HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - merchants slogan: "We don't have it but we can get it for you."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Never Played Organized Football But Heagle Boys Beat Hell Out Of Each Other

Getting close to finishing up my "New York Giants" helmet. Originally I was leaning towards making a representation of one of this year's Super Bowl winner's helmets, but I have been reading a lot of biographies of the NFL teams of the late 1950's and early 1960's and decided to make this one a Frank Gifford.

Gifford was a quarterback for Southern California in college but was made into an option pass throwing half back for New York by none other than a guy named Vince Lombardi who was coaching the Giant offense at the time. "Giff" was the Giants version of a later good looking heart throb when Vince got to Green Bay -- another halfback that was multi-faceted and threw a wicked option pass -- the guy from Notre Dame that Vince said had that sixth sense of being able to "smell the goal line" and would not be denied when he was inside the 5 yard line -- another "Golden Boy".

We old timers all know who that was!

Here's a great football trivia question for you. When Lombardi was coaching the Giant offense for Jim Lee Howell, who was coaching the defense?

Anyway, I had a lot of difficulty locating the 2 inch white numerals that the Giants wore on both the back and front of their helmets.

Another fascinating aspect of all the reading I am doing -- the numerals were put on the helmets so that players could locate their head gear quickly on the side lines after a turn over on the field.

All that I need now is the traditional two bar face mask that running backs wore back then. Turns out I have one coming in on a helmet I won on eBay this past week that I will be re-doing as a Joe Namath Jets helmet.

I can transfer that one to the Gifford helmet because Namath wore an entirely different style face mask made by Schutt early in their business as football equipment manufacturers. Broadway Joe had to be different -- it was all a part of his image.

While he was making history predicting that the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl Three, I was registering my dislike for the man. I have since mellowed and appreciate him.

Which leads me to another interesting observation. There are an unusually large number of NFL greats that came out of the Pennsylvania mining towns: Sam Huff, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and the great Johnny "U"! These are the ones that come to mind off the top of my head -- there are others. Musta been something in the water. Iron?

I am really getting into this! And learning a lot, too!

The 1960's Riddell helmets were cyclolac plastic and had a suspension system consisting of small ropes attached to a webbing that transversed the inside of the helmet. In the center, all the ropes wove together around a rubber donut shaped crown.

The result was an incredibly noisy helmet when you were struck in the head.

Sam Huff, the great middle linebacker for the Giants who was on the same team as Gifford, got into a hell of a fight his rookie season because a veteran he was going up against would start his attack on Huff with a stinging head slap. In that suspension helmet it was like being a clapper in a church bell. Huff eventually got so pissed that he took a swing at his opponent and of course the referee caught him.

That's the old NFL rule, you know. It's always the second guy in a fight that gets caught, not the original perpetrator.

The new Riddell helmets all work with a very serious padding system and air chambers that can b e inflated or deflated as needed.

The other thing I never knew about helmets is that the thickness of the jaw pads is what determines the size. They run from one inch down to 3/8's of an inch in thickness and if you have the thicker jaw pads installed, good luck on getting the helmet on or off once you get it on!

Hunting down decals of NFL teams has been a challenge! but good old eBay is the place to go. There are unscrupulous (thank god) manufacturers who are making really good likenesses of the side emblems of most NFL teams. I am certain they are unlicensed by the NFL. but they hve mde my hobby a lot more fun!

Still I had to hunt and hunt for the NY Jets emblems. I finally wrote to one of the "pirates" and they wrote back almost instantly and said they would have some made up for me!

It has been a real "trip" going through the eBay football helmet listings. Some day I may start collecting kids helmets similar to the ones that we Heagle boys, as youngsters, wore playing in the pasture. Some were a combination of a thick almost cardboard ear flaps attached to a pre-cursor to real plastic. Others were entirely leather. None had any kind of face mask!

We had to order them through the Montgomery Ward or Sears catalog and then anticipate their arrival weeks later when mom would get a call that our order was in!

We also all had flimsy cardboard-like shoulder pads. That was our football uniforms. Helmets and pads -- no face masks and we would play all-out tackle football until at least two of us had bloody noses or a cut lip from being kicked in the face while trying to make a tackle.

Our alternate football field ran in front of the old shed that housed all our grain -- I guess you would call it a grainery.

Larry, the future drama major even went so far as to steal lime from the barn supply and lay out yard lines guided by twine stretched between stakes.

Eventually an old birch tree served as a light standard and we would hang a couple of those three hundred watt spot lights up in a joint of the tree and play games after chores and milkng under very poor lighting. Lots of shadows.

Ah, those were the days. We didn't have a lot of fancy equipment but we appreciated what we had and sure made the most of it.


1 comment:

mplspckr said...

paul hornung

tom landry

your helmets are looking good!