Vintage Football Autographs

from leather helmets to the "golden years"--1920s thru 1960

Roy “Rosy” Gagnon (1913- 2000)

Guard —(Oregon) Detroit Lions 1935

Hugh Gallarneau  (1917-1999)

Halfback—(Stanford); Chicago Bears 1941-42,1945-47 [College Football Hall of Fame 1982]

Playing the T formation under [Clark] Shaughnessy was also my ticket to the Chicago Bears.  They had instituted it in the pro game, and so George Halas drafted me in 1941.  It worked out quite well because Shaughnessy, being the strict and adept type of teacher he was, had taught us the system thoroughly, and so I knew it as well as anybody on the Bears when I joined the team.
    Hugh Gallarneau

See a video clip of Hugh Gallarneau (#29) of Stanford making a few nice runs in this November 27, 1939, loss to the rival Cal Bears.

Frank "Gunner" Gatski  (1922-2005)

Center—(Marshall/Auburn) Cleveland Browns 1946-56, Detroit Lions 1957 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1985]

He was the best and toughest I ever played against.  As a linebacker, I sometimes had to go over the center but Gatski was an immovable object.
    Chuck Bednarik

He is buried in West Virginia National Cemetery, Grafton, West Virginia

Bob "Little Flower" Gaudio  (1925-2003)

Guard—(Ohio State) Keesler Field Fliers 1945; Cleveland Browns 1947-49,1951

Marshall "Biggie" Goldberg  (1917-2006)

Halfback—(Pittsburgh) Fort Pierce Naval Amphibious Base 1944, Chicago Cardinals 1939-43,1946-48 [All-American 1937-38, Walter Camp Award 1937, College Football Hall of Fame 1958, #1 Interceptions 1941, #1 Kickoff Returns 1941-42]

He might well have been the first defensive specialist in pro football.  And he was a great one.  He was one of the few backs who did consistently well against Don Hutson.  And he was a fine returner of punts.  Marshall Goldberg may be one of the most underrated players ever to play in the pros.  At one time in one season he led the league in five different departments.

    Jimmy Conzelman

Note: See entry for Crazy Legs Hirsch for explanation about this signed portrait sketch.  I also have four different Goldberg-signed football cartoons: 3 Jack Sords cartoons (1-1936 and 2-1938) and 1 Art Krenz 1936 cartoon.  Two of the Sords cartoons are also signed by other players.  I also have a few All-American news articles signed by Goldberg.  To say the least, he was a most willing signer.

Bob Gonya  (1910-1999)

Tackle—(Northwestern) Philadelphia Eagles 1933-34

My original position was tackle and end—played offense and defense, no face protection—Great fun.  I had to play any position if someone got hurt.  I even kicked off once and did fairly well . . . . CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS LETTER THAT BOB GONYA WROTE TO ME

    Bob Gonya
 

Otto "Mechanical Otto" Graham  (1921-2003)

Quarterback—(Northwestern) Cleveland Browns 1946-55; Coach—Washington Redskins 1966-68   [All-American 1943, College Football Hall of Fame 1956, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1965; Basketball—All American 1943, Rochester Royals (NBL) 1945-46]

My first year with Cleveland, Paul Brown signed me to a two-year contract for seventy-five hundred dollars a year.  I was an air cadet at Glenville Naval base at Evanston, Illinois, and Paul was at Great Lakes.  I was making seventy-five dollars a month as a cadet and he offered me this two-year package, plus a bonus of one thousand dollars.  But the big payoff was, if I signed right then, he'd pay me two hundred fifty dollars a month for as long as the war lasted.  I signed.  The war lasted only a few more months.  After we won the championship my rookie season, he tore up the contract and gave me a new one for twelve thousand dollars a year.  In 1955, my last year, my tenth, I was the highest-paid player in pro football at twenty-five thousand dollars.  I suppose I could have gotten even more money out of Paul by becoming a holdout, but it never really occurred to me.  What he offered always seemed fair and so I signed.  Of course, we played for the title every year for ten straight years.  They were great years, carefree years.  When you went in to talk contract with Paul he always used the championship money as part of your salary.  He would just add it on like interest on a note we always go it and you could hardly negotiate against it.

