The Bold, Brave Men of Archbold: 1954: Preseason | Syracusefan.com

The Bold, Brave Men of Archbold: 1954: Preseason

SWC75

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iIn the days of old, when knights were bold
Every city had its warrior man.
In the days of new, when fights are few
You will view them from a big grandstand.
In our college town one has great renown
If the game of football he should play.
With his pig-skin ball he is cheered by all,
He's the Saltine Warrior of today.

The Saltine Warrior is a bold, bad man,
And his weapon is a pigskin ball,
When on the field he takes a good, firm stand,
He's the hero of large and small.
He will rush toward the goal with might and main
His opponents all fight, but they fight in vain,
Because the Saltine Warrior is a bold, bad man,
And victorious over all.

We are early in a new era in SU football- the Doug Marrone era. 60 years ago, another era began- the Ben Schwartzwalder Era, during which SU rose from its greatest depths to its greatest heights, and then all the way back down again. It was the era into which I was born, the one I remember from my youth. I can still recall listening to the games on the radio and waiting until Tuesday to see the grainy black and white films of the previous Saturday’s games on the local news. The music played over these highlights was not “Down, Down the Field”. It was “The Saltine Warrior”. My Dad thought he knew the beginning of it and would sing “The Saltine Warrior was a bold, brave man”. I later found that the line was “bold, bad, man”. But that’s not the way I learned it and it’s not the way I like it. My heroes were not “bad” men. They were “brave” men. They were the “Bold, Brave Men of Archbold”.

Pre-season

Ben Schwartzwalder had lost 9 of 11 starters from the previous year. But he had a squad of 61 players to open fall practice on September 1st:

Ends: Nick Baccile, Ed Bailey, Bill Brown, Harry Healy, Vern Howell, Tom Richardson, Jim Ridlon, Pete Schwert, Dick Taylor

Tackles: Stan Abes, Jim Britt, Joe Cappadona, Johnny Cashman, Paul Kernakian, Jack Krivat, Jim Podraza, Mike Minko, Bill Sprague

Guards: Rudy Farmer, Joe Krivak, Jim Leutze, Stan Loenik, Dick McGuire, Joe Polino, Paul Relmer, Mike Skop, Cal Smith, Ted Warholak, Warren Watrel

Centers: Joe Crzehowski, Bob Musgrave, Steve Ringo, Al Vergara, Paul Slick

Backs: Ed Achley, Ed Albright, Sam Alexander, Dick Bach, Dick Barstow, Jim Brown, Al Cann, Lyle Carleson, Dick Darr, Lou Iannicello, Dick Jackson, Don Laaksonen, Bill Micho, John Pannucci, Ray Perkins, Bob Persher, Mickey Rich, Dick Steiner, Roger Stuart, Art Trolio, Ron Tyler, Vince Vergara, John Vona,, Bill Wetzel, Gus Zaso

Ben said: “This squad has more to learn than any I have been associated with since I left the scholastic coaching ranks to join the paratroopers.” Equipment manager Al Zak handed out “a sizeable notebook, which all hands are expected to put to good use. Schwartzwalder intends to give out his offense to his gridders via daily lectures and woe to the footballer who is slow in taking notes from the speedy talking West Virginian.”

It was a “brand new eleven”. The team had only 15 letterman and 2 starters returning from the 1st team, including only one from the line. “Of the sophomores, those who appear to have a chance of playing a lot of football this year are headed up by Jerry Cashman, Joe Krivak, Mike Minko, Jim Podraza and Jim Ridlon. This quintet showed more promise last autumn than their classmates….there are a host of sophs to be looked at. Ends Ed Bailey, Nick Baccile and Dick Taylor, tackles Jack Kiviat, Joe Rose and Stan Abes, guards Rudy Farmer, Warren Watrel, Stan Leonik, Dick McGuire, Ted Warholak and Jim Leutze and centers Steve Ringo and Bob Musgrave….One of the boys who most impressed the coach‘s is Jim Ridlon of Nyack. He‘s a good pass receiver with quick reactions.” The article didn’t mention Jim Brown.

