All-Time, All-Star Canadian Rugbyists
While the stalwarts of the gridiron are making the dirt fly and committing legalized assault and battery upon one another, here is a chance to get a line on some of the old-timers of football history, and to check them up against the star performers of to-day. And you fans can take Mr. Good's word for it.
CHARLES H. GOOD
WHAT is the particular and peculiar charm of the great “knock-’em-down-and-drag-’em-out” game known variously as Rugby and as Football? It must have something that no other game possesses, for weather is nothing to the spectator if there is a game on. Is it the craving of us all to witness legitimate mayhem, or do the causes go deeper than that?
One reason, it seems to me, for its vast and growing popularity, is that it furnishes such lovely grounds for argument.
In no other game can the average fan pose as an expert so easily and successfully.
So when the editor of MacLean’s Magazine commissioned me to wu-ite an article, the basis of which was to be “An All-Star,
All-Time Canadian Football Team,” right away I found myself up against an almost insuperable difficulty—the fact that no expert will attempt to select an "All-Time” team for the reason that the game of to-day is so different from that of a couple of decades back. Football to-day—especially on the wing line—is about as much like football of, say, 1905, as the automobiles of that day are like next year's models. Banty Russell, for instance, was one of the greatest centre scrimmagers of his day; but vrhen you try to figure out how the durable, but tiny,
Banty would have made out against modern interference plays, you’re only guessing and so am I. My own guess is that Banty would have been coming up out of the odd jam with the loose ball firmly glued to his manly bosom no matter what kind of rules he had been plajdng under. But then, on the other hand, he mightn’t have lasted so long now, without the encircling arms of big Joe Wright and Billy Grant to keep the enemy feet from trampling him out of sight into the mud.
Players Old and New
SO INSTEAD of trying to pick a stand-out team I am going to talk about a few of the old-timers and also some of the new; and I am also going to quote some of the opinions of a man who has been closely allied with the fortunes of what was, if not an all-star team, at least one of the most successful in the history of the game. W. P. Hughes is the way he signs his name to contracts and letters; but you will probably recognize him better as “Bill” Hughes of Queen’s.
Let us cast a backward eye for a moment over the book of past football history and see what names leap up from the pages most vividly. Well, there’s old Ben Simpson, for one. He always was “old Ben” even in the days of his youth. “Old Ben” and “Schoolmaster Ben” and sometimes less complimentary adjectives when the Tigers were playing in Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. Many hard things were said about this ex-Kingstonian, who was the bulwark of the Hamilton team for so many seasons; but nobody ever said that he couldn’t catch a football, nobody ever cracked that he didn’t know how to punt a football, or pass
afootball, andnobodyeven hinted that he didn’t know football. A grand old Roman, was Ben. I saw him at the Varsity Stadium only a month ago and he was taking just as keen an interest in the fortunes of his beloved
Tigers as he did back in the days when he starred for them.
Ottawa has always been a great breeding-place for football stars. Some years Ottawa teams are good, and sometimes not so good;butfor a longterm of autumns the team that beat the old Rough Riders could pretty nearly lay claim to the title of champions. Perhaps Eddie Gleason wasn’t the greatest player that ever wore an Ottawa uniform, but there were mighty few better. Kick, tackle or run—Eddie could do them all. But more than anything else, Eddie had football brains. He knew what he was trying to do every minute of the sixty; sometimes he didn’t accomplish it, but then it was the fault of either his opponents or his team-mates. He made some fumbles, I know; but never a mental one that I remember.
Kicking into touch was the great ground gainer in Gleason’s day. When the ball went over the sidelines, those times, it was thrown out between the two opposing wing-lines and both sides had an equal chance of recovery. And to see Eddie boot that old pill for the chalk-line, getting every inch of distance out of his punt, was to be convinced of the truth of the assertion of an opponent; “Why, that bird could kick that ball into a teacup.”
Other Ottawa names that adorn the annals of the sport—which of them shall I put down? Phil Corneiller is one— Father Philip Corneiller now; singlehanded—perhaps single-footed would be better—Phil kicked an Ottawa College team to a championship. When he booted a high one into the air there was plenty of time for even the slowest wingman to get under it before it fell; and then, when he had his opponents all set for lofty spirals, he would boot a low fast one over the opposing backs’ heads, crossing them up completely and gaining much valuable ground. There are several teams to-day that could use a Corneiller very nicely.
