 through 1969, an era that saw the simultaneous rise of television and pro football’s popularity and competition from the AAFC (1946-49) and AFL (1960-69).

Pro Football Hall of Fame: In the Beginning by Chris Willis. The story of Canton becoming the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with a list of the 17 charter members inducted upon the Hall’s opening in 1963.

Bill Willis: Dominant Defender by Bob Carroll. One of the most dominant defensive linemen to play pro football after World War II, Bill Willis’s success with the Cleveland Browns helped speed up the game’s desegregation.

Emlen Tunnell: A Giant of Defense by Bob Carroll. Dubbed the New York Giants’ “offense on defense,” Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnel was a top defensive back and kick returner, retiring after 14 seasons (1948-61) holding several records for interceptions and returns.

Leroy Kelly by Don Smith. A soft-spoken special teams star his first couple of seasons in Cleveland, Leroy Kelly filled Jimmy Brown’s shoes when he retired following the 1965 season. Kelly had three straight 1,000-yard seasons and won two rushing titles en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Abe Gibron, (mini-bio) by Bob Carroll. The roly-poly Abe Gibron was a Pro Bowl guard with Cleveland in the 1950s before turning to a long coaching career.

Lowell Perry: Memories by Mark A. Latterman. A brief bio of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie end Lowell Perry, whose injury in the middle of the 1956 season permanently put the brakes on what was shaping up to be a brilliant career.

Number 6:

Third 25 Years by Jack Clary. The third and final installment of the writer’s retrospective of the NFL’s 75th anniversary season begins with the launch of Monday Night Football in 1970 and ends with the signing of the 1993 agreement featuring a salary cap that guarantees players up to 64 percent of all TV revenues and gate receipts. In between are player strikes, competing leagues, and the first attempts to promote the game in major foreign cities.

Jackie Smith: Revolutionary Receiver by Don Smith. A biography of Hall-of-Fame tight end Jackie Smith, who snared 480 passes in his 16-year career (1963-78) with St. Louis and Dallas and was a punishing blocker.

Walter Payton: Sweetness by Don Smith. An appreciation of the record-breaking Chicago back.

Greatest Running Back by Raymond Lee. The writer simulated 10 seasons’ worth of play among six running backs—Jimmy Brown, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Steve Van Buren, and Eric Dickerson—to see how would emerge as the greatest back of all-time.

Jimmy Johnson: Calculating Cornerback by Don Smith. The story of Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson, who was arguably the NFL’s premier cornerback during much of his 16-year career (1961-76) with San Francisco.

Hall of Fame Top 15 Lists by Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since 1971, the Board of Selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame has narrowed its final choices for enshrinement to the top 15 vote-getters from a preliminary list of 60-70 candidates.

Down in the Valley by Bob Gill

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