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Football at West Point 1957 - 1960

The following was prepared by Jim Oaks in preparing for some Class ZOOM Meetings…

Here are some things to consider when thinking about Army football when we were cadets.

Substitutions were limited. I will attach an article I found on the subject which may explain why rule changes were made after WWII to limit the number of players required to field a team. Some colleges could not get enough players for the “Two Platoon” system as we know it today. I think through the years we were there, a player could only come out and then go back in once each quarter. It may have changed by the time we were Firsties.

Army started fielding a 150 team the year we were Plebes. I wonder if those of you guys who played 150 also practiced as plebes that first fall of 1957.

Of the guys pictured in the 1961 Howitzer on the “A Squad,” Glen Adams, Jerry Clements, George Joulwan, Harry Miller, Phil Sykes and Al Vanderbush are still with us. Blanda, Bonko, Buckner, Eielson, Gibson, McCarthy, Zailskas and the two managers, Dillard and Xenos are gone.

Of those listed as “B Team”, Breslin, Carroll, Eiland, Gilliam, Hruby, Knoblock, Lynch, Warren Miller, Schultz and Shaffer are alive. Amlong, Beckett, Grant, Richards, Sommercamp Walters and Williams have passed.

I have asked our cheerleaders for input on what it was like to support the Army Team.

Lastly I will include the seasons scores of  ’59 and ’60 since the scores are not given in the 1960 Howitzer.

I have fond memories of our year as cheerleaders and mule riders "Rabble Rousers" but have very limited memories of details of how we functioned.  It must have been in accordance with the 5-paragraph Operations Order of Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Logistics, and Command and Signal.

In our years at West Point the cheerleaders were all Firsties and sadly behold were males (XY chromosomes).  There was a try-out competition for selection but again I do not recall how it was done.  As per the September 30, 1960, Pointer, "Leading the foray this year is Head Cheerleader Dick Cullum, a first classman from Indianapolis, Indiana.  His sidekicks include Bob Cain, Jim Connolly, Jay Cook, "Gabe" Gabriel, Gene Goodell, and Chuck Westpheling.  The mule riders are first classmen Rod Grannemann and Ronnie Hines, and second classman Phil Florence.  Providing the foundation for the season's activities are the "undercover men" and administrative workers: Joe Stewart, Norm Olson, Bruce Nichols, and Bruce Parsons.  This group also handles the victory Cannon and the Victory Wagon." 

We had five games away from Michie Stadium at California, Nebraska, Pittsburg, Syracuse (Yankee Stadium), and Navy at Phily.  We had cheerleader representation at all of those games.  One of the greatest of all rallies was held on Thursday night before the Syracuse game. The Tactical Department announced a mandatory lecture to be given by General Van Fleet at 1900 hours in the gymnasium theater.  With the Corps seated, on time, in the theater, Ron Hannon walked down the aisle and said something to COL Stillwell, Assistant Commandant.  COL Stillwell walked to the stage and announced that the lecture has been cancelled, "Let's have a rally".  With that the Hell Cats came down both aisles playing, the cheerleaders ran out from the sides of the stage, and the stunned Corps went wild!  Two days later we beat Syracuse 9 to 7.

It was easy being a cheerleader.  The football players were our friends and classmates who shared in the same activities of being a Cadet like all Cadets.  There was a natural bond and a natural spirit within the Corps.  As cheerleaders and as mule riders we just had to harness that spirit at the right time and place.

On, brave old Army team, On to the fray; Fight on to victory, For that's the fearless Army way.  

Substitution Rules and Football's Evolution

Football's substitution rules have changed as often and altered the game as profoundly as almost any rules category. Only the transition from rugby's scrummage to the scrimmage, the addition of the system of downs, and legalizing the forward pass have had a more significant impact. Still, while the game's substitution rules changed numerous times before the 1940s, they did not reshape football until two-platoon football became legal. In the case of college football, this did not occur until two-platoon football became legal for the second time.

