Vintage Football Autographs

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

Doak Walker  (1927-1998)

Back—(Southern Methodist) Detroit Lions 1950-55  [Maxwell Award 1947, Heisman Trophy 1948, All-American 1947-49, College Football Hall of Fame 1959, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1986]

If there were a Mr. Everything Award for a nice guy and great athlete, I would give it to Doak Walker of the Detroit Lions.  I don't believe Doak ever had anything bad to say about anyone.  He never raised his voice, he never complained.  He was Mr. Personality and Mr. Professional Football Man.
    Chuck Bednarik

 

This drawing was done by my son, William, in about 1990. Doak signed it for him. See the story of this interesting collection on the entry for Tom Harmon.

This Alan Maver cartoon appeared in newspapers in December 1950.  I have two other different Walker-signed cartoons.

He was cremated and his ashes scattered on Long's Peak in Colorado. 

Elmer "Bear" Ward  (1912-1996)

Center/Linebacker—(Utah State) Detroit Lions 1935 [All-American 1934]

I received a very bad knee injury while playing a post season game at Hollywood, Cal. against Green Bay Packers.  [The] Lions had the knee operated on but it did not respond for full recovery.  I am of the opinion if I had not been injured, I could have played in NFL league for several years. . . .  CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS LETTER BEAR WARD WROTE TO ME IN 1991
    Elmer Ward

This Ev Thorpe cartoon appeared in the 24 October 1934 Logan Herald Journal.  The photo shows Bear and I at his home in Willard, Utah, on 8 June 1991. I interviewed him and picked tart cherries in his orchard.

CLICK HERE TO READ AN INTERVIEW I DID WITH ELMER WARD IN 1991.  HE DETAILS HIS EXPERIENCES ON THE 1935 NFL CHAMPION DETROIT LIONS, HIS TEAMMATES, TOUGH OPPONENTS, AND POST-SEASON TOUR TO CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII, AND CAREER-ENDING INJURY.

Tom Wham  (1924-2006)

 End—(Furman) Chicago Cardinals 1949-51
Wham went to the Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton, South Carolina at the age of 12. He was in the second class of inductees into the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982. He was selected to play in the Pro-Bowl in 1951. Wham was a U.S. Navy veteran of WWII and a retired employee of the Department of Corrections, where he was the director of the pre-release centers in South Carolina.

Jim White  (1920-1987)

Tackle—(Notre Dame) New York Giants 1946-50 [All-American 1943]

Bucky O'Connor's (see his entry) widow sent me this 1942 Notre Dame football banquet program signed by nineteen players on that year's Fighting Irish team.  Almost half of the players who signed the program played in the pros and about half of those were players I didn't have autographs for prior to receiving this generous gift (including Jim White).  White's autograph is just below  Angelo Bertelli's in the upper left corner.  Players  who signed this who played in the pros include  Herb Coleman, Luke Higgins, Gerry Cowhig, Frank Szymanski, Ziggy  Czarobski, John Yonakor, George Tobin, Jim Mello, Angelo Bertelli, Bob Livingstone, and White.  Other players  include John Creevey, Bob McBride, Paul Limont, Pete Ashbaugh, Bud Meter, Bill Huber, Frank Cusick, and Emmitt Jennings.

Bill "The Cat" Willis  (1921-2007)

Middle Guard—(Ohio State) Cleveland Browns 1946-53   [College Football Hall of Fame 1971, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1977]

Actually, the first guy that ever convinced me that I couldn't handle anybody I ever met was Bill Willis, who played on Cleveland, and I was on my way down [physically] then.  They called him The Cat.  He was skinny and he didn't look like he should be playing middle guard, but he would jump right over you.  Now he might not enjoy my saying this, him being colored and maybe taking it the wrong way, but I'll tell you—the only way I could block him was I'd squat, and when he tried to jump over me, I'd come up and catch him.  Every time, my nose would be right in his armpit—and later I'd tell my wife, "Goddamn, Gladys, that man perspires.  I can't stand it."  But that guy was a football player, and don't think he wasn't.  Oh, he was a war-horse, that Willis.
    Bulldog Turner

He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

Alex Wojciechowicz  (1915-1992)

Center/Linebacker—(Fordham) Detroit Lions 1938-46, Philadelphia Eagles 1946-50  [All-American 1936-37, College Football Hall of Fame 1955; Pro Football Hall of Fame 1968]

In my last year, 1950, we played an exhibition game against the Bears before the regular season.  Chuck Bednarik was sick so I had to fill in for him on defense at linebacker.  And Vic Lindskog, our center got himself injured so I had to play for him on offense.  I was thirty-five then and I had to go the full sixty minutes, Greasy [Neale] told me.  My God, I thought.  Well, just after the game started I lined up on defense across from Ken Kavanaugh, who was a very fine end.  I said to him, "Listen Ken, I'm not going to play dirty or rough or whatever today, just a nice cool game because I've got to go sixty minutes.  It's only an exhibition game so I'll take it easy on you."  He said okay, he'd go easy, too.  I thought everything was fine but then a few plays later we were going at it easy enough when a Bear halfback [or fullback Joe Osmanski in another version of his story] came up and blind-sided me.  I got a hell of an elbow right in the mouth.  Well, we didn't have facemasks in those days and he knocked my two front teeth out.  It knocked me out, too.  When I woke up I was without the teeth and I was furious.  After all those years [13], and there in my last season, I get them knocked out.  Well, I had to stay in the game and there was a long way to go.  But I was enraged and I played so hard, so did everyone else after that shot, that we beat the hell out of them that day . . . .I went gunning for every Bear on the field.  I mean I was a wild man.  After a while, half of them were running away from me on each play because they knew I was so mad and I was going after them with a vengeance.
    Alex Wojciechowicz

I remember the first time I received one of these signed Hall of Fame postcards (right) accompanying  my  3x5 request. It was so unexpected and are such a nice addition to my collection.  He is buried in St. Marys Cemetery, East Brunswick, New Jersey.

John Yonakor  (1921-2001)

End—(Notre Dame) Bainbridge Naval Training Station Commodores 1944, Cleveland Browns 1946-49, New York Yanks 1950, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1951, Washington Redskins 1952 [All-American 1943]

Very confident in his own ability, a sure pass receiver, and as good a blocker on opposing tackles as I've seen.  Very strong on defense, partly due to his size, 230 pounds.
    John Lujack

John Yurchey  (1917-1994)

Quarterback—(Duquesne) Pittsburgh Steelers 1940

Joe Zapustas  (1907-2001)

Quarterback/End—(Fordham) New York Giants 1933, Boston Shamrocks (AFL) 1936-38; Owner/Coach—Boston Shamrocks 1938  [major league baseball player, outfielder,  2 games with Philadelphia Athletics 1933]

In those days we played both ways. There were no specialists like today.  I don't think football was as injury prone as it is today.  Because we played both ways, we all got tired around the same time in the second half.  The Shamrocks went out of business because of the Great Hurricane of '38.  We postponed our game against Whizzer White and his Pittsburgh team three times. People had too many things to think about instead of football, like putting things back to normal after the storm.
    Joe Zapustas

He is buried in St. Marys Cemetery, Randolph, Massachusetts. 

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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