Picked up an interesting Real Photo Post Card the other day – a scene from the game between Columbia and Cornell on Nov. 4, 1922.
What makes it special is the player in the lower left part of the action – Lou Gehrig.
Compare his profile to this picture from the banquet in honor of Hinkey Haines from 1927.
If someone had asked me twenty years ago what I most hoped to find in collecting football artifacts I would probably have mentioned my father’s 1933 Diamond matchbook and the 1931 Giants home program with his picture on the cover. The matchbook proved easy to find. The 1931 program took five years to find and another five years to acquire – the owner wouldn’t sell it but eventually I was able to find something he wanted and make a trade. Certain other items I didn’t even know existed, like the program for the 1930 game where the Notre Dame All Stars played the Giants to benefit the Mayor’s Fund for the Unemployed. I would count that among the key finds along with a group of photos that made their way from the home of a former Giants’ front office employee into my collection – photos of the 1932 Giants signed on the back by each player, including my father. But most recently, the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, the program below came up for sale – a Buy It Now item on eBay – which I was fortunate to see shortly after it was listed and purchase. I had seen this program come up for sale once before and missed out on it. But to see an example that was signed by a number of the Giants and with my father’s autograph so well placed -I did not imagine such a piece existed. It came from the estate of Max Krause, who also signed it. After twenty years I feel my collection is complete!
Bill Pennington wrote an interesting article in the New York Times on August 8 about Joe Skiba, the NY Giants equipment manager, and all the supplies he had on stock for the Giants training camp – 3,500 pairs of shoes, 600 pairs of socks, 500 gloves, 300 helmets, etc. In contrast to 2013, here is an interesting 1929 letter from Ole Haugsrud, newly hired manager of the Chicago Cardinals, to Howard Maple, former QB of Oregon State. Haugsrud was hired by Cardinals new owner David Jones and he brought Coach Dewey Scanlon, Ernie Nevers, Cobb Rooney, and Walt Kiesling with him from the defunct Duluth Eskimos. Maple was injured in a pre-season loss to the Canton Bulldogs and would not play again until the 1930 season. In the letter Maple is instructed to bring a “complete football outfit” with him to camp, “as our uniforms will not be available until the first game.”
Finding contracts from the early years of the NFL is not an everyday occurrence, but when they turn up they often yield both great autographs and interesting information. For example, the contract for the last game the Duluth Eskimos played in the NFL, shown below. In the first detail view you can see that the Bears made a $4,000 guarantee to the Eskimos for the game. NFL records show that 2,500 people attended. I don’t know what the ticket prices were at Wrigley field, but I do have a photocopy of a statement of receipts from a December 1928 game the Giants played at Yankee Stadium. At that game the attendance was 6,836 and the receipts were $5,820.70. I think it would be safe to say that an attendance of 2,500 at Wrigley Field did not generate $4,000 in receipts, so the Bears must have been backed into a corner – financially speaking. No doubt it was part of the reason the Bears ended the 1927 season $3,488.35 in the red.
The autographs are a great group. For the Bears you have Dutch Sternaman and George Halas, co-owners of the Bears until Halas bought out Sternaman in 1933. For the Eskimos you have Ole Haugsrud, the man who brought Ernie Nevers into professional football and who supposedly paid $1 to purchase the team from the players who had been running it as a cooperative venture. When Haugsrud sold the Duluth franchise to a team in Orange, New Jersey, in 1929, it was with an agreement that he would receive a percentage of the next NFL franchise in Minnesota – thirty years later he became a part owner of the Minnesota Vikings.
Haugsrud may not be a household name today, but to the players of that era he was a founding father. According to an article by Ralph Hickok in Sports Illustrated in 1987, at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Football Hall of Fame in 1973, both Johnny Blood and Ernie Nevers recommended that if owners were going to be enshrined in the Hall, Ole Haugsrud should be among those honored: “He did more for the NFL than Dan Reeves, Charlie Bidwill and Larmar Hunt combined,” said Blood. “Amen,” said Ernie Nevers.
A number of items from the files of Charlie Conerly have recently come up for auction. I thought this contract was a real time capsule – can you imagine what such a contract would look like today?
Several people suggested that it was not the same player in the 1935 photo as appeared in the 1930 photo. If that’s the case then it seems to me the most likely identification of the 1930 mystery man remains Hilpert, and the 1935 mystery man is most likely Tony Sarausky. The best photo I have of Sarausky is from the 1935 team picture – it’s printed so it’s not as clear – but for comparison I put it in place of the Wellington Mara photo on the right. Plus, if you look at the original picture, Sarausky is standing behind Newman – Sarausky is listed as 5′ 11″ at 192 lbs and Newman as 5′ 10″ at 182 pounds. To the right of Sarausky is Mel Hein listed as 6’2″ at 225, so the height and weight look right for Sarausky.