Like rugby, early football did not allow substitutes by convention, not rule. Football's first set of rules in 1876 did not mention substitutions, stating only that "the number of players shall be limited to fifteen upon a side." That changed in 1882 when substitutes were allowed to replace disqualified or injured players and again in 1897 when substitutions could enter the game at the captain's discretion. The 1905 rules allowed substitutions at any time, assuming the incoming player reported to the referee before lining up, and also formalized the convention that substituted players could not return to the game.

Limited or no substitution was the norm in the sporting world back then. For example, substituted baseball players could not return to the game. Ice hockey prohibited substitutes other than replacing injured or disqualified players. High-level soccer first allowed subbing in 1965, and rugby still does not have subs (other than blood replacements).

Even when football began allowing limited substitutions, the manner differed from today. Most substitutions occurred late in games when the starters tired. Substitutions also occurred when strong teams started their reserves in early season games against lesser opponents to save their top players for the season-ending big games. Squads that met unexpectedly strong resistance in those games sometimes sent out first-string players to mop up and ensure the victory. In rare circumstances, coaches sent in reserve players who were effective kickers, but even those substitutes had to play a regular position after that.

A side effect of players being unable to return to the game was that dazed or otherwise injured players often stayed on the field, taking time to recover before returning to play. Recognizing the rule created a safety threat, a 1910 rule change allowed substituted players to return to the game at the beginning of a subsequent quarter. Coaches leveraged the rule after WWI by using "shock troops," which initially referred to coaches swapping small groups of substitutes, such as the four backs. It gained its current meaning in 1924 when Knute Rockne started his second unit in the season opener, planning to tire his opponent before inserting the first team. Other coaches with deep rosters followed Rockne's lead. Regardless of the substitution pattern, whoever was in the game played offense, defense, and kicking plays. The result was that players of the period needed the general athleticism and stamina to play offense and defense for up to sixty minutes. Teams split their practice time accordingly and had smaller rosters, fewer coaches, and less complex schemes than today.

Football might not have flipped its substitution rules if not for WWII. America began mobilizing for war in 1940, and with draftees and volunteers leaving campuses, concerns arose about the depth of college football rosters. To give coaches the flexibility to substitute for an injured or tired starter while also allowing them to return to the game, the 1941 rules committee approved unlimited substitutions, meaning players could enter and reenter the game whenever the ball was dead. Intended as a temporary rule, the rules committee and everyone else expected substitutes to enter one or a few at a time as short-term relief, and that is how coaches applied the rule until Fritz Crisler gambled on a new approach against a superior opponent.

Crisler was Michigan's coach in 1941 when he presided over the rules meeting that approved unlimited substitutions, but even he did not appreciate the door opened by the new rule. In 1945, however, his squad was filled with freshmen not yet of draft age and others designated as 4-Fs, or physically unfit for the armed forces. In the week leading up to their game with West Point and its future Heisman Trophy winners -Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis- Crisler created separate offensive and defensive units, swapping them with each change of possession. (A few top Wolverines played both ways.) Although outgunned, Michigan lost 28-7, Crisler's strategy caught other coaches' attention, and some copied his approach.

Red Blaik was Army's coach, and while I wrote in the past that Blaik coined the term "two-platoon football," recent research shows that was not the case. While "platoon" is a military term, "two-platoon" described the rotating shifts in police and fire departments beginning in the 1870s. "Two platoon" leaked over to football as an alternative term for shock troops used by Frank Leahy's 1940 Boston College and Buff Donelli's 1942 Duquesne teams before transitioning again to describe substituting full offensive and defensive units throughout the game.

Nevertheless, Blaik helped popularize two-platoon football (and the term) because the West Point cadets' busy schedule allowed only seventy-five minutes of practice each day. Platooning allowed Army players to focus on offense or defense, and alleviating that handicap helped Army sustain their 32-game win streak that ended during the 1947 season. Nevertheless, many coaches and fans derided two-platoon football because it ran counter to the long-held ideal of the all-around athlete and sixty-minute man. Others argued that the waves of players entering and exiting the field confused fans. Some fans agreed, including those who booed Army when they platooned against Stanford at Yankee Stadium in 1948.

