The worst kind of nut is a pro football nut, and I have been writing the nut's book of pro football for 15 years now. I've sold around 100,000, and I still don't know why anyone would buy it." So speaks Roger Lamporte Treat, 62, ex-sports columnist and self-styled "encyclopediatrician" of professional football. His book, which has just appeared in its fifth edition, is The Official Encyclopedia of Football (A.S. Barnes and Co., New York, $9.75 hard-cover, $1.95 paperback).
This is not a volume designed for curling up in front of a fire with; its pages fairly swim in a maze of statistics, names, numbers and juicy little would-you-believe-its. Did you know that Elbert Bloodgood of the Kansas City Cowboys drop-kicked four field goals against the Duluth Eskimos in an NFL game in 1926? Or that Walter (Sneeze) Achui was the only Chinese ever to play pro football? Well, Treat does.
Treat has assembled (and handily catalogued by year) the full roster of every league-sanctioned team that ever set foot on a football field for money since 1919, and you can look up the boys who used to do or die for some of your old NFL favorites—such as the Providence Steamrollers ('28 champs), the Frankford Yellowjackets ('26 champs) and, of course, the Kenosha Maroons. This year-by-year, team-by-team listing is new in this edition, as is a numerical ranking of alltime leaders in rushing, passing, scoring and receiving. You will find, for example, that both Raymond Berry and Billy Howton caught more career passes than Don Hutson—knowledge that might be worth a beer in almost any barroom.
Since his first edition Treat has developed a kind of "nut line" with other fanatics around the U.S. to aid in checking. His files, at a woodsy retreat near Newtown, Conn., bulge with tattered scrapbooks and thousands of letters from Hall of Famers, college officials, P.R. men, players, widows and orphans, as well as reams of material from a hard-core cadre of amateur researchers that includes a priest at Villanova University and a high school drama teacher in West Virginia. All these assistants have helped untangle a mountain of misinformation, malinformation and no-information. "There were probably 100 Smiths who played pro football," says Treat. "Which was which? Every Johnson who ever showed up in the old days was nicknamed Swede; so far I have found two Negroes and one Indian called Swede. It's gotten to be a fetish with me, getting names right."