On April 10, I posted a photo of the Giants welcoming Chris Cagle in 1930. There was one player I identified as Hal Hilpert (behind Friedman). Now I’ve found a 1935 photo of the Giants welcoming back Harry Newman after a year out due to injury. I can identify every player in this photo except one mystery man – 15 Walt Singer, 3 Len Grant, then Danowski behind Steve Owen, 14 Tod Goodwin, 12 Newman, then a mystery man partially obscured by Newman and 7 Mel Hein.
To me the mystery man looks like the same player I identified as Hal Hilpert in the 1930 photo. The problem is, Hilpert was not on the Giants in 1935. Only 4 players were on both the 1930 and 1935 rosters – Red Badgro, Bill Owen, Dale Burnett, and Len Grant. Of those, Burnett and Grant are already identified in a photo. The mystery man does not look like Red Badgro or Bill Owen. So who could it be? Could it be Wellington Mara? I’ve put a photo lineup together – Hal Hilpert, Mystery Man 1930, Mystery Man 1935, young Wellington Mara. Maybe someone could help solve this mystery!
Recently on eBay I found this 1931 wire photo of Jim Thorpe and his daughter Grace. Years ago I was doing research on the World Famous Indians basketball team and I called Grace Thorpe and had a nice conversation about her dad and people who might know about the WFI basketball team. She put me in touch with the Marion, Ohio Historical Society which had a couple of clippings about games the team played. This was about five years before someone discovered a ticket stub from a WFI basketball game that got coverage in the New York Times and a segment on History Detectives on PBS.
Grace led quite a life in her own right – below is her obituary from the Boston Globe in April 2008.
Grace Thorpe, a tribal judge, anti-nuclear activist, and the daughter of Olympic great Jim Thorpe, died Tuesday of heart failure at the Claremore Veterans Center. She was 86. Ms. Thorpe was a direct descendent of Sac and Fox chief Black Hawk and was of Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and Menominee heritage, according to Park Brothers Funeral Service. She was a World War II veteran, having served as a Women’s Army Corps corporal in the Philippines and Japan. She was awarded a Bronze Star for her actions at the battle of New Guinea. She was a personnel interviewer for General Douglas MacArthur at his headquarters in Tokyo during the occupation of Japan.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a paralegal degree from the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. She also was an Urban Fellow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed MBA course work at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She was a tribal district court judge.
Ms. Thorpe served as a congressional liaison to the US House of Representatives American Indian Policy Review Commission. She was also known as a champion of the environment, serving as director for the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans.
Earl Potteiger was the coach for the New York Giants in their first championship season, 1927 (team photo detail above) – yet it is doubtful that many Giants fans would be familiar with his name. He was a rough and tumble guy from the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania, and his sports career before and after the New York Giants is a mix of professional and semi-professional football and baseball. Although his contract was bought by the New York Yankees from Worcester (Eastern League) in 1919, there is no record he ever appeared in a MLB game. His greater success came in the NFL.
The Professional Football Researchers Association says: His NFL career is rather odd in that he played in eight different seasons from 1920 to 1928 yet appeared in only 21 games. The reason may be that he was a coach or assistant in those seasons. One source says he became a pro in 1920 when he played two games for Buffalo, but it is likely he was being paid as early as 1913. In 1920, he was either 27 or 29 (sources vary). Either way, he was rather advanced in age for a pro at that time.
Apparently Potteiger was also involved in a basketball team the New York Giants put together as part of a 1925 post-season tour to Florida. A January, 1926 newspaper article promotes an upcoming game:
Potteiger’s career after football brought him in front of a judge on more than one occasion for violations of the prohibition laws – he was facing three years in prison when the laws were repealed.
Earl Potteiger died on April 7, 1959 – not one obituary mentioned his distinction of being the coach of the New York Giants for their first championship season.
Chris Cagle had a long college football career – 8 years worth. He first played 4 years at Southwestern Louisiana where he scored 235 points. He then played 4 years at West Point where he was All American the last three years. A huge scandal erupted in 1930 when it was revealed he had gotten married in 1928 and, by the rules of West Point, was not eligible to be a cadet, let alone play football. He resigned from the Academy in May 1930, stating his intention to head south and coach college football. However, in November 1930 he signed with the Giants and arrived in New York to join them for their game against the Packers at the Polo Ground; here is a picture of his welcome to the team. Cagle is wearing #10 and that’s Benny Friedman shaking his hand. Others in the picture from left to right are Coach LeRoy Andrew, Tiny Feather, Len Sedbrooke, #9 Rudy Comstock, Les Caywood, Cagle and behind him Steve Owen, Hal Hilpert, Friedman, Len Grant, Hap Moran, Jack Hagerty, Dale Burnett –