Waving the White Flag

By Tim Brulia

As many of you know, from time to time, I will make a journey down to the Library of Congress (LOC) to peruse the treasure trove of the Newspapers & Periodicals Reading Room.  It is here that so much of what you see on the Gridiron Uniform Database (GUD) has made its way.

My journey on May 3, 2014 was twofold in intent.  1) To discover and hopefully close out some TV commentator information for another website (and indirectly, this one) and 2) to try and close the gap in missing uniform matchups from the 1940's.

As you likely know, the GUD has been fortunate enough to have every uniform matchup from every regular season and post season game going all the way back to 1949.  Going back another nine seasons, to 1940, we are not quite as fortunate.  My visit on May 3rd to the LOC to re-visit every one of these games was to hopefully strike gold somewhere along the way.  In some cases, I have researched as many as SEVEN different newspapers seeking at least either a photograph from the missing game, or in the newspaper account of the game something describing who wore what in the game.

I was lucky enough to find ONE game photograph from the Most Wanted list, courtesy of the October 8, 1945 edition of the long defunct Philadelphia Record.  It was from the October 7, 1945 game between the Chicago Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles at Shibe Park.  The Cardinals were in their normal outfit of white helmet, red jerseys, white pants and red socks, with the Eagles in their silver and green helmets, white jerseys with green side panels, green pants and green socks.  Hey, that knocks at least one game off the list!

Some of you out there might find this incredulous, that at least one of the many newspapers in existence in those days couldn't have at least ONE photograph from a professional football game of the local team in the next day's paper.  In 2014, that really would be unthinkable.  But consider how the sports world was viewed in the 1940's:
  • Major League Baseball was truly the National Pastime and easily the most popular and widely followed sport in this era, and newspaper coverage duly reflects that mind-set.  The daily doings of the local ball team, in season and off season, was priority. This held true for even then minor league baseball cities like Buffalo, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • Most of the missing games occurred in the early part of October during the World Series.  Coverage of the World Series, was as dominant then as the Super Bowl is today. EVERY paper loaded up on WS coverage, big city and small town daily.  If a missing game from our list is from a city whose baseball team was taking part in the Series, you were lucky to find anything on any other sporting event of any sort in the local rags.
  • In some cases, the local pro team took third rank in the football food chain, let alone the local sports chain.  Saturday sports news was dominated by Friday night high school football write-ups and photos.  Sunday's sports pages were hogged up by Saturday college football games; big schools, small schools alike and daytime high school games played on fields without lights.  Monday's papers, yeah, there was the Sunday pro game wrap-up, and if the game was at home, you'd usually get a photo or two from the game.  If however, the game was away, you'd be very lucky to find a picture from that game, no matter what city or paper.  I found lots of instances where high school games that were played at the big league ballparks would have photos in the paper, while PRO games, played at the very same stadium the night before, had NO PHOTOS!
  • Photographs from night games are also quite difficult to procure.  Several reasons could be possible for this, namely poor stadium lighting for decent flash photography, newspaper deadlines for the next day's (especially Sunday's) edition making processing the film a rushed task indeed or, simply all of the staff photographers were elsewhere taking pics at other games/events.
So, after sorting through as many newspaper sources as exists at the Library of Congress, I am waving the white flag as far as using the facilities at the LOC.  While one cannot find a more exhaustive single resource for newspapers as this marvelous library, I think I have gotten as much out of its resources as I can for this particular era (the 1940's).

For the record, these are the games for we which have NO visual record of the uniforms worn during the 1940's:

NFL Games
Saturday, October 5, 1940 - Chicago Cardinals at Detroit Lions (N)
Sunday, November 5, 1944 - Philadelphia Eagles at Brooklyn Tigers
Sunday, November 19, 1944 - Brooklyn Tigers at Boston Yanks
Sunday, November 19, 1944 - Cleveland Rams at Card-Pitt (Chicago)
Saturday, October 9, 1948 - Boston Yanks at Detroit Lions (N)

AAFC Games
Sunday, September 29, 1946 - Los Angeles Dons at Buffalo Bisons
Friday, October 11, 1946 - Chicago Rockets at Brooklyn Dodgers (N)
Saturday, October 12, 1946 - Cleveland Browns at New York Yankees (N)
Saturday, October 12, 1946 - San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Dons (N)
Saturday, October 19, 1946 - Brooklyn Dodgers at New York Yankees (N)
Saturday, October 19, 1946 - San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bisons (N)
Friday, October 25, 1946 - Miami Seahawks at Brooklyn Dodgers (N)
Sunday, October 10, 1948 - Brooklyn Dodgers at Cleveland Browns

With the exception of the 9/26/46 LA-BUF game and the 10/12/46 SF-LA game (the Los Angeles Herald-Express was not printed due to a strike), a minimum of four newspapers was researched for each game.  The LOC does not have the Buffalo Courier-Express on file, but an online resource with the Courier-Express in its files were used.

This does not mean that photographs from these games do not exist, but finding same from any of these games will be extremely difficult.  We do see random wirephotos of ancient football games pop up on ebay from time to time and it is likely that either there or a newsreel clip is where our hope will lie to find some sort of evidence as to who wore what and when they were worn.

So the call goes out.  If anyone reading this blog would happen to stumble upon a photograph or two from the Most Wanted list, please either contact the GUD either via the "forum" or the "contact" tab with your finding at the GUD's website.

So we can transform something like this:
                                   Into this!:

The GUD will gladly acknowledge your submission and you can feel a sense of pride knowing that you have made a vital contribution to the cause of  pro football (uniform) history!


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