Harvey Pulford, an Ottawa stalwart, of the football field of some years ago, was one of the outstanding men of his day. He combined gameness, natural aptitude and football brains to an extraordinary degree and no follower of the gridiron ever was better fitted to meet an emergency, to grasp it. twist it to his own ends and exploit it. He had an almost uncanny faculty for sensing new combinations, and his brain moved lightning swift to counteract them.
Then there were the Williams boys—we used to make bets before the games that Jack Williams would never once be downed with the ball in his hands, so quickly could hë return punts; Eddie Gerard was another good one—destined, perhaps, to be the greatest of them all, had not his turning professional hockey-player cut him off from football at the height of his form. Eddie had almost everything a great halfback needs; and it is an open question whether football missed Gerard more than Gerard missed football. If he had realized how much it was going to mean to him to be barred from the gridiron, I don’t believe Eddie would ever have made the jump. Those who believe that professionalism in one branch of sport shouldn’t mean professionalism in all branches have a fine argument in their favor in the case of Eddie Gerard—a man who played hockey for money, but who would have paid for the privilege of playing another season or so football. He certainly loved to play it; and fans of that day certainly loved to watch him do
it. They got action every minute he was on the field.
But all the good footballists didn’t come from the Capitol City. That old Kingston gang were a tough afternoon’s chewing for any man’s team. Jock Harty, George Richardson, Wicky Wilson, Guy Curtis and Colt Metcalf are only a few of the names that rise in the memory when the name of the Limestone City is mentioned. Hardhitting, hard-tackling, players all; colorful, too. The customers never had to wonder what team was playing the home boys when the Kingston bunch took the field. They played the game their own way and if you didn’t like it—well, you could do the other thing. Great practical jokers, those Kingston boys. I recall a day when they were playing against Varsity in Toronto. Iron-man Bradley, champion strong-man, was a wingman for Varsity; and Iron-man came on the field wearing, what was not so unusual then as it would be now, a nice set of chin whiskers. Colt Metcalf spotted the chin-decorations, and thought it would be nice to give them a dandruff treatment.
A handful of black pitch was the Metcalf contribution to the Bradley ensemble, and about two seconds later the form of the jestful Colt went soaring through the air, propelled by as sweet a punch on the jaw as these eyes have ever beheld. But I doubt if Colt minded it much; he had had his little joke, and that was enough.
Speaking About Swats
^PEAKING about swats in the jaw, there was the one ^ that Moe Herscovitch donated to Babe Burkhart. Welterweight champion of Canada, Moe was; while the Toronto horse-owner couldn’t have weighed in as a welter without cutting off a couple of legs. But Moe caught him with his guard down and the result was that Babe did all his talking by means of signs for three days and couldn’t relish any victuals solider than soup for almost a fortnight. All very wrong, of course; very brutal, and very reprehensible. Vastly different from the home-life of our own dear Queen. But such things occur once in a while in football; and the customers, as I said before, seem to like it. They go to see it, anyway.
Coming farther west, let’s take another look at the Metropolis under the Mountain. In any really good book of synonyms the words Hamilton and Football should be coupled.
A roster of Hamilton stars, really complete, would look like the telephone directory of a fair sized city; so I won’t try and do more than mention a few of the high-lights. Bob Isbister can hardly be overlooked; big Izzy— bulky as a bank-vault and just as tough to crack. Jack Counsell, the daddy of them all, many think. Walter Marriott, better known to us as “Liz.” Gordon Southam, who won fame at Varsity, in Hamilton and, later on, the greatest fame of all-—a hero’s death in France. Gordon was, perhaps, one of the greatest drop-kickers of them all; almost as good as Harold Beatty, the man that forced the solons to reduce the value of a dropped goal from five points to three.
Dave Tope, George Ballard.
bammy Manson, Billy Mallett Johnny McKelvey—oh, what’é the use? I could go on till the old typewriter was groggy and not get over half the Mountain City stars.
