Ted Reeve Picks MACLEAN’S ALL CANADIAN FOOTBALL TEAM
The All-Canadian is all-American, with four from the West, eight from the East
ALL STARS OF 1950
Quarterback—Jack Jacobs, Winnipeg
Halfbacks—Bill Gregus, Hamiltoh Billy Bass, Argonauts Virgil Wagner, Montreal Tom Casey, Winnipeg
Snap—John Brown, Winnipeg
Insides—Ray Cicia, Montreal Herb Trawick, Montreal
Middles—Ralph Sazio, Hamilton Buddy Tinsley, Winnipeg
Outsides—Bill Stanton, Ottawa Vince Mazza, Hamilton
ONE of these fine autumns the system for selecting all-star football teams will have to be changed rather radically. Instead of picking five backfielders and seven linemen the nervous selector will have to work on the three platoon system—one offensive club, one defensive outfit and one squad in the hospital.
Either that or the all-star experts will have to settle for a quota of specialists and select placement kickers such as Joe Aguirre, Annis Stukus, Nick Volpe; kick runners-back like Tommy Ford, Ken Charlton and Ted Toogood; hole openers for touchdown drives such as John Kerns and Jack Carpenter; heavy duty linemen of the Glenn Johnson, Max Druen or Shanty MacKenzie type for goal-fine stands, and punters à la Joe Krol or Fred Kijek. By that time the writers of such treatises would be chewing their mitts as feverishly as a football coach. A bleak prospect!
For this season, however, we’ll have to go along with the Walter Camp method of picking 12 men who appear able-bodied enough to play almost 60 minutes a match going all ways (including
sideways), which in a way penalizes the players on the teams with good reserves.
For instance, Regina, Ottawa, Edmonton and Toronto Argos had enough fairly responsible performers to keep traffic going from bench to the huddle at a pace that sometimes reminded you of the comer of Queen and Yonge or Portage and Main. Hamilton, Winnipeg and to a great extent Montreal had key players who had to give with the mud-and-glory business in every match. The responsibility may have worn down their physiques but at least it built up their press clippings. So several Maclean’s Muscle Men this year are there partly for good attendance.
Features of a hard-fought fall, besides this growth of specialization, would include: 1. Increasingly arduous schedules, 2. Mounting costs, 3. The highest paid and in many ways the most powerful collection of imports to come this way since the depression days of the 1930s, 4. The Americanization of the game to an even further extent so that the Canadian extension run and the onside kick went the way of the Hurons and the coureur de bois,
5. The sad turn of affairs in which the long-suffering Ontario Rugby Football Union became a sort of farm system for the Big Four after the withdrawal of the Hamilton Wildcats.
Balmy Beach, now a subsidiary of the Argonauts, Windsor Rockets, who seemed to provide Ottawa with many of their developments, and the peppy Sarnia Imperials, a sort of company team, still supplied some good football. Linemen like Bruce Mattingly and Dutch Davey of Samia, Dick Fear and Oaten Fisher of Beaches and Rube Ainsworth of Windsor undoubtedly would do well in the tougher Big Four. And backs like Jim Caine, Johnnie Murphy and Jack Krause of the Rockets and Gerry Tuttle and Carl Galbreath of Balmy Beach would do admirably in faster company. But they are not playing in the sort of competition in the O.R.F.U. to prove it. Shades of Norm Perry, Ormond Beach and Yip Foster! Canadian football is becoming big business but there are certain penalties that go with the box office.
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wonderful attendance, with teams in the smaller stadium cities able to get it back at the gate.
This fall the casualty lists read like a Who’s Who in Canadian Backfields. Frank Filchock played the first half of the season for Montreal with a broken finger the size of a banana. His team mate Bob Cunningham went out altogether with a bad knee. Royal Copeland struggled through a disappointing season at Calgary with a slightly crushed chest. Here are others: Touchdown Howie Turner (Ottawa), Pete Thodos (Montreal) and Stan Heath (Hamilton), shoulder separations: Del Wardein (Regina), a back injury; Indian Jack Jacobs (Winnipeg) and Lindy Berry ( Edmonton i, shoulder injuries which prompted their coaches to order them not to run with the ball: Billy Bass (Argos), a broken vertebrae. Well, you get the idea: every Saturday was along the lines of payday at the barracks.
The end of the professional football war in the U. S. (with amalgamation of the National League and All America Association) threw a lot of fairly celebrated line biffers and blockers on the open market and our lineups became bolstered with names from the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Dons.
What Happened to Calgary?
Coaches, too, came up from the south to operate with considerable success in the Canadian game. Frank Clair, a personable young man who had done his coaching with service teams. Buffalo University and Purdue, took over the direction of the retreating Argos and quickly put them in forward gear. Carl Voyles, a veteran of college coaching and professional football, likewise converted Hamilton TigerCats from the role of also ran to the front rank in the Big Four. Seven of the country’s eight top clubs employed the T-formation (Missouri, split or otherwise), leaving Annis Stukus at Edmonton alone with the single wing.
