Oct. 16, 1991
Oct. 16, 1991

Table of Contents
Oct. 16, 1991

Dateline: The Author Returns To Yesteryear To Report On A History-Making Football Game
Bob Cousy
Orlando Cepeda
33! Lakers
  • In November of 1971, the Los Angeles Lakers went on a roll. Twenty years later, their 33-game win streak is still the longest in pro sports history

Fait Elkins
Lenglen Vs. Wills
A Call To Arms
What If?



This is an article from the Oct. 16, 1991 issue

John William Heisman, the famed Georgia Tech coach and the man behind the trophy, was a vindictive person. When Cumberland College canceled its football program in the fall of 1916, Heisman was furious—he believed he had a score to settle with the tiny school from Lebanon. Term. Earlier that year Cumberland had crushed Tech's baseball team—also coached by Heisman—22-0. Actually, the team calling itself Cumberland for that baseball game had been a professional squad from Nashville, illicitly assembled by some Cumberland baseball players hoping to save their flagging athletic program. Nevertheless, Heisman felt he'd been publicly embarrassed.

He sent a letter to Cumberland offering the football team $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta if they would play Tech as originally scheduled. I he letter reached George Alien, Cumberland's former team manager. He accepted the offer and rounded up 19 "players," most of whom had never played football. This makeshift squad ran a few practices and even developed a play-calling system: Each player was assigned the name of a vegetable, and the signal-caller then shouted out plays like. "Turnip over lettuce! Hut-one, hut-two..." or, "Cucumber to cauliflower! I hut-one, hut-two..."

In the subsequent game against Georgia Tech, the Cumberland squad was reduced to tossed salad, Tech's offense scored every time it got the ball, never threw a pass, never was penalized and never took more than three downs to score. The defense never gave up a first down.

At halftime, with the score 126-0, Heisman told his players, "Men, we're in front, but you never know what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. Don't let up." During the second half, a Cumberland player was found hiding under a blanket, and two others climbed a fence to get away. The final score of 222-0 represents the most lopsided match in college football history.

After the game. Heisman congratulated the Cumberland team and gave Allen a check for $500. He then promptly put his squad through a hard 30-minute scrimmage.

The history books say that Satchel Paige pitched his first pro game in 1926 for the Chattanooga Black Lookouts, a 5-4 win over the Birmingham Black Barons. (Could be.) Ol' Satch himself says his first game was a 1-0, two-hit victory over New Orleans some time that same year. (Possibly.) Paige was either 19 or 20 or 27 years old at the time. (Or not.) What is certain about Leroy Robert Paige is that he was a pitcher of astonishing skill. "No telling how great I might have been if there hadn't been a color line," he once said. "I might've been the best ever." That, too, we will never know for sure.


On Sept. 27, 1956, 45-year-old Babe Didrikson Zaharias died of cancer in Galveston, Texas. Perhaps never before or since has an obituary outlined a life so rich in athletic accomplishment: In track and field, she set American, Olympic or world records in live different events and won gold medals in the javelin and the 80-meter hurdles at the '32 Olympics. She was an All-America in basketball in 1930. '31 and '32. As a pitcher, she appeared in a few major league exhibition games and was such a prodigious hitter in her youth that she was nicknamed Babe. She won 82 golf tournaments as a professional and an amateur, including a record 17 in a row in the mid-'40s. In 1954, she won five tournaments, including the U.S. Women's Open by 12 strokes. Asked once if there was anything she hadn't played in her day, Zaharias replied, "Yeah. Dolls."

Perhaps the only suitable summation of her deeds is rendered in the epitaph on her tombstone: MILDRED 'BABE' DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS, 1911-1956. WORLD'S GREATEST WOMAN ATHLETE.

The story is familiar: In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a physical education instructor in Springfield, Mass., tacks a peach basket to the balcony of his gym and tosses a soccer ball to a group of 18 boys, thus inventing basketball. Naismith's game was primitive: pass the ball, shoot the ball, score the goal. After a century of refinement, today's game is complex: pass the ball, shoot the ball, score the goal. Naismith's invention was indeed a thing of genius, but he didn't think of everything. It was 20 years later before someone thought to take the bottom out of the basket.


"I believe the general effect of large amounts of easy money [from football]...has served appreciably to distort the whole scale of athletic values." The speaker was James Angell, then the president of Yale, and the setting was the 25th annual convention of the NCAA for 1931. Angell's speech to the convention was titled "The Familiar Problems of College Athletics."

Much of the convention's talk centered around the findings of the Carnegie Foundation Report, a four-year study of intercollegiate athletics that reported many instances of illegal recruitment and subsidization of athletes by colleges, as well as several cases of schools where athletic departments were unduly influenced by overzealous alumni and coaches.

Charles Kennedy, president of the NCAA, put forward specific reforms. such as reduced football schedules and the elimination of spring practice. He suggested that with these reforms and a return to general common sense, college football and academic ideals could happily coexist. "I earnestly hope," said Kennedy, "that the colleges of our country...will deflate intercollegiate football and restore it to its natural place in the life of the undergraduates."