    Otto Graham

The Alan Maver cartoon appeared in newspapers in August 1951.  I have another Graham-signed Tom Paprocki football cartoon that dates to 1944 depicting him playing for the North Carolina Pre-flight service team.  Graham signed this 3x5 card for me in November 1988.

See a video clip of Otto Graham in a November 27, 1955, 35-35 tie game between the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns in the Polo Grounds.  See another video clip of Graham in a December 26, 1955 game between the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams. The Browns won with a score of 38-14. It was Graham's final pro game.  

Red "Galloping Ghost" Grange  (1903-1991)

Halfback—(Illinois); Chicago Bears 1925,1929-34, New York Yankees 1926-27 [All-American 1924-25, College Football Hall of Fame 1951, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963]

I was never taught to do what I did, and I know I couldn't teach anyone else how to run.  I don't really know what I did, and I'd have a hard time telling you what I did on any individual run, even if it's one of the runs that everyone always talks about.  I read about my change of pace, and it was news to me that I ran at different speeds.  I know I used to have a crossover step, and I had an instinctive feeling about where the tacklers were.  I read that I had peripheral vision.  I didn't even know what that meant.  I had to look it up.

    Red Grange

 

Here's another one of my colored pencil sketches.  Too bad I didn't get one drawn for Nagurski to sign before he passed away.  Wouldn't that have been a pair!  I just love those old leather helmets!

 

My son, David, drew this colored pencil sketch for Grange to sign in about 1990.  David was about ten years old at the time.

This early Jack Sords cartoon appeared in newspapers in October 1924.  I also have a Grange-signed Sords cartoon dating to 1932 and one other undated cartoon by an unidentified cartoonist documenting him having a "clear conscience" in turning pro.

Listen to a Chicago Public Radio interview with Grange biographer William Andrew Poole in 2008 as he discusses his book and Red Grange.

Watch a video clip of Red Grange at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

He was cremated, but location of ashes is not known. 

Lou "The Toe" Groza  (1924-2000)

Offensive Tackle/Placekicker—(Ohio State) Cleveland Browns 1946-59,1961-67 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1974]

One of the principal entertainments for the newcomers that year [1957] was watching Lou Groza dress.  Lou had been the league's premier place-kicker for a number of years, but was getting a bit long in the tooth and large in the waistband.  Lou's football beginnings as an offensive tackle had whetted his appetite—he loved spaghetti—and his 6-4, 260-pound frame saw a lot of the pounds gravitating toward his equator.  Long before Joe Namath donned panty hose for a television commercial, Groza was wiggling into a Playtex girdle prior to donning his football pants, in an effort to camouflage his impressive girth.  It took a lot of talcum powder and a routine which rivaled that of Gypsy Rose Lee.  The rookies loved it.  Except that nobody laughed right out loud.  Lou was a sensitive guy . . .
    Don Paul

The John Pierotti cartoon appeared in newspapers in October 1946.  Groza signed the 3x5 card for me in December 1988.

See video clip of Lou Groza kicking two field goals in the 1964 title game in which the Browns beat the Colts 27-0.

He is buried in Sunset Memorial Park, North Olmstead, Ohio.

Henry L. "Hinkey" Haines  (1898-1979)

Quarterback—(Penn State) New York Giants 1925-28, Staten Island Stapletons 1929,1931

Haines specialized in speed running and was dangerous on passes and punts as well as from scrimmage.
    Steve Owen

He is buried in Middletown Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Media, Pennsylvania. 