Toronto, too, has had—still has—some pretty fair football artists. V here was there ever a more valuable man than Hughie Gall, for instance—Hughie, with the glue-like hands and the uncanny ability to return punts even with two and three opponents trying to pull him down. Smirle Lawson—the Big Trainslow to start but almighty hard to stop, as many will testify; Jack Maynard, cool, tricky and resourceful; Bull Ritchie, of the foghorn-voice, who played centre but got down under punts like an outside wing in spite of his heft, and who was “suredeath” at converting touchdowns. Lionel Conacher, too, was a Queen City product. Nobody ever mentions an all-star outfit without including “Big , . Harry Batstone, the Queen’s captain
this year and-many think-possessed of the finest set of football brains in captivity, learned his football in I oronto. No finer display of defensive football has ever been seen in Canada than Batstone’s stand against Ottawa—I think it was Ottawa—four or five years back. Fenned up on their own goal-line were the Argonauts, trying to protect a one-point lead against a team that was coming as they were fading, hour times the ball was kicked deep over the line; three times the wily “Red” ran it out, and the fourth time booted it back. That punt meant just as much to the Argos as the famous one of Percy Hardisty’s almost a quarter of a century earlier. Two to one was the score with the Rough Riders, who hadn’t been beaten in Ottawa within thé memory of man, on the small end. Smothered by Ottawa wings, the Torontonians were forced back, in six downs from the half-way mark to their own goal line. Dropping fifteen feet back; Hardisty sunk his toe into the oval with such force that the ball came down deep in Ottawa territory—where it remained till time was called.
Varsity and the West
VyHEN (if) that galaxy of Varsity football stars, past and present, push the bell at the pearly gates and Young Gabriel comes forth to check their credentials my little tnpewriter is here to say that prominent among be “Red” McKenzie. With Joe Breen he formed a half-back combination that had the tacklers clutching their locks. Their favorite trick when tackled was not to pass the ball until they flopped, thus gaining precious seconds, instead of passing before they were downed. Before the w'ar one of the favorite indoor pastimes of sport writers was panning “Red” because he didn’t— or wouldn’t—know the value of team work. Possibly because of his experience overseas, that claim no longer can be made, as shown, for instance, in 1920, when he was one of the main factors in pushing the \ arsity Champs to win the Dominion title.
Reddy Griffith is another old gladiator who needs no pat on the scapula from me. Speed was Reddy’s mania, and outside and extension kicks his specialty. He was the pilot who conned Varsity to success from 1906 on to 1911 or 1912 and in this time saw that they" had their due meed of championships—and he did it all through speed. It is to be doubted whether Varsity has had since an aggregation as fast with their heads and pins as the cyclones he developed from the football zephyrs of those days.
As to football in the west. I must speak principally from hearsay. Teams from the prairies haven't shown very much on their eastern sorties. Plenty of good husky material they had: but they all seemed to be suffering from lack of proper coaching and scarcity of high-class competition. Ken. McConnell, the former sporting editor of the Edmonton Bulletin, mentions such men as Miles Continued on page Palmer, Andy Spence, Harold Roth, Rus Bennett, Carrigan, Shiman, Duke, as being linemen who would make their presence felt on most any kind of a team. Grig Warren and Curly Dorman are his choices for backfield men from the west, with Jack McAllister of the old I Edmonton Eskimos as quarter. With a j couple of eastern backfield stars such as Leadley and Conacher to help out, this would make a side that would compare favorably with almost any that could be selected. At least, McConnell thinks so;
All-Time, All-Star Canadian Rugbyists
Continued from page 15
I and I am more than inclined to agree with i him.
AND now for a word about the team that has dominated Canadian football for the past four years—-the famous Queen’s Presbyterians. Bill Hughes, their mentor, modestly says that he is unfitted for the job of selecting the outstanding stars of the past. A comparatively young man, Hughes feels that he hasn’t had the experience, hasn’t seen enough years of football, to go comparing the luminaries of the past with those of the present. But regarding what he has seen, Bill has many interesting things to tell. Let’s tune in on him for a moment.
“It seems to me,” says Hughes, “that the game of football has passed through two or three stages of such radical changes or developments, even since 1907, as to make it unfair and unwise to attempt to pick out an All-Star, All-Time team. It is further my humble opinion,” he continues, “that to pick out a squad of, say, eighteen of the outstanding players and to attempt to make them in theory an All-Star team, is erroneous and misleading, for I do not believe that there have been three or four teams since 1907 that would have beaten, hands down, any such aggregation of individual stars.” Mr. Hughes suggests that the"best way to go about it would be to try and pick out some team that had demonstrated its excellence as a team and give it the call. Following out this idea he names several combinations which have made history in recent years. The big teams to his mind
Montreal Football Club of 1907. Hamilton Tigers of 1908.
Toronto University of 1909-1911. McGill 1912-13 and 1919.
Argonauts of 1914 and 1921.