According to his autobiography, when Jim was a freshman he found himself assigned to live at Skytop while his freshman teammates were at Collendale, in the middle of campus. They also got meal passes for Slocum Hall: he got Sims and it was for half as much food. “I was so naive. I never even thought about race. I thought it was weird and left it at that.” People told him not to go out with white girls or pledge a fraternity. He didn’t know why. Then they told him not to be like Vada Stone, (Avatus Stone). He asked why he would be compared to Vada Stone. “Because you’re black.” Now he understood. Stone was considered “flashy” and didn’t obey “the rules”. And he was black. That explained it. It also explained being at Skytop and eating at Sims and not pledging a fraternity or going out with white girls.

“I couldn’t even fight back with my talent. I was the fastest back on the freshman team, probably the strongest but if the coach addressed me at all , it was to needle me. One coach said I had no future as a runner. He said I should think about playing line. One coach said I should learn to punt. Punt? Punt?. …My anger was healthy, kept me strong. But when I left Skytop and my friends, went down to suit up, my spirit shrank a little more. My anger got tired and doubt started creeping in…I decided to quit. Give them what they wanted. I was no good anyway. Not like I’d be missed.” Dr. Raymond Collins, the superintendent of Manhattan High School, got a call from Kenny Malloy, Jim’s mentor, that Jim wanted to quit and drove to Syracuse to talk to him. He convinced him that he was good enough to play and to stick with it. Jim was as impressed that Dr. Collins would drive all the way to Syracuse to tell him that as he was with what the man said. Then Ben Schwartzwalder called Jim into his office and told Jim he wanted him back for his sophomore year because they needed a good end. Jim insisted he was a running back and when he wouldn‘t give in, Ben said he’d be given a shot at running back if he came back. “Ben wasn’t a bad guy. He was just Schwartzwalder, the head coach. And Ben kept his promise: at my first varsity practice, the coaches had posted a depth chart. I was at halfback. Fifth String, and I could live with that. My fate would now be determined by my running, all I was asking for.”

The Athletic Department was already putting together it’s 1955 schedule and there were significant changes. Syracuse would be playing Army, Pittsburgh, Maryland and West Virginia. This was a significant upgrade over the Villanovas, Temples, Fordhams and Rutgers that had populated the schedule in recent years. Syracuse was getting better but also more ambitious, which gave Ben Schwartzwalder all that many more challenges. At the same time the University decided to follow the example of the Ivy league and ban spring practice, making Ben’s job doubly hard. Syracuse had not played Pittsburgh since 1930. They had had quite a series before that, with both schools being among the best in the East in the teens and twenties. The series would begin again in 1955 and has continued ever since.

There was much discussion of Ben having to play his alma mater in 1955. He allowed as how he had enough to worry about in 1954 but sat down with Jack Slattery to discuss the matter. He pointed to a map of West Virginia and noted that Morgantown was close to both the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders. He said that the southern part of the state didn’t really identify with the university in the past but that the present coach, Art Lewis has been able to convince the in-state talent to come to the school while recruiting in Pennsylvania and Ohio and this had led to their recent success, culminating with an appearance in the 1/1/54 Sugar Bowl, which in turn will make them an even more formidable opponent in the future. The West Virginia papers noted that the school was ambitious for football success and, (like SU), upgrading it’s schedule. They were getting rid of Virginia Tech and Waynesburg and replacing them with Fordham and Syracuse.

The lack of spring practice combined with the toughing of the schedule caused some alarm. Frank Woolever warned: “Let the Orange go into a tailspin and the heads, (of the administration) will find top elevens are not interested in booking. After all, competition is the spice which fill stadia.” Woolever wondered why we were doing what the Ivies were doing when we were not an Ivy League team and not even playing them, (the Cornell series was off in ‘55: there would be two more games in 1958-59). One national writer, Jesse Abrahamson, picked Syracuse to win two of it’s eight games. Another, Stanley Woodward predicted only a win over Villanova in the opener, then seven straight losses. Ben Schwartzwalder replied “Who am I to disagree with these well-established experts? Jack Slattery noted “This is the first time I ever ran into a situation where a coach was supplied with ready-made tears. All Ben has to do is turn them on.”

There was talk that formalization of the Ivy league and the agreement that all their teams would play each other could force eastern independents to create a league because they would no longer fill their schedule with the Ivies.

Syracuse traveled to West Point for a closed scrimmage with the Army team on September 11th. “Don’t be misled by the term practice session. Messers Schwartzwalder, who’s name in German means Black Forest and Blaik, who delights in bossing the Black Knights of West Point are the type of coaches who pull no punches. As long as a drill is scheduled each will go all out to provide a top workout not only for his men but opposition as well.” It was to be a full-scale game except for no kick-offs. “Those are being eliminated since statistics reveal numerous injuries come from that rough bodily contact.” Teams would just begin the next drive at their own 35 after a score.