Vic Hanson  (1903-1982)

End—(Syracuse) [All-American 1926, College Football Hall of Fame 1973; Basketball All-American 1925-27, Basketball Hall of Fame 1960]

Marlin "Pat" Harder  (1922-1992)

Fullback—(Wisconsin) Georgia Pre-Flight Skycrackers 1943-44, Chicago Cardinals 1946-50, Detroit Lions 1951-53 [All-American 1942, College Football Hall of Fame 1993, #1 Field Goals 1947, #1 Scoring 1947-49, All Pro 1947-49]

He was without a doubt the toughest son of a bitch I ever met in football.  “You do the fancy shit, kid, I'll take care of the rest.”  I remember him telling me.  Happiness to Pat Harder meant knocking somebody on their ass.  If he could loosen a few teeth or fracture somebody's nose in the process, he was happier for it.
    Don Paul

This Jack Sords cartoon of Harder (only) appeared in newspapers in December 1947. It originally appeared in October 1942 in a dual-player cartoon with Frank Sinkwich--which I have signed by both.

Tom “Old 98" Harmon  (1919-1990)

Halfback—(Michigan) New York Americans (AFL) 1941, Los Angeles Rams 1946-47  [#1 All-Purpose Running NCAA 1939-40, #1 Scoring NCAA 1939-40, All-American 1939-40, Walter Camp Award 1940, Heisman Trophy 1940, Maxwell Award 1940, No. 1 Draft Choice 1941, College Football Hall of Fame 1954]

Harmon is one of the few backs I'd call terrific.  I mean almost unbelievable.  He is not only big and fast but exceptionally powerful.  You might as well try to tackle a lion if you have only one or two tacklers in the road.  We used seven and eight against him.
    Bob Zuppke

In the early years of my collecting, my two youngest sons also participated. They would make drawings of players I was sending to for autographs. They used photos or my old football cards to draw from. In 1989, my son, William, did this drawing of Tom Harmon which "Old 98" signed for him. William would have been twelve years old at the time. He has a scrapbook of drawings he did which were signed by the players. Quite a treasure. I wrote an article about their childhood collecting hobby which was published in the September 1990 issue of Autograph Collector's Magazine.

               Autograph Collector's Magazine

See a video clip of Tom Harmon (#98) making some nice runs for Michigan in this November 12, 1940, loss to Minnesota.

Johnny Heimsch  (1902-1991)

Back—(Marquette) Milwaukee Badgers 1926

We played 60 minutes, offense and defense.  I think we made $150 a game . . . . Johnny Bryan was our "backer."  Rumor had it that an aunt was his angel.  She was supposed to own Espenhains Dept. store on 5th and Wis. Ave.  I can't prove this but I do know that Johnny was peeking through the cracks in the fence at the ballpark before the game to see how many fans were entering the stands.
    John Heimsch

I received this undated 6-page letter from Heimsch probably in about 1989. In it he recalls some of the players and teams he played with and against. On this page he recounts playing against the Duluth Eskimos and Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers:  "He ran over the opposing players rather than around them. Just a hard hitting back."  Heimsch was a teammate on the Badgers with Lavie Dilweg.  They both went to the same high school in Milwaukee and played together at Marquette and were close friends.  Many think it's an oversight that Dilweg isn't in the Hall of Fame.

Mel “Old Indestructible” Hein  (1909-1992)

Center—(Washington State) New York Giants 1931-45; Coach—Los Angeles Dons 1947  [All-American 1930-31, College Football Hall of Fame 1954, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963]

We'd put in two new plays that we were saving for a last-ditch try . . . .we alerted the officials about our new plays, so there would be no question about the legality of them.  The first play called for all the linemen to shift to the right side of Mel Hein, our center.  Since this put Mel at the end of the scrimmage line, it meant he was eligible for a pass.  By this time, of course, the old rule about having to be 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage when you threw a pass had been changed.  Now you could pass from any point behind the line.  On this play, Mel handed the ball to [Harry] Newman, who was bending over him just like a T-formation quarterback would.  As he did, all deep backs ran to the right.  Newman came behind us faking as if he had the ball under his arm.  Newman didn't have the ball.  After Mel passed it to him, Harry slipped it right back to Mel.  Now, while everyone was chasing us, Mel was supposed to sort of stroll down the field and when he was in the clear, make a break for the goal line.  But he got excited after he covered about 10 yards and he started to run.  Naturally, this attracted attention and someone flattened him.
    Ken Strong

The cartoon, by a cartoonist who signed his name Leo, appeared in November 1942.  I have three other different Hein-signed cartoons, one 1945 Al Vermeer cartoon and two Tom Paprocki cartoons dated 1939 and 1942.