By traditional baseball standards, the game was of little note. On Aug. 5, 1921, the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, 8-5, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. At the game, sitting in a field-level box seat just behind home plate, was Harold Arlin, a 26-year-old Westinghouse engineer. Throughout the 1-hour-and-57-minute contest, Arlin, surrounded by what looked like telegraph equipment, described every hit, run and error into a converted telephone. Curious onlookers could have had little idea that they were seeing the future: Arlin's play-by-play descriptions were carried over a radio signal transmitted by station KDKA in Pittsburgh, becoming the first-ever broadcast of a baseball game.

"Our guys at KDKA didn't even think that baseball would last on radio," said Arlin later. "[In that first game], sometimes the transmitter worked and sometimes it didn't. Sometimes the crowd noise would drown us out and sometimes it wouldn't. Quite frankly, we didn't know what the reaction would be, whether we'd be talking into a total vacuum or whether somebody would actually hear us."

Somebody heard. KDKA had become the nation's first radio station just a year before, in time for Arlin to read the returns of the 1920 presidential election over the air (Warren Harding won, by the way). But it was that baseball broadcast that sent out the powerful signal.

In an era when a ball game was as distant for most people as tomorrow's newspaper, Arlin's play-byplay demonstrated to the public that baseball could be brought right into the American living room with immediacy and intimacy. Baseball and radio married well as the game's popularity and, concurrently, sales of radio sets boomed. The medium made the message, and the message made the medium. And Harold Arlin made history.


In January 1951, college basketball was enjoying another season as the hottest ticket in town, and the hottest arena in the hottest town was New York's Madison Square Garden. Home of the prestigious National Invitation Tournament and the unofficial home court of national powers LIU, NYU and CCNY, the Garden was basketball's mecca.

Betting had long been a common and fairly undisguised enterprise at the Garden, and the popularization of the point spread during the previous decade had done nothing to discourage its proliferation. Crowds were as likely to cheer the basket that beat the spread as the one that won the game. Unfortunately, the point spread also created abundant new opportunities for corruption.

On Jan. 17, Henry Poppe, a former Manhattan College player, was arrested for his role in a point-shaving scheme in Manhattan's game against DePaul the day before. Authorities had been apprised of the fix before the game by Junius Kellogg. Manhattan's star center, after Poppe offered Kellogg $ 1,000 to miss a shot here and there. After Poppe's arrest, the press started getting tips on other players involved in fixing. The titans of basketball began to topple.

Returning from a rout of Temple on Feb. 17, three CCNY starters were picked up at Penn Station for questioning by representatives of the Manhattan D.A.'s office; all confessed to fixing games. Soon afterward, three LIU players were nabbed. Across the country, fingers pointed at the corrupt environs of New York. In Peoria, Ill., the highly ranked Bradley Braves voted unanimously never to play in the Garden again. In Lexington, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp proclaimed that gamblers couldn't touch his players "with a 10-foot pole."

It wasn't long before Rupp and the Braves were choking on their sanctimony. By the end of the year, three Bradley starters and three Kentucky players had admitted to taking-bribes to shave points. Two of the stars of Kentucky's '49 national championship team, Ralph Beard and Alex Groza, were kicked out A of the NBA in disgrace. Rupp's untouchables were among the biggest offenders of all.

By the time the investigation was concluded, the body count was staggering. Between 1947 and 1950, according to the D.A.'s office, 32 players from seven schools had been involved in the fixing of 86 games in 23 cities across 17 states. The New York programs were devastated, and college basketball in the Garden would never be the same.



1941 50 YEARS AGO

Unbeaten Minnesota is national champion in college football for the second straight year

Wisconsin defeats Washington State, 39-34, for the NCAA basketball title

Craig Wood wins the Masters by three strokes over Byron Nelson

The Boston Bruins sweep the Detroit Red Wings, four games to none, to win the Stanley Cup

Orson Welles's Citizen Kane premieres

Whirlaway wins the Kentucky Derby, en route to the Triple Crown

Tiger outfielder Hank Greenberg hits two homers and is inducted into the Army the next day

MAY 15
Joe DiMaggio goes 1 for 4 in a loss to the White Sox, beginning a hitting streak that would last more than two months

MAY 27
FDR warns the nation in a radio address of "an unlimited national emergency.... We will not accept a Hitler-dominated world"

Lou Gehrig dies at age 37

Craig Wood wins the U.S. Open by three strokes over Denny Shute

Joe Louis knocks out Billy Conn in the 13th round to retain the world heavyweight title

Germany and hah declare war on the Soviet Union. London bookmakers make the Allies 3-1 favorites to win the war before the end of the year

Joe DiMaggio goes 0 for 3 in Cleveland, ending his 56-game hitting streak

Bobby Ring's defeats Frank Kovacs to win the national singles title at Forest Hills

Boston's Ted Williams goes 6 for 8 in a doubleheader, finishing the season with a .406 batting average

The Yankees rally to beat the Dodgers 7-4 in Game 4 of the World Series, after Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen drops a third strike that would have ended the game. The Yanks win the Series the next day

Chattanooga Choo Choo by Glenn Miller hits No. 1 on the pop charts

Japan bombs Pearl Harbor; U.S. declares war the next day

The Monsters of the Midway-the Chicago Bears-defeat the New York Giants 37-9 to win their second consecutive NFL championship