All these were great aggregations, according to Mr. Hughes, but he is inclined to give the palm to the Queen’s football team of 1922-23 as the best balanced, quickest thinking, and most effective football machine of modern times. Here are his reasons:
“In three days of intensive study and practice in the late fall of 1922 they not only learned a complete series of plays and signals and the team work involved in interference and co-operative defensive strength, but they were able to go on the field and to demonstrate to the Canadian public that they had done so by beating the University of Toronto and Argonaut teams of that year—teams which I think all will agree were two of the finest in Canadian football, before or since. It is true that the Argonauts of that season played them to a standstill in Toronto, and that the Queen’s team only nosed them out for the honors, but in that very fact, it seems to me, is justification for the claim that they were capable of rising to the heights, in the practical use of football brains and in the grasping of opportunities on the football field, that are essential in any really great team for which pre-eminence is claimed.”
The back field was made up of the ideal combination of players. Leadley and Batstone were a pair whose equal as running, passing, kicking half-backs, has never been seen on Canadian gridirons, in Mr. Hughes’ opinion. He says: “The only possible criticism of this statement, it seems to me, could be made from the standpoint of physical strength. Men like Snyder and Conacher, it must be admitted, possessed in their prime, a power in this respect that neither Leadley nor Batstone can lay claim to, but it must be remembered that our Canadian game does not parallel the demand made in the American game for this quality on the part of star back field players. The emphasis, it seems to me, is rather upon the qualities I have referred to as being possessed by these men.
Bill Hughes Says
THERE were two incidents in the Argonaut game that year that illustrate what I mean. The first was something that may have escaped the notice of the majority of the spéctators and supporters of either team. It happened when Queens were leading by one point and in position on about their forty yard line. It was the third down and Queens, under the rules, were forced to kick the ball over the line of scrimmage or surrender it to the Argos. Queens lined up for the kick with Leadley in the kicker’s position. Batstone was protected on the right side, and about two or three yards off line. Lewis, the Queens’ centre, was groggy at the time, unknown to the coach or quarter back. When the kick signal was given, instead of snapping the ball to Leadley, he passed it toward Batstone. With the snap of the ball, the Argo team charged desperately. My eyes at the t'me happened to be on Batstone. When the ball struck him he was caught completely unprepared. But what happened? Quicker almost than the eye could follow he grabbed the loose sphere, sidestepped three onrushing opponents and booted it for one of the nicest kicks of the afternoon. This incident, I submit as an illustration of that consistent head work and brilliancy of play that stamps Harry Batstone as one of the greatest of halfbacks. Leadley, in the same game, showed his nimble qualities of mind and feet when he reversed his direction when cornered and broke through the Argo centre for a run that put Queens in position for a drop that won the game.”
If the plays mentioned were of an isolated nature, Mr. Hughes points out, they would not justify the claim made for the pair, but he says that this sort of thing has been characteristic of them ever since they became associated at Kingston. Dave Harding and Bill Campbell, the other back field players of that year, were fitting mates of the two stars. The four, says Mr. Hughes, formed the greatest combination that has ever been seen together in Canada.
Since 1907, in Mr. Hughes’ opinion, there have been three great Interprovincial quarter-backs, and three great Intercollegiate players in the same position. Dave McCann of Ottawa, Shrimp Cochrane of the Argonauts, and Pete Burton of Hamilton, cannot be overlooked when All-Star quarters are being considered. Pete Campbell of Varsity, Lome Montgomery of McGill and Johnny Evans of Queens also are entitled to much consideration. Of the lot, naturally the Tricolor premier is the choice of his old coach for all-round supremacy. His selection may not find favor in certain quarters and personally I would be inclined to tab either the Blue and White representative or the doughty delegate from Shagville above the redoubtable Johnny, but it is all a matter of individual opinion and Mr. Hughes has good and sufficient reasons for placing Evans at the top of the heap. He credits the latter with possessing great ability as a field general and cites his handling of the 1922 champions in the memorable game with the Scullers as one of his greatest achievements. It was in the last three minutes of the struggle that Evans, in Mr. Hughes’ opinion, rose to the occasion in Napoleonic style. Realizing that Queens could not afford to lose possession of the ball, Evans would not trust to the hazard of passing, and twice in succession smashed through for yards, carrying the play well into Argo territory where he could safely hand it to the Scullers in their own sector. Incidentally Mr. Hughes pays a fine compliment to Conacher, as it was because of the latter’s ability to kick a long ball that Evans would not risk forfeiting the ball by resorting to the old army game, with the Tricolor only leading by a point. Says he: “In addition to this, those who do not associate Evans with defensive strength fail, it seems to me, to appreciate the fact that prior to playing quarter-back, he was an outside wing and through hard seasons of discouraging football, tackled with a fierceness and precision that clearly demonstrated his ability in this connection.”