A bus from the Military Academy drove to Syracuse to collect the team and drive them back to West Point, which was then assaulted by Hurricane Edna. “The Syracuse and Army squads sat huddled in their rooms, trying to keep their minds off the torrential winds off the torrential winds, plus the almost five inches of rainfall which hurriedly made up for a dry summer. However, in mid-afternoon, the weather broke and over the public address system came the cold announcement, ’All members of the A squad football team report to the dressing room for the scrimmage with Syracuse at 1600 hours’, two hours late. Off came the tarpaulin from the gridiron on water- resistant Michie Stadium and on went the football players and where minutes before it appeared as though destruction and havoc were to follow the rain and the wind, it was now fall and footballs were in the air. Unbelievable, but true.” No details of the scrimmage were reported except that Al Vergara was injured on the last play and carried off the field. It was feared he might be lost for the season.

Ben’s overall assessment was “It was an encouraging workout. It was encouraging but far from satisfying.” He lauded the team for performing as well as they did with only ten days of practice and no spring practice. Later, when Jack Slattery pressed him the issue by asking Ben “how it felt to be a winner”, he smiled. “It was a good scrimmage for both teams. We needed a morale booster and perhaps the Cadets needed to be jolted a bit. I have an idea they didn’t take us too seriously and for that reason I’m not setting too much store for our surprising showing.” Army was favored to take the Lambert Trophy as the best team in the East but “In fact, I fear the Cadets are not, right now, the team the experts believe them to be I’m not saying they won’t be, but they were not as sharp a club as the one we played a year ago at this time.” Considering his own team: “We found a spirit we liked. We saw a will to win that is encouraging. I can say this much, and it’s a fairly obvious observation to make: we should improve. We’re a green team and it stands to reason we should improve. Without injuries we might even improve tremendously. But because we are so thin in reserves the possibility of injuries is one I hate even to discuss.”

On September 10th the Post Standard reported that a sophomore fullback was making quite an impression in practice and had his picture carrying the football under his arms toward the cameraman. He was 210 pounds and showed “a world of speed and quickness”. His name was Gus Zaso. The last paraphrase of the article reported that another sophomore who “came in for praise” was Jim Brown “who continued to strike with a good deal of speed and force” and “was built somewhat like Zaso”. On Sunday, September 12, the first picture of Jim Brown appeared as one of several players in separate shots of the Syracuse and Villanova teams. He’s running by the cameraman with his arm raised and a football pinned against the #44 on his chest.

Ben bemoaned the lack of speed on his team. “Sophomore Jim Brown, who looked rather good in Saturday’s game, is just about the fastest man we have and Jim doesn’t do the 100 in any better time than 10.4. Just compare that to those Cornell backs and you’ll see that we are going to need a lot of will power and desire to play to substitute for speed.” Schwartzwalder was also going to improve the passing attack my having his halfbacks help the quarterback by making some throws of their own. “Sam Alexander, Bill Micho and Jim Brown, were hitting receivers on the run.” They were right handed. Ray Perkins and Art Trolio threw from the left side. “All five enjoyed considerable success finding their targets in yesterday’s workout.”

A September 17th Post Standard article had the headline “BROWN STELLAR PERFORMER IN ORANGE GRID WORKOUT”. It listed him as being 208 pounds and said he’d be doing the place-kicking that fall. He “showed a bit of hustle and speed from his left halfback spot, which he divided with hard-driving Sam Alexander. A decathlon star in track and capable on the basketball court, Brown appears to be one of the most promising prospects to enroll on the hill in many moons. He has been improving rapidly and if he can improve his blocking and his faking, Brown has a substantial chance of beating out the capable Alexander before the end of the campaign.”

That article indicates Ben was concerned about his line, which had to be totally rebuilt. The 1953 line averaged 214 pounds per man. His new 1954 line was only 194 pounds per man. Would that be big enough? “Ben plans to substitute a little more speed this year for power. No longer will the hill forwards be able to push and steamroller their way up the gridiron, with the Orange backs following closely on their heels.” Former SU assistant coach Bud Wilkinson was quoted as saying that “Size is the least important thing in a football player. The desire to play, compete and win is the most important asset a football player can possess.” Ben allowed as how “We don’t know how effective this new thinking will be but we’ve had to cut out a good many of the old bread and butter plays of the last couple of years for we just don‘t have the horses to run them any more.”

