Ted takes an of­ferhe can’t refuse

The Willow Grove Guide - - OPINION -

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.

Ted Tay­lor

At Large

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