The most-talked-about development of the year, of course, was the almost complete collapse of Calgary, the Grey Cup winner of 1948 and finalist in another thrilling hoop-de-do in 1949. Les Lear’s stylish Stampeders fell to the bottom of the prairie loop in a way that had fans across the country wondering what happened to these fabulous fellows from the foothills. Looking back, it seems simple enough. They lost their two kid halfback stars. Pete Thodos and Rod Pantages to Montreal; the great centre Doug Turner retired; some of their older experts aged rather suddenly; the injured Copeland was hardly at home in the Keith Spaith passing system, and — worst of all—Johnny Aguirre, one of the really solid linemen in the West, went out early with a serious injury. All this and the tremendous improvement of Winnipeg and Edmonton would have been enough to unseat the Cowboys even if they had done a better shopping job.
Speaking of the back market and other purchasing items, Winnipeg after several mistakes in underestimating their surroundings in 1949 waited shrewdly this year until they got almost exactly the men they wanted. They turned up with seven pro-football veterans and some easterners to round out a machine that set the old Bombers rooting as in the days of Martin Gainor, Jeff Nicklin and company. Their mid-season drive to the top of the league on the passing and kicking
of Jacobs, the placement hoofing of Aguirre, the terrific tackling of a huge line bolted solidly by John Brown. Buddy Tinsley, Glenn Johnson and Ed Henke and a speedy backfield featuring Tommy Ford and Tom Casey supplied the steadiest and most concerted drive of an otherwise topsyturvy season.
The others all had their moments. Edmonton was an early season sensation on the pitching of Lindy Berry, a i slim fast zigzagging passing ace from Texas Christian, and the fielding of his | loose-jointed receiver, Slim Bailey.
They Blew Best Chances
Regina Roughriders and Ottawa Rough Riders had much in common besides their club monicker. Both well stocked with reserve strength, they had games in which they outlasted and outpounded the opposition along the ground. Regina’s fine offensive backfield of hard plunging Al Bodine and Sammy Pearce and two great all-round performers, Ken Charlton and Del Wardein, piled up impressive ground gaining statistics behind a rock-ribbed Rider line.
Ottawa Rough Riders had a stumbling start and some trouble sorting out their imports and they were hurt by the departure of Quarterback Rob Paffrath to Edmonton. On top of that, John Wagoner, their outstanding middle, and Benny Steck, a fine Canadian inside wing, played most of the way fortified liberally by adhesive tape. Like Regina, they also had a most exciting manner of blowing their best chances.
The most open and razzle-dazzle spurt of the season was supplied by Toronto Argos in sunny September when they swept past Montreal (26-6 and 43-13), Ottawa (36-161 and Hamilton (48-8). Their Army Cadet style of play built around speeders like Crazy Legs Curtis. Doug Smvlie, Ted Toogood and Billy Bass and aided bv the perfect ball faking of Al Dekedebrun had Varsity Stadium customers a bit bug-eyed. The departure of Bob Heck, a fine end, on a call-up to the U. S. Marines and injury to Buffalo Bill Buckets Hirsch, their tremendous centre, gave pause to this runaway business and led to such confusion at ; the three-quarter pole that for the i first time in memory the Big Four was 1 threatened (or blessed ) with a four-way I tie for the lead.
Much of this was caused, too. by the i mid season revival of Montreal Alouettes who appeared capable for a time of a folding act which might have equaled that of Calgary. Serious injuries, careless shopping and early indifference of some of the Grey Cup champions, however, suddenly gave way to flaming desire. Filchock’s j recovery, the development of useful Rod Pantages (a coming Bummer Stirling) into a fine booter, improvement in young linemen and—most of all—a welcome fade-out by the Injury Jinx—started them back on the championship trail.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats, an amalgamation of the two Steel Town clubs, went out after the “old pros” in much the same fashion as Winnipeg. To four huskies from the defunct Buffalo Bills they added Special Delivery Jones, burly plunger, passer and placement kicker from the Cleveland Browns: Stan Heath, another former AllAmerica quarterback, and Bill Gregus, a Wake Forest fullback who was not with the National League only because he was due for a draft call. The Tabbies had some good filler-in material locally but were still so short of reserve power that they often ran into acute mileage trouble when the ball
carriers and blockers on some of their touchdown drives found themselves too exhausted for tackling chores.
Having no time for soft music, however, let us on with the All-Star choices, as we guessed at them after seeing each team play or learned about them from good football men across the Dominion.
Unfortunately, times being what they are, it is an All Canadian without any native sons included. But cheer up. Hard competition makes good men and such as Westlake, Simon, Wooley, Simpson, Newman, Black, Ambrose, MacDonell, McDonald, and dozens more are on their way up in the cleat marks of the Dunlaps, Morrises, Quandamatteos MacKenzies, Ascotts, Toohys, Copelands, Krols, Bells and our other good ones.
Centre—John Brown of Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A six foot three, wideshouldered fast-moving colored gent, he became the most popular player in Winnipeg this year after a deadline arrival from Los Angeles Dons. Backs up a line well, either at the centre slot or wide secondary. Good blocker and foxy in a football way. Snaps a long ball when needed on kick formation, excellent downfield tackier. His height and paper-hanger arms help to make him a pass intercepter. Almost every club had a strong upside-downer this year and Hirsch of Argos, a terrific, rushing tackier, might have been the choice had his knee not given way. So John Brown’s body will do to anchor our line.