Syracuse had one more scrimmage at Bucknell the week before the Villanova game. No score was reported but an article on the encounter reported that “a powerful, second -half surge enabled Syracuse University’s football forces to overcome the Bucknell Bisons”. Ray Perkins, “the most versatile back in the East” had “the prettiest run of the day when he took a weak side hand-off from quarterback Mickey Rich and turned on the speed to zip 70 yards down the sideline at the start of the second half….Syracuse’ speed boys, Ray Perkins, Art Trolio and Jimmy Brown began to take advantage of the huge holes being chopped out for them by the Orange forwards…Brown showed determined running as he paced the Hill second eleven.”

Syracuse was experimenting with a new invention: rubberized mouthpieces designed to prevent “broken molars, jaw and head injuries…Seems many concussions are blamed because gridders run with mouths open and when struck under the chin by arms or knees in tackling suffer serious injuries. With the new lightweight guards for the teeth the tendency is to clench the jaws to hold the plates in place and therefore protect against unexpected blows. Arnie Burdick, Hill publicity director, did not have figures as to the cost for the special equipment needed by Dr. Garrison to turn out individually molded mouthpieces, figuring roughly it might amount to $600 or $700. The amount sounded large yet Burdick opined it could prove a cheap investment. He revealed the dental costs for gridders each season was amazing.” (Frank Woolever’s article didn’t provide further details.)

Villanova’s athletic director was Bud Dudley, who had developed quite a reputation for promoting his school’s games. He “worked a package deal with a large chain of grocery stores in Philadelphia, (Street and Smiths called it “selling cut-rate tickets to local chain-store grocers“) and sold 98,000 tickets to the Villanova-Georgia game in 1953. He has made the same deal for the second game of the 1954 season and this time the fans will see the Wildcats play Mississippi rated by many as the top team in the country. They had sold 100,000 tickets for that, 85,000 in the first 36 hours. Dudley said “Actually there were three mild riots at the point of sales. They had to call out the police to restore order when some of the fans became over-eager to buy tickets.” Dudley was already making plans to sell the follow week’s game with Houston on the same basis. He was hoping to get consecutive sell-outs in Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, (later Jon F. Kennedy Stadium: it was erected in 1925 an torn down in 1992 and held 102,000 for football), for the first time ever. He was asked what the benefits of these promotions were. “it’s twofold. First we make quite a bit of money. Just take a second and think what a business is done at the concession stands when there are 100,000 people there. The other reason is to get them there. We are trying to sell Villanova. Like any merchant we have to get customers into the store before we can sell our product. After we get them in we hope to show them good football and bring them back again. It’s just good business.” It was reported that 60% of the fans at the 1953 Georgia game had never seen a college football game before. When questioned as to why they‘d never seen a game before they said they thought college games were just for the alums. “Bud, the business man through and through, is doing everything within his power to convince the Philadelphia public that Villanova football is for anyone who wants to see them play.” But the team still has to put on a show. Nova had lost to Georgia 19-32 in a game that wasn’t that close. “We got them into the store and then sold them a fountain pen which wouldn’t write.”

The first game against Villanova had a charity-tie in. For several years the local Cerebral Palsy Association had been staging an annual exhibition game between two NFL teams in Archbold Stadium to raise money but the NFL team’s demands, ($15,000 per team) had gotten too high so instead the charity made a deal with SU. They asked how much money SU expected to make from the opener at Villanova. This figure was not revealed to the writer, (Frank Woolever), but he estimated it to be $25,000. The CPA suggested that they advertise the game as a benefit for the CPA and any receipts over the $25,000, (which also included what Villanova would get), would go to the CPA. Because of this a record opening game crowd was expected. Jack Slattery wondered if a lack of “name” players on the field would be a problem. But he did note that “Jim Brown’s size and ability to move are enough to merit consideration” The people who came out to benefit the Cerebral Palsy Association would see the collegiate debut of the greatest player of all time.

Next: Villanova Sources: The Post Standard Archive and "Jim Brown: Out of Bounds" by Jim Brown with Steve Delsohn"
 

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