The more significant challenge to two-platoon football in college football was that it required larger rosters and more coaches, increasing costs. Many colleges that suspended football during WWII struggled to regain their competitiveness after the war, and the increased cost of two-platoon football added to their burden. After fifty colleges dropped football for cost reasons in the early 1950s, the NCAA membership eliminated free substitution for the 1953 season.

Meanwhile, the NFL had liberalized its substitution rules during WWII by allowing three subs whenever the ball was dead or by mass substitutions between quarters. The NFL moved to unlimited substitutions in 1950 and has retained the rule ever since. The NFL's increased popularity in the 1950s provided the cash to expand rosters and protect their star quarterbacks from potential injury playing defense. Separate offensive and defensive units became the norm, leading to specialist offensive and defensive coaches who focused on one side of the ball, creating and teaching more specialized techniques and concepts to players who could absorb those details. It is not a coincidence that the term "special teams" emerged in the mid-1950s as NFL teams increasingly mixed starters and substitutes on specialist punting and kicking units.

Under pressure to keep up with the innovative professional league, college football tweaked its substitution rules nearly every season from 1953 until the mid-1960s in a slow march back to unlimited substitution. College coaches saw the benefits of specialization in the pro game and adopted elements into their systems. In addition, two-platoon football ensured players were less tired, gave playing time to those with skills suited to one side of the ball or the other, and broadly, gave playing time to more players. Still, there were challenges in balancing the demands of those supporting more liberal versus conservative substitutions rules, resulting in a few inconsistent or incoherent rules in its march back to two-platoon football. For example, the 1958 rules allowed each player to substitute in twice per quarter, which required players to check in with the officials who monitored each players' status. Lines of players checking into games became a common sight that season. Such inanities disappeared when unlimited substitution returned to the college game in the mid-1960s.

The feedback I received today has been both informative and entertaining. Let me start with a couple of corrections to my “A Squad” list yesterday. I put the list together by looking at the team picture in the 1961 Howitzer, but I missed Jim Connors on the first row. Also I should have added Danny Minor who lettered as a Cow, but was injured and did not play the last year so was not pictured.

I am going to insert some feedback from people and will start with this from Brian Schultz...

A few thoughts on Army football as a B-squad member.    As plebes (1957), we had tryouts in Beast barracks.    We were the C-squad in that year and played 4-5 games against colleges that came to West Point since we were not allowed off of the post. In the 1958 season there were 3 platoons on the varsity.  The top platoon played both offense and defense (Dawkins, Anderson, Caldwall Carpenter, Novogratz, Usry etc.)   A 2d platoon was geared to offense and a 3rd platoon geared to defense (Chinese Bandits) as I recall   B-squad was the "scout team" that ran the opponent's offense and defense.    We were known as the live dummies.   B-squad did play 4-5 games also and we frequently used plays that we had used in practice instead of normal Army offense.   Barney Gill was our coach and was very loose with us. Training tables were great and we were well fed. I believe the mostly beef diet contributed to my later heart issues, but I am still kicking!

One of the C-squad (plebes) games that Brian mentions was against Cincinnati’s freshman team. Mike Hale happened to have a copy of the program from that game. It contains all of you guys who were on the plebe team that year, all 56 of you. Had all of you been recruited to play, or did some of you make the team based on the tryouts Brian mentions above? I wonder if it was during that tryout that the guys from our class who made the 150 team that year were selected.

Gene Witherspoon sent the following about the plebe 150 team...

Yes, we were the first plebes to participate in 150 football, a Corps Squad tables’ blessing although we couldn’t compete in the games.  Of our classmates still on the team our last year, Glynn Mallory, Frank Rauch, Butch Robertson and Ben Willis are gone.  I along with Dick Clarke, Tom Mercer (I think?) and Joe Stringham are still standing.