Some Marvels No Mental Giants
Middles? Insides? Or do you call ’em tackles and guards? Most of us would be smart to refer to the football infantry just as linemen. With the eightman line being used at times, mixed with the 5-4, 6-3 or even 4-4, all the hefties have to be adaptable whether standing at inside wing or tackle territory on the face-off. Our foursome could meet those requirements so we give you the veteran Herb Trawick and the rookie Ray Cicia of Montreal, line coach Ralph Sazio of Hamilton and another huge refugee from Los Angeles Dons, Buddy Tinsley of Winnipeg.
Trawick, going into his fifth Canadian season and thus not classed as an import, started slowly like the other Als and then began to play inspired ball. The gentlemanly Negro with the tremendously wide shoulders (5.10— 250 lbs.) is still one of the fastest linemen in the game, a great blocker, desperate charger on opposing kick formations and a remarkable tackier.
Ray Cicia is listed as 5.10 in height and 217 on the beam. That probably gives him his best in high heels although he spends so much time cutting opponents off at the knees with blocks or submarining into the opposite backfield that you get the impression he is partly underground. This G us Sonnenberg type at 22 is out of Wake Forest and his undismayed play in the early games held Alouettes together.
Ralph Sazio is 28, 6 ft. 1, 230 lbs. He won years of hard experience with Brooklyn Dodgers and his piling up of plunges and quick charge makes him defensively great. His hard blocking had much to do with the ground gaining of the Hamilton line smashers. He was the keyman on one of the best lines in the country.
Buddy Tinsley, one of the largest linemen in the land and still fast afoot, seemed to be a born leader with Winnipeg. When Bomber Coaches Frank Direon and So) Kampf were trying to break in reserves it was the hard-hitting Texan, weighing 260, who steadied the lads Like Sazio, he was the anchor of a strong first string.
The outside wings are the most debatable positions on this year’s allstar outfit but our selections are those two Buffalo Bills alumni, Vince Mazza of Hamilton and Bill Stanton of Ottawa.
Stanton, who went to the Bills from North Carolina State, is six feet two and weighs 215. He’s fast in that deceptive way of rangy, strong men and besides taking a turn at end he played secondary for the Riders and also took a turn at fullback. He went well at all positions. Mazza, who went to Hamilton with a fine reputation as a defensive end, turned out to be a 60minute man with the Tigers and quite a pass catcher in addition to his advertised accomplishments.
And now for the backfielders. Every club in the country’s Big Eight had an expert ball handler at quarterback— mechanical marvels although sometimes mentally static. Indian Jack Jacobs, the Filchock of the West, had, like Frankie, the long hard National League experience (Green Bay) that enabled him to improvise and adapt himself to our game so that he often turned the T-formation into many1 other perplexing patterns against the defense. Ability to pass on the run gave his receivers a chance to cope with his bullet throws and his kicking was the best in Canada. A tall lean very hard individual, well-to-do in business, the crafty Creek is a football fanatic, plays almost viciously and drives his team bitterly. A great competitor, he can tackle and run and is a genius at defensive calls. All this and Filchock’s injuries give him the call at the pivot position.
Fullback Bill Gregus, the Wake Forest galloper, gained acres for Hamilton with his terrific thrusts at the line followed by a good side-stepping and drive that churned out extra yards after he seemed stopped. Al Bodine of Regina and others were not far behind in plunge power but Gregus was the best of the heavies on defense although none of them is as good in this department as such line backer-uppers as Golab and Isbister in their prime.
Off-tackle back—Virgil Wagner, the honest Alouette, wins this post. This popular and dead game 180-pound sixfooter with the bursts of sudden speed started as badly as the other Montreals but rallied quickly to his good tackling, alert pass defending best, with his forte still being the thrust through middle and outside.
Speed back—Tom Casey, the colored flash from U. S. college football, took his wonderful open field running from Hamilton, where he played last year, to Winnipeg.
Remarkably durable, he had his share of injuries like everyone else this year but was excellent on pass defense (the most difficult of all backfield trades), a brilliant pass receiver and a good punter and team man. Ken Charlton, Howie Turner, Crazy Legs Curtis (who is one year away from being a real sensation) also were standouts but Casey outsteadied them all. Another fleet Negro, Bill Bass, who lasted three quarters of the season on offense and defense for Argos and tried to keep going with a slightly broken back, is our choice for the wide secondary chores. Good from scrimmage on sweeps or burets, he lacks some of the beef of the typical second defenseman but is probably the best diving tackier, a fine pass intercepter and blocker. He had pro experience with Chicago.
So there it is. Not as well balanced a band as HÍJ me of the past but powerful from scrimmage and on a 5-3-4 with Bass, Brown and Gregus as the three and Jacobs and Casey flanking the four they would be rough enough and in places perhaps a trifle too boisterous. ★