Monday, April 22, 2013

Alabama vs UCLA 2000

On Sept. 2, 2000 I was one of 76,640 who filed into Rose Bowl stadium to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide play on that famed field for the first time in more than a half century. It is also the only time the Tide has played in the historic venue during a regular season game.

The game pitted No. 3 ranked Alabama against an unheralded UCLA squad helmed by Bob Toledo. When Freddie Millons returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, it seemed to be like the kind of day everyone wearing Crimson expected – a repeat of Alabama last game in Pasadena, a 34-14 trouncing of USC in the 1946 Rose Bowl.

Instead, UCLA responded with three touchdowns before Alabama could muster its first offensive scoring drive. The Bruins went on to claim a 35-24 victory. The last time the Tide had lost in the historic venue was almost 62 years prior when Cal claimed the victory in the 1938 Rose Bowl.

The Crimson Tide would go on to a 3-8 season that proved the final stanza of the Mike Dubose era in Tuscaloosa. UCLA made it to the post season but fell to Wisconsin 21-20 in the Sun Bowl.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Alabama Crimson Tide at the Grand Canyon

Mike Szecsi, Hank Crisp, Billy Brown, Lindy Hood, Wallace Wade,
Dink Campbell, Jimmie Moore, Joe Sharpe, Russell Taylor.
In December 1930, the train carrying the Alabama Crimson Tide to California to play Washington State in the Rose Bowl took a stop in Arizona at the Grand Canyon. The team stopped at the canyon on Dec. 22 but the visit was cut short because a practice in San Antonio, Texas had put them behind schedule. A tour of Phoenix was abandoned but the stopover there the team was presented a black donkey named "Poison" which they brought with them to Pasadena.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alabama Homecoming 1941

Alabama welcomed Kentucky to Denny Stadium on Nov. 1, 1941 for the Crimson Tide's homecoming game. University officials heralded the occasion as an opportunity to "re-dedicate" the school for the service of the state and the nation. "In sum," said the Tuscaloosa News in an editorial, "the day was more spiritual than physical, for those who follow the University both 'on and off the football field.' "

Inclement weather played havoc with the festivities. A Friday night pep rally planned at Denny Stadium had to be moved to the the University auditorium and, on Saturday, a relatively lackluster crowd of 11,000 showed up for the game itself. Prior to the kickoff University president Richard C. Foster (whom the school's auditorium would later be named for) dedicated the game to the country's active duty servicemen.

Alabama's all-conference star, halfback Jimmy Nelson, led the team to a 30-0 rout of the Wildcats. The Crimson Tide starters lodged a touchdown each of the first three quarters before turning the game over to the second team in the final period. The backups proceeded to score a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes of the game to finish the lopsided victory. Oddly, Alabama failed to score a single point after touchdown all afternoon.

Following the contest, UA's Million Dollar Band mingled with the Kentucky band and entertained the spectators who remained in the stadium with a 20-minute concert. The rainy weather gave way to clear skies for the late afternoon A Club smoker.

With the victory Alabama earned the No. 15 spot in the AP poll; the Tide's first appearance in the rankings that season.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alabama vs Pensacola Naval Air Base 1945

Alabama coaches Tilden Campbell, Hank Crisp and
 Frank Thomas watch the game from the Tide bench.
Just 7,500 fans came to Denny Stadium on Nov. 24, 1945 to see the No. 3 ranked Crimson Tide crush the Pensacola Naval Air Base Goslings 55-6. The Tides' first string scored three touchdowns in their first three possessions and then left the rest of the game to the backups. It was the eighth straight win for Alabama who had just been invited to play in the 1946 Rose Bowl game.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bernard Patrick "Tony" Holm

Tony Holm was a standout running back for Wallace Wade's powerful teams in the late 1920s, who would go onto a journeyman career in the pro ranks that included a spot on the first Pittsburgh Steelers roster.

A native of Birmingham, Holm played at Fairfield High School before heading to Tuscaloosa in 1926. At jsut more than six feet and 214 pounds, Holm was considered physically imposing for a back in that era. His size allied with a "high knee action" running style made him difficult to tackle. His running prowess earned him sobriquets such as "The Battering Buckaroo" from sports writers.

While he was a productive player in the Tide's varsity backfield in 1927 and 1928, it was the 1929 season that made him a star. Alabama began that year's campaign bulldozing its first three opponents but then traveled to Knoxville to face Tennessee. The revived Volunteer squad under Major Robert Neyland had surprised the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa the season before earning a 15-13 victory. Alabama was looking for payback and as shot at the conference title.

The game proved to be a match of almost complete equals with the two teams battling to a stalemate. The outcome hinged on a punt of Holm's that was blocked and then recovered by Tennessee. The Vols drove to the Tide two-yard-line and then Tennessee's Gene McEver pulled off a play-action fake and ran in for the score. Tennessee won 6-0.

With injuries to backfield stars Billy Hicks, "Flash" Suther and "Monk" Campbell, Alabama's hopes of a championship season dimmed. When Holm went down with a broken rib in a 13-0 loss to Vanderbilt all seemed lost. The Crimson Tide's odds against an undefeated Kentucky team in Montgomery's Cramton Bowl seemed remote.

Holm entered the game "bandaged from his belt up, taped fro his waste down and reeking of liniments and lotion" but it didn't seem to hinder him at all. He grabbed the opening kickoff and ran it back 86 yards to the Wildcat's 15-yard-line. Over the next 60 minutes he would score three of the Tide's touchdowns while stymieing Kentucky's offense with his kicks and blocking. Alabama won 24-13.

The next week Holm repeated his performance in a 14-0 drubbing of Georgia Tech in Atlanta. He scored the Tide's two touchdowns, snagged a key interception and ran for 128 yards while slashing the Golden Tornado with his passing and punting prowess. Despite another stellar performance against Georgia in Birmingham to close the season, the Tide fell to the Bulldogs 12-0.

Holm's 1,387 yards on the season -- almost half of the team's total gained on the ground -- earned him All-Conference and All-American honors.

After unsuccessfully trying to enter West Point to play for Army (he was three months too old), Holm started his professional career with the Providence, RI Steamrollers in 1930 but moved on to   the Portsmouth VA Spartans the following season. In 1932 he was on the Chicago Cardinals roster but at the start of the 1933 season Holm was part of the very first Pittsburgh Pirates squad -- the franchise that would later become famous as the Steelers.

The 1933 Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the Pirates' inaugural game against the New York Giants on Sept. 20, a powerful 65 yard punt by Holm led to his team's only points. When the His kick pinned the Giants on their own one-yard-line and when they were forced to punt, the Pirate's Johnny Oehler blocked it and earned the safety. The visiting Giants would claim a 23-2 victory.

Holm played nine games for the Pirates but a leg injury cut his season short. He finished the season with 406 yards passing and 160 yards rushing, his best marks as a pro. He joined the American Professional Football League's Charlotte NC Bantams as a player coach in 1934 but resigned after three games, ending his playing career.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The 1945 Rose Bowl

On Jan. 1, 1945 the University of Tennessee played in their second (and last) Rose Bowl. They lost 25-0 to USC.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The 1940 Rose Bowl

On Jan. 1, 1940 the University of Tennessee played in their first Rose Bowl game. They lost 14-0 to USC.