Mr. Hughes makes a plea for recognition for players who are usually overlooked when boosts are being dispensed in dealing with the all-round excellence of Muirhead and Carson. The Queen’s inside players in these positions do not get many chances as ball carriers, and consequently their work is not appreciated at its true value. But, he points out, it is the insides whose sixty minutes of grind and toil, make or break the team’s effectiveness on the line. Muirhead and Lewis combined quick thinking with physical strength.
Sizing Them Up
NO ALL-STAR team would be complete without “Red” McKelvey at middle wing, comments Mr. Hughes, and he thus makes it unanimous. Pans generally will agree with his statement that the colorful sorrel top is in a class by himself. Chick Mundell, who is again back at Queens, is another for whom superiority is claimed. He was extremely effective in the play-off games that year, despite t he fact that physically he was not the equal, perhaps, of some of the other twiddles in the sport.
“At outsides there was Liz Walker and Bud Thomas, and if anyone has ever seen a pair of deadlier tacklers, more discouraging players to their opponents, together on a field, in this position, I would be glad to hear of it.”
So Mr. Hughes.
There may be some who will not see eye to eye with him, and, as he says, he has left himself open to all sorts of criticism. But he explains that he has attacked the question from the standpoint of a team as they played football on the field, rather than an aggregation of individual stars, picked from all the teams who may or may not have played football as a team had they been together. It was an “impossibility” that he was asked, he says, and he came back with the “next best thing.”
Taking one thing into consideration with another, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan, Mr. Hughes has not done at all badly. As a matter of fact he has acquitted himself admirably. No collection of players, Snyders, or Conachers, or Counsells, or Beatties, or Billinghams could have done more than Queens has accomplished under his able and masterly direction. The proof of the pudding is on the customer’s chin, to steal some of Lou Marsh’s stuff, and the proof of a football team is in the “games won” column. When this was being written the Tricolor had triumphed in twenty-three straight games, league, inter-league and exhibition, and are well under way to winning another Dominion championship. Surely they must be classed as All-Stars.
There have been other great teams, but none with such a notable career behind them. No team is stronger than its weakest player and there have been no weak players on the Queen’s teams of the last three years. At that no team ever stepped on any gridiron that could afford to pass up such a player as the late “Glad” Murphy of the Argos, who was cut off in his prime, the result of an accident at historic Rosedale field, in an exhibition with the Tigers, the first year of the war. As a flying wing he was offensively and defensively almost in a class by himself. He was a wonderful ball carrier, a deadly tackle and one of the most unselfish players in the game. Another wonderful performer was Hal DeGruchy, who for years was the backbone and mainstay of the Toronto R. and A. A. team. This pair would have made good running mates for Batstone and Leadley. Combined with Snyder and Conacher, they would have formed an unbeatable rear guard. For quarter, Pete Campbell, of Varsity, would have looked mighty sweet, and Cap Fear of the Argos would also fit in nicely at outside wing with Bud Thomas. Dud Ross of McGill at middle is another who undoubtedly would not be out of place on any All-Star, All-Time team. At insides Ross Craig of Hamilton, strong and mighty, and Joe Wright, Sr., of the Argos, in my opinion would be entitled to much consideration. Bull Ritchie, of Varsity wouldn’t look, by any means, out of place in this company.
Fans whose football memories go back to the closing days of the nineties and the first four or five years of this century naturally recall the name of “Kasey” Baldwin. He was a great field tactician, and was a stalwart on the University of Toronto backfield division for six or seven years. His culminating achievement occurred that wonderful day on the Old Rosedale grounds when the Royal Blue and White defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders for the Dominion championship in the last few seconds of the play, the score 11-9.
The All-Star, All-Time Team
I HAVE been asked to nominate an AllStar, All-Time team and as it has always been my policy to do anything to oblige, here it is: Flying wing, Glad Murphy, Argonauts; half backs, Conacher, Argonauts; Batstone, Queens; Snyder, Varsity; quarter-back, Pete Campbell, Varsity; Snap, Bull Ritchie, Varsity: Inside wings, Ross Craig, Hamilton. Joe Wright, sr., Argos; Middle wings, Red McKelvey, Queens, Dud Ross, McGill; Outside wings, Cap Fear, Argos, Bud Thomas, Queens;Spares:Leadley, Queens, Hal DeGruchy, Toronto R. and A.A.; Smirle Lawson, Varsity; Montgomery, McGill; Joe Breen, Argo.; Quinn, Hamilton; Evans, Queens; Barrow, Hamilton; “Red” Ryan, Ottawa; Stronach, Ottawa; “Kasey” Baldwin, Varsity; and that’s that.