Ted takes an offerhe can’t refuse
Part three in a fourpart series on the youth football program in Glenside
I was looking forward to the 1961 football season. I knew that we had some good players coming back from the year before — and some good newcomers moving up from the T-2-2, 85-pound squad. The Keystone State League had grown and we had enough teams for two divisions in both weight classes.
Good things were happening. Named one of the top 50 youth football organizations in the United States by the Pop Warner Conference got us invited to a season-opening bowl game Sept. 9 in Albany, N.Y., against a team called the Albany-Colonie Giants.
Thanks to some aggressive fundraising we had brand new uniforms, still basic black with a red and white UCLA stripe on the shoulders. Instead of black helmets we wore white with a red stripe. We needed to look good as we hit the road.
A motorcade full of Gorillas and their families left Glenside and headed for the New York State capitol. This was a big deal for our program. When we got there, Chuck and I rode in the lead of a parade in an open convertible through downtown Albany to welcome the team and promote the game. We had P2 players on the roster, also riding through town that day, including our first two AfricanAmerican players, cousins Arthur and Menwell Simmons.
Our kids were housed in the homes of the Albany players, the adults stayed at a motel. A welcome banquet was held on Sept. 8 at a local church hall. The game was played Saturday at 1.P0 p.m. at cavernous Bleeker Stadium in front of a good crowd; United Cerebral Palsy was the beneficiary. At halftime a guy won a 1961 Corvair in a drawing.
We drew first blood in the contest when our fleet halfback Menwell (I nicknamed him “Mel the Gazelle”) took the ball in from the 25 yard line early in the first quarter (he would go on to score 1P touchdowns that season). It was then that I figured out that the name “Giants” was an apt description of our opponents (they were huge) and on a hot, sunny day they wore us down and came away with a 2T-12 win. We lost quarterback Larry Hyde (who later on was a star player at Germantown Academy) to injury in the second quarter. Backup nB Doug Benge took over and did a nice job. We got on the board with another score in the third quarter when defensive back Paul Deery took an interception 65 yards to pay dirt. Paul would later become the first Glenside player to be named to the National Pop Warner “Little Scholars” team recognizing both his scholastic and athletic abilities.
Returning home from New York the Gorillas got down to business and won the southern division crown of the KSL with a 6-2 record, finishing the year with a thrilling 21-14 win over Ardsley as Simmons scored his 12th and 1Pth TDs of the season — one a run of 60 yards, another covering T5. Ironically, Mel had his 14th TD called back on an off-sides penalty and then, with less than two minutes to go and a fourth-down-and-P0 situation, he winged a P5-yard pass to gohn Bland on an option play. I quickly learned that you didn’t need to coach Mel so much as you just needed to get him the football.
The season was successful as both our 85 and 110 pound teams won their conference divisions — though both eventually lost out in the playoffs. Oreland won the 85-pound class; Willow Grove took the 110-pound division. Four members of the original 1958 intramural program, Ronnie Stewart, Drew Ermelin, Russ Alden and Mark Henry were also members of the 1961 110-pound division championship team.
Following that season I got one of those offers that I couldn’t refuse. goseph g. Tomlin, Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School alumnus and founder and president of the National Pop Warner Conference, offered me the job of national bowl director. I was going to be a senior in college and would be doing my student teaching giving me some flexibility, so he agreed to work around my college studies and essentially turned over to me the job of matching up midget football teams in bowl games nationwide. I was now a national midget football official.
The Pop Warner Conference, the kid football answer to Little League baseball, functioned out of Tomlin’s row house in Kensington. Much of what I did was by phone from where ever I happened to be and it was a paycheck that helped pay for that last year of college.
My last banquet with the Gorillas was in ganuary 1962, it was held at Gimbals, Cheltenham, and Mrs. Robert Burns, the mom of one of my players, got a national award from Pop Warner President Tomlin and cosigned by Yale head football coach gordan Olivar, an organization trustee.
More than 150 people attended that banquet at which it was announced that I’d be leaving the Gorillas and my role as Keystone State League commissioner for the national job. It was a bittersweet moment for me. Bill McKee would remain as president and the other officers remained in place as well (including me as treasurer — I still lived in Glenside). Hepner Van Horn, Bob Burns, Bud Griffith and Hugh Tate were introduced as new directors. It was also announced that gohn Bland would assume the 110-pound team and that gim Graver, father of another of my players, Kenny Graver, would soon take over the league commissioner’s job.
All of a sudden here I was at age 22 in charge of a national kid bowl game program and I was doing my share of traveling. All in all, it was a busy, heady time for me and it was a pace that, deep down, I knew I couldn’t keep up for long.
Next week, in the final installment, I’ll relate my adventures with Pop Warner as well as a return to coaching in a most unexpected place.
Menwell “Mel the Gazelle” Simmons scorded 13 TDs in 1961.