We won the league championship but lost to Navy 12-7.  (They lost two other games to league teams and we beat them all.)  The score was actually 12-10 as the game film showed that a field goal called a miss by the refs actually cleared the cross bar by a few inches.  The film also showed three linemen illegally downfield when Navy’s winning touchdown pass was thrown.

Bob Cain added some great info about being a cheerleader, telling some more about the Syracuse rally/game that Jim Connolly had mentioned in his story...

Thank you for all you are doing to keep the "61 - Second to None" spirit alive. While I was a late-comer to the Class of '61 (Cow year to be exact), I nonetheless was adopted and welcomed into the brotherhood. Many of our A-2 mates (and our wives) meet monthly on Zoom to tell war stories and rat on each other!

From boyhood all I ever wanted to do was play football at Army. I grew up listening to the exploits of Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, and Arnold Tucker. I wanted to be a quarterback, so Arnold Tucker was "my man"! Upon entering West Point, I was 5'6" tall and weighed 127 lbs. Coach Blaik thought some other sport might work out better for me. So, I played squash and tennis for four years and captained the tennis team Firstie year. But to satisfy my football desires I tried out for the cheerleading team. What a hoot with Dick Cullum, Jim Connolly, Jay Cook, Gabe Gabriel, Gene Goodell, and Chuck Westpheling! We had so much fun, due in no small part to Army being a nationally renowned football team.

One of my highlights of the cheerleading year was going to the Nebraska game. My fiance Georgann Humphrey (later my very understanding wife!) had been head of the pep club for the Cornhuskers and active in her KD sorority there. She alerted her sorority sisters of my pending visit to Lincoln as an Army cheerleader. Boy, did I get a welcome to the Nebraska campus!! I wrote a letter resigning from the Army cheerleading squad to become a cheerleader for Nebraska, but Dick Cullum would not let me do it. Also, the Nebraska cheerleaders said I wouldn't look so good in a short skirt. They didn't have boy cheerleaders then.

We "Rabble Rousers" made up a new cheer at the beginning of the season that we used all year. For the life of me I cannot remember it, but one of the other guys might. Or, I might remember it in the middle of the night! The only cheer I can remember right now is "The Rocket". 

Another memorable event was when Gabe Gabriel decided to augment the sound of the cannon that was fired in celebration of anything that needed a celebration. In those days they were on the sidelines, not over by the lake. He took one of the cheerleader megaphones and put it in the muzzle of the cannon to amplify the sound. If you ever need to know how to make confetti out of a megaphone, give me a call; I'll give you Gabe's idea for the challenge!

And thanks for the letter from Jim Connolly - that also triggered great memories! He made mention of the Syracuse rally. I remember the rally very well; it really was a surprise to the Corps and was pulled off perfectly. But to add to that, someone arranged for the Mess Hall to have fresh oranges on all the tables the next morning. You may remember that the nickname for the Syracuse team is the "Orangemen". The entire Corps took oranges to the game in Yankee Stadium hidden in their coat sleeves. At the end of the opening ceremony and the march-off, everyone dropped their orange and as the Corps left the field, there was a complete overlay of oranges.

I'll add one other memory of that day. There was a big party in New York the night before the game. Most, if not all, of the cheerleaders were there. Georgann tells me the rest of the story because my memory faded sometime during the party! Do you remember that the cheerleaders used to stand high on top of the stadium waving megaphones to "conduct" the Corps in the pre-game ceremony? Georgann knew my condition at the time from the previous evening's festivities and was frozen in fear that I would lose my balance and die in service to my school! I only vaguely remember the event.
Bob Cain

In replying to Bob I asked him who came up with the idea of leaving the oranges on the turf. This was his reply.

That is a great question about who's idea the oranges was. I remember distinctly that I never knew. I remember inquiring briefly, but no one I talked to had any idea. It must have been, or at least endorsed, "on high" for it to have infiltrated the entire Mess Hall. I don't remember us having fresh fruit on the tables on any other occasion. Maybe some of the other "Rabble Rousers" know who did it.

