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Tales from the old-timer

No Fumbles Allowed

Old Geezers like me often talk how things were done better when they were young, when they were done “right.” Like so many people today I am addicted to TV football, both pro and college, and feel there is way too much fumbling, and fumbling can change the whole spirit and thrust of the game, so that the team about to score again and take command now becomes threatened with loss of momentum and winning potential. I’ve been spending a lot of time watching football on weekends, both Saturdays and Sundays, and like millions, am an addict , even when the team I am rooting for starts to fumble and lose possession far too often.

I recall back in 1943 our coach, Clarence Schacht, at good old Peshtigo High School launched his new policy “Fumbling is no longer allowed” because our record was badly damaged by fumbles during the previous 1942 fall season.

The “no fumbles” policy was embedded in our skulls so deeply that even when knocked unconscious, our ball carriers hung on to the ball so tightly that the two home linesmen, Grant “Squeak” Harper and Russell “Jinglebob” England, were stationed on the sideline equipped with sturdy hardwood levers used to pry the ball out of the unconscious ball carriers arms, so that the games could be resumed.

He began the fall drills by having all the ball carriers run the gauntlet between two rows of men who tried to knock the ball out of their arms every way they could think of.

Fumbling was definitely no longer an option for us. I can remember only two fumbles that whole season, which was shortened to only six games because of World War II travel restrictions.

Hank Hammer broke loose on a long run against a powerful Marinette team, but the ball kept squirting out of his grasp with every stride, and finally popped loose near Marinette’s five yard line. It was like the darn ball was smeared with Vaseline. They beat us 39-19, but it wasn’t that close in reality as Marinette was substituting freely, to give their subs a chance to play, as early as the 3rd quarter. Jug Girard, who was to score 4 TDs against the University of Iowa team when UW-Madison played them in 1947, was a member of that 1943 Marinette team. I was playing safety man and he ran past me like I was a statue. He was a triple threat performer for the Marines that night, punting, passing and running.

During one home game under the lights at Badger Field near the paper mill on West Front Street, I got hit after catching a punt and got knocked cold, but but my arms were still wrapped around the football. I remember coming to with Hank Hammer bent down asking, “You all right, Red?” We didn’t use the ball like a discus thrower at arm’s length in order to balance our zig-zag progress down the field. The ball became a part of us, due to Mr. Schacht’s anti-fumble conditioning.

We had a great season, losing only that Marinette game and winning the other 5.


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