Vintage Football Autographs

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

Frank "Pop" Ivy  (1916-2003)

End—(Oklahoma) Pittsburgh Steelers 1940, Chicago Cardinals 1940-42,1945-47,  Coach—Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) 1954-57;  Cardinals 1958, St. Louis Cardinals 1960-61, Houston Oilers 1962-63

Some of the head coaches involved themselves with every detail.  They said of Pop Ivy, the Cardinal coach, that he handed out the players’ equipment in the morning for practice and at the end of the day ran the projection machine at the team meetings.

    George Plimpton
He was cremated, but the location of his ashes is not known. 

Harry Jacunski (1915-2003)

End—(Fordham) Green Bay Packers 1939-44

I went out to Chicago to play in the College All-Star game. A coach for the Green Bay Packers came around and asked if I'd be interested. By then I was.  We were good. Although we only made about $100 a game, the Packers took care of us. We had a team doctor and a trainer. Money was tight. We had to buy our own shoes. I always felt it was just a job. I picked up iron rods used to reinforce concrete and moved them around eight hours a day. That's what made my legs strong.

     Harry Jacunski

Jacunski spelled one of the starting ends on “The Seven Blocks of Granite,” the famous line at Fordham  (shown in photo) on which Lombardi was a starting guard. With the Packers, Jacunski played opposite the legendary Don Hutson. Jacunski was a member of two of the Packers' NFL championship teams, in his first year and his last.

Ted James  (1906-1999)

Center/Guard—(Nebraska) Frankford Yellowjackets 1929

He is buried in Estes Valley Memorial Gardens, Estes Park, Colorado

Tommy “Red” James  (1923-2007)

Halfback—(Ohio State) Detroit Lions 1947, Cleveland Browns 1948-55, Baltimore Colts 1956

I started playing defense all the time. I always wanted to play offense. But when I went into the pros, Paul Brown told me I can find better offensive players, but when I get a good defensive back that’s the place I’ve got to put them.  I got stuck most of the time playing defense.
    Tommy James

James played for Paul Brown at Massillon High School and Ohio State before rejoining him with him the Browns in 1948 after a year in Detroit. James started at right cornerback in 1948 and intercepted four passes for a team that went 15-0 and won the All-America Football Conference championship. The defensive back continued to be a key player as the Browns moved to the NFL. He intercepted nine passes in 1950 to set a club record that stood until 1978. After leaving Cleveland, he played briefly for the Baltimore Colts in 1956. James ended his NFL career with 26 interceptions, all with the Browns, tying him for eighth place in team history.

He is buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery, Massillon, Ohio

John Henry Johnson  (1929-    )

Fullback—(St. Mary's/Modesto JC/Arizona State) Calgary Stampeders (CFL) 1953, Pittsburgh Bucs 1954, San Francisco 49ers 1954-56, Detroit Lions 1957-59, Pittsburgh Steelers 1960-65, Houston Oiloers 1966  [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1987]

I'll tell you 'bout a play we had when I was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It was called "What's the matter" play.  What happened was that a situation came up against those same damn GiantsHuff, Robustelli, Katcavage, Roosevelt Brownand we had fifteen yards to go for a touchdown.  Those cats were real poison when you got down close,  so in the huddle I called the "What's the matter" play.  What happens is this.  I walk up behind the center but I keep my hands tucked in my crotch.  I call out "Red!" which begins the signal count, but all of a sudden John Henry,  the fullback, calls out of the backfield behind me, "Hey, wait a minute."  So I stop the count and rear up and I turn toward him and I sing out, "What's the matter?"  Across the line the Giants begin to relax and they think, "Oh man, what a bum team this is," and they stand up to enjoy the confusion, when suddenly, two beats after the word "matter" the ball is hiked right past my hip to John Henry and he takes offI mean like he just tears!  Sam Huff was laughing so hard he could hardly run after John Henry.  He run like he was crazy drunk in some cabbage patch, just stumbling along holding his sides.

    Bobby Layne



In about 1990 my son, David, drew this colored pencil sketch of John Henry Johnson that he autographed.  David was about ten years old at the time.

Edgar "Special Delivery" Jones  (1920-2004)

Halfback—(Pittsburgh) San Francisco Clippers 1945, Chicago Bears 1945, Cleveland Browns 1946-49, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) 1950 [#8 All-Time AAFC Rushing, #9 All-Time AAFC Scoring]

Morton "Devil May" Kaer  (1902-1992)

Halfback—(Southern California) Quarterback—Frankford Yellowjackets 1931 [All-American 1926, College Football Hall of Fame 1972; Olympic Games 1924]
He was a great tailback.
    Jesse Hibbs

Russell "Rusty" Kane  (1920-1995)

Tackle—(East Central Oklahoma) New York Giants 1944-45

Note: See my article about the rewarding relationship fostered with Russell and his widow simply by asking for his autograph. He died only weeks after speaking with me and sending me autographs and New York Giants game programs from 1944 (including one signed by 20 of his teammates including Arnie Herber and Tuffy Leemans). The article appeared in the June/July 2007 issue of Autograph Collector. It was entitled "A Race against Time: One Person's Quest for Yesterday's Sports Heroes Yields Unexpected Rewards."

Ken Kavanaugh  (1917-2007)

End—(Louisiana State) Chicago Bears 1940-41,1945-50 [#1 Receiving NCAA 1939, Knute Rockne Award 1939, All-American  1939, College Football Hall of Fame 1963, #1 Receiving Average 1941, All Pro 1946-47]

The All-Stars were practicing at Northwestern University near Chicago, and George Halas came around to talk to me.  I think he offered me $100 a game.  I said no, I’m not going to play for any $100.  Halas came back a week later and said, “I’ll give you $200 and that’s as far as I can go.”  I said no again, and then he came back again and went up to $250 a game.  I thought, well, I’ll get 300 out of him.  In those days, you didn’t know what to ask for.  I didn’t know what anybody was making on the Bears.  Halas said, “There’s no way I can pay you 300.”  I said, “Okay, I’ve got to go to practice anyway.”  The next day, he’s again up in my dormitory room at Northwestern.  I just stayed at $300 a game.  I said, “You can talk all you want to, but that’s it.”  And he said, “Okay, but nobody makes that kind of money around here.”  We had All-Pro linemen who were making $100, $150 a game in 1940!  I didn’t know it when I signed that $300 was a lot.
    Ken Kavanaugh

In this 1989 letter, Kavanaugh lists the "most aggressive roughest and meanest (not dirty) players" he played with and against during his years with the Bears.  Among those he played against, he names Pat Harder, Riley "Rattlesnake" Matheson, Ed Neal, Em Tunnell, Wee Willie Wilkin, and Alex Wojciechowicz. The tough crowd on the Bears were Lee Artoe, Ed Sprinkle, Joe Stydahar, Bulldog Turner, and George Wilson.

See a video clip of Ken Kavanaugh in a 1946 preseason game between the Bears and Redskins. 

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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