Herb Henderson  (1899-1991)

Back—(Ohio State) Evansville Crimson Giants 1921-22

I did punting, forward passing, as well as backing up the line.
    Herb Henderson

In late 1989, I learned that Henderson was still alive and wrote to him asking if he would recount some of his experiences playing for the Evansville Crimson Giants in the American Professional Football Association (forerunner of NFL). He kindly replied with a detailed hand-written four-page letter. He was just shy of being 91 years old. This is the last page of his letter. I published the full-text of his letter in the February 1993 issue of PFRA's Coffin Corner (available online in vol. 15, no. 1, at http://www.profootballresearchers.org/CC_1990s.htm).  In a nutshell he assessed the Crimson Giants franchise: "Crowds were sparse. It was a losing proposition. Evansville [Indiana] was not ready for pro football."  He recalled a funny incident that occurred in a game against the Hammond Pros on 16 October 1921.  The Crimson Giants were beaten by Hammond in that contest  3 to 0.  The record for the Crimson Giants in 1921 was three wins and two losses.  Henderson wrote: "A funny thing happened in the Hammond game.  The game was stopped by referee and Hammond wanted to talk to Herb Henderson in their huddle, which was allowed by referee.  Players asked me not to hit so hard on defense as they had regular jobs on Monday.  I told them I was the coach of one of the local high school teams and my players were on the sidelines watching the game and I had to show them how tackling was done. We all got a big laugh." 

Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch  (1923-2004)

Halfback/End—(Wisconsin/Michigan) El Toro Flying Marines 1945, San Diego Bombers (PCFL) 1945, Chicago Rockets 1946-48, Los Angeles Rams 1949-57 [College Football Hall of Fame 1974, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1968]

I could always run fast as a kid . . . .I used to run back and forth from my house to school and try to step on each crack in the sidewalk, thinking it would make me more shifty.  There was a park in town, and I'd go at top speed, heading straight for a tree, then shift the football as I dodged right or left just in time to miss it.  I never pivoted, just dodged.  It's hard to fake out a tree, and sometimes I'd plow right into one.  Maybe that's what's been wrong with me all these years.
    Elroy Hirsch

In the early 1990s I drew colored pencil portraits of about a dozen players and sent them off in the mail to request they be autographed. It was rather time and labor intensive and there was no guarantee they would be returned, but I'm glad I did it. I have signed portraits of such football luminaries as Red Grange, Frank Sinkwich, Steve Van Buren, Frank Filchock, Ernie Caddel, Sam Baugh, Ollie Matson, Jay Berwanger, etc. For other examples of these signed drawings, see Kyle Rote and Marshall Goldberg.

He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Wausau, Wisconsin

Les Horvath  (1921-1995)

Tailback/Quarterback—(Ohio State) Los Angeles Rams 1947-48, Cleveland Browns 1949 [All-American 1944, Heisman Trophy 1944, College Football Hall of Fame 1969]

Les Horvath was our wingback and did an outstanding job of blocking on the tackle on our off-tackle slants, plus being an excellent runner and pass receiver.
    George Lynn

The Tom Paprocki cartoon appeared in newspapers in December 1944.

Lindell Houston  (1921-1995)

Guard—(Ohio State) Fort Bragg Cannoneers 1943; Cleveland Browns 1946-53

In this letter, Houston recounts his memories as player/coach of a 1943 service football team and World War II.

Weldon Humble  (1921-1998)

Guard—(Rice) Cleveland Browns 1947-50, Dallas Texans 1952 [All-American 1946, College Football Hall of Fame 1961]

He is buried in Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Houston, Texas.

Watch a Video Clip of:

  • Ed Danowski
  • Bob Devaney
  • Hugh Gallarneau
  • Otto Graham
  • Red Grange
  • Lou Groza
  • Tom Harmon
  • Ken Kavanaugh
  • Sid Luckman
  • Pug Lund
  • Harry Newman
  • Bill Osmanski
  • Kyle Rote

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