Monday, April 30, 2012

The 1931 Rose Bowl Drive Chart

The drive chart and stats for Alabama's 24-0 victory over Washington State in the 1931 Rose Bowl. The information was compiled and drawn by Ward Nash, a pioneering sports statistician from Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clem Gryska

Clem Gryska was a Stubenville, Ohio native who came to Tuscaloosa in the late 1940s to play for the Crimson Tide and became a fixture in the school's football program and athletic department for almost a half a century. 

Gryska lost most of his right hand in a childhood accident making him ineligible for service in World War II. Instead he became a blocking back for Frank Thomas' famed "War Babies" squads. 

He was a freshman on the undefeated 1945 team that claimed the SEC championship and trounced USC in the 1946 Rose Bowl. Under coach Red Drew, Gryska was moved to end where he earned letters in 1947 and 1948. 

Following graduation, Gryska coached high school football in the state but returned to The Capstone in 1960 as an assistant under Paul Bryant. He was the Tide's freshman coach as well as recruiting coordinator until 1976 when he was promoted to Assistant Athletic Director, also under Bryant. 

After stepping down in 1993, Gryska became the director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum until his retirement in 2010. Gryska passed away on April 23, 2012 at the age of 83.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dixie Howell and the University of Mexico Pumas

Dixie Howell, Los Angeles Mexican consul Ricardo Hill and Ernesto
Navas, the captain of the 1935 University of Mexico team.
After leading Alabama to a victory over Stanford in the 1935 Rose Bowl, halfback Dixie Howell took a job as the head coach of the football team of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City. The former All-American brought his Crimson Tide teammate Charles Marr with him to Mexico as an assistant.

American oil magnate Harry Ford Sinclair sponsored the squad, footing Howell and Marr's salaries as well as purchasing the team's equipment.

The Pumas highlighted their 1935 season with a series of games against US squads. They traveled to Los Angeles on Sept. 21 for their first game but were trounced by Occidental College 26-7. The next contest against Lamar ended in a 32-0 blowout and then a 27-7 loss against Louisiana College. Howell and Marr eventually suited up and played for the Mexican team in a game against St. Mary's College of Texas.

Despite the losses north of the border, the Pumas would go on to a successful season in the Organización Nacional Estudiantil de Futbol Americano league, claiming the school's third national championship.

Howell did not return to Mexico City the next season but took a job as an assistant coach at Tulane. He would later go on to become head coach at Arizona State University and the University of Idaho. In 1946 he served as backs coach at Alabama.

Marr took over the head coaching duties at the University of Mexico for 1936 and 1937 claiming the Mexican championship in each season.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bebe Daniels Meets the 1925 Alabama Crimson Tide

On their first visit to California for the 1926 Rose Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide team made a stop in Hollywood for a few publicity shots. Here silent film star Bebe Daniels exhorts Coach Wallace Wade (with hat in hand) and the Alabama team on the fine points of strategy for the upcoming contest against Washington in Pasadena.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Frank Thomas Breaks Down the Alabama Crimson Tide

In 1935 Alabama beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, the third victory for the Crimson Tide in Pasadena's New Year's Day classic. The popularity of the team and their head coach Frank Thomas brought unprecedented media attention including a lengthy feature in Sport Story Magazine.

Street & Smith was a New York City publishing house that pioneered pulp fiction and dime magazines. In 1923, they introduced the first sports pulp title, Sport Story Magazine. Twelve years later the bi-weekly magazine was the leading sports publication of its type in the country.

Thomas was featured in a cover article in the first October issue "The Air Route to Victory." Written in the first person, the story is credited "As told to Arthur Grahame." Grahame was a prolific writer for Street & Smith's various titles during the 1930s and had penned a fictional story about Alabama football for the magazine in 1927.

Although ghost written, the 10-page story provides a detailed look into Thomas' approach to coaching as well as his thoughts on Alabama's performance in the 1935 Rose Bowl game. He starts by explaining how he came to Tuscaloosa and his use of the Notre Dame's "simple and elastic" system which he had learned in South Bend under Knute Rockne.

"[The Notre Dame system] is a good system but it isn't the only system," he said. "Like every other successful football system, it is built on a foundation of skill in the game's fundamentals, blocking , tackling and ball handling."

Thomas then goes on to credit Alabama's win in Pasadena to the fact the Crimson Tide had a "triple threat" player in Dixie Howell -- one that could run, pass and kick extremely well -- and that Stanford didn't. Then Thomas explains how the Alabama pass attack worked, breaking down two plays in detail.

In the first (Diagram No. 1) he explained the offense was designed to use two of the backs to provide extra protection for Howell while the third bolted upfield with the two receivers.

"The defense had no way of knowing to which of the three eligible receivers the pass would go," Thomas wrote. It went to Don Hutson -- Alabama's so-called "pass catching, speed merchant end" -- who subsequently scored. (It may be this play.)

The second play (Diagram No. 2) used a similar deception. As Howell dropped back Alabama's "other end" Paul Bryant dashed six yards and then immediately cut across the field.

"The defense figured that the pass would go to Bryant," Thomas explained. "It didn't."

Again Alabama used an array of backs to block for Howell buying time for the play to develop. Hutson ran six yards out and stopped then, instead of blocking the defensive back for Bryant, he turned completely around and waited for the ball. Howell then threw it to him for a long gain.