Jim Mathison sent this memory of the Syracuse game...

I remember the Syracuse game in Yankee Stadium!  My Beast Barracks roommate George Joulwan was carried off the field exhausted.  The story was that he played 57 minutes that game.

Kim Fox sent this reminder...

The book “When Saturday Mattered Most” by Mark Beech covers the 58 season and it mentions a number of our classmates.
Semper Fi, Kim Fox

In addition to the program Mike Hale sent, I will attach two obits on Coach Blaik. I had forgotten he had played and graduated from Miami of Ohio before coming to and playing for West Point. One obit says he graduated from West Point in 1920 after completing a “special two-year course.” It would be interesting to know more about that. The 1959 Howitzer says he was at West Point for four years. Maybe Pete Gleichenhaus, who once interviewed Blaik, can clear that up.

Liberalizing substitutions while retaining the rule requiring substitutes to check in with the referee led to lengthy delays during the 1958 season. (1959 Iowa State yearbook)

While early players largely remained on the field for the entire game, football ultimately took the path of substitution and specialization, which dramatically changed the game, the players, and coaches. The specialization of players and coaches has walked hand-in-hand with the game's increased complexity and has literally reshaped the players. Today, most high-level players would be unable to play the ninety-, seventy-, or sixty-minute game of one-hundred-plus years ago. Current selection and training processes assume the players will be involved on only one side of the ball, and their skill sets and physiques reflect that assumption. Few of today's offensive ends could play defensive end as their grandfathers did. Few traditional quarterbacks would be effective safeties. Most interior linemen could not maintain an adequate level of play on both sides of the ball while also covering kicks through a complete game. None of this is a criticism of the current game. Instead, it simply points to how far football has evolved from its roots as a single-platoon game. Ironically, the move to two-platoon football was an unintended consequence of a rule that addressed a short-term problem. What might the game look like today if the substitution rule had not changed in 1941 or if Fritz Crisler had not developed his scheme to face a superior opponent?

By Martin Weil May 7, 1989

Earl (Red) Blaik, 92, one of the most prominent and admired figures in college football as head coach at Army from 1941 to 1958, died May 5 at a nursing home in Colorado Springs. No cause of death was reported, but he had been in ill health in recent years.

In the days when college football garnered far more attention than the professional game, Mr. Blaik and his West Point teams, particularly the World War II-era squads that included running backs Glenn Davis and Felix (Doc) Blanchard, stood at the pinnacle of the sport. During Mr. Blaik's 18 years as Army head coach, his teams won 121 games, lost 33 and tied 10. His 1944 team went undefeated and untied, and the 1945 team matched that record, capping the season with a decisive victory over a Navy team that had been unbeaten until then.

When Mr. Blaik took the helm at the military academy in 1941, West Point football, based on the team's record, was at a low ebb. By introducing the T formation at a time when it was still novel, Mr. Blaik won respect as a skillful tactician. By reversing the team's fortunes, he won a national reputation for leadership that transcended the gridiron.

Mr. Blaik was born in Detroit on Feb. 15, 1897, and graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He later obtained an appointment to West Point, where he played football, basketball and baseball, and graduated in 1920 after completing a special two-year course. After obtaining his commission, he spent two years in the cavalry.

But Mr. Blaik, restless at the slow pace of peacetime promotions, resigned in 1922, and soon joined his father's building contracting firm in Dayton, Ohio. In 1926, he began coaching football part time at Wisconsin, and then began seven years of coaching part time at West Point. In 1934, he took the head coaching job at Dartmouth, where he compiled a 45-15-4 record.

After Army went 1-7-1 in 1940, Mr. Blaik was installed the next year as his alma mater's first civilian coach in 30 years. (In 1942, however, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel, and later was promoted to colonel.)

During the 1940s, Mr. Blaik's West Point years were among the most glorious in college football. His 1944 and 1945 teams were judged the nation's best. From 1944 through 1946, Army won 25 straight games. From 1944 through 1950, they won all but six of their games (three were ties).

Perhaps the most difficult phase of his career came in 1951, when 90 cadets were expelled for cheating during exams. Among the 37 football players dismissed was his son. "As a graduate," Mr. Blaik said, "I believe the integrity of West Point must be upheld." He also defended the character and reputation of those expelled and asserted that "perhaps I'm a bit to blame myself." It was reported that Mr. Blaik considered retiring, but was persuaded to remain by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. "So he stayed and did the finest job of his life with the poorest Army team he ever had," wrote sports columnist Red Smith. The 1951 team won only two games, and the 1952 team only four. But in 1953, Army lost only once and beat Navy. When Mr. Blaik finally retired as coach and athletic director, it was shortly after the 1958 season,, when Army's team featured Pete Dawkins and used Mr. Blaik's innovative "lonely end" formation to go unbeaten.

In 1959, Mr. Blaik joined the Avco Corp. as a vice president. In 1963, President Kennedy named him as part of a two-man team to go to Birmingham to help bring racial peace in the wake of the bombing that killed four black girls at a church. He was named in 1964 to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. When he received the foundation's gold medal two years later, he explained what football symbolized for him. "If it is the game most like war, it is also a game most like life," he said, "for it teaches young men that work, sacrifice, selflessness, competitive drive, perseverance and respect for authority are the price one pays to achieve goals worthwhile.

Coach Earl Blaik – Our First Two Years

I have lined up Joe Shea (who played for Army in the falls of 1954 and ’55 until a major knee injury ended his playing days) and Jack Morrison ’59 who played end on the undefeated ’58 team. He was from Ohio, went Air Force, had a varied business career and now lives in South Carolina. Joe recruited Jack because he not only played but writes a critique of Army games for their class during the season.       

Ed Brown took time to go over the list of players that Mike Hale provided and also suggested we look at Coach Blaik’s memorial article. Among other interesting things, it explains how his Class of 1920 finished early. Here is from Ed... 

Jim, I am fascinated by all the research you and others have done concerning our class and Army football so I thought I would add some information to share with the group. 

The years have not been kind to our Plebe team.  The following, listed in the order shown in the program, have died (non-grads in italics): Bill Yost; Chuck Randolph; Larry Smith – he became a very successful football coach at Tulane, Arizona, USC, and Missouri; Frank Gibson; Roger Zailskas; John Eielson (not Ken); Tom Blanda; Mike Brady; Jack Dopler; John Sommercamp; Darwin Richards; Ron Beckett; Wayne Williams; Dick Buckner; Bill Belknap; Imes Grant; Bob McCarthy; Joe Pesek; Lee Kennedy; John Kiehlbauch; Sam Nutt; Bruce Shroyer; Bill Townsend; Tony Brown. 

Each has a “Last Roll Call” page in our class website.  The pages include memorial articles if published. 

Tom Brewer graduated in 1962

The following did not graduate and to the best of my knowledge are still living: Dave Orr; Jim Dollahite; Ken Ericson (not Erickson); Phil Clohset; John Lischak.

Another correction – it is Roy, not Ron, Armstrong - Also, (88) is Warren Miller, not Wayne. 

A final anecdote – (scroll down the page) to see what happened to Luke Boeve.  There is another article at the Sun-Sentinel website but you have to be a subscriber to access it.  I also seem to remember that 60 Minutes had a segment about him in the early '90s but I cannot find anything online.
Regards, Ed

Jay Cook sent this memory from the Duke game in 1959...

Subject: My memory of the game against Duke at Durham NC

The “Bluedevils” cheerleaders included a guy in a bluedevils costume. At halftime he snuck over to our side of the field and grabbed a megaphone emblazoned with a large “A” on black, grey and gold. The bluedevil was running back to the Duke side while hoisting the megaphone in the air over his head when Rod Granneman suddenly came from behind our bleachers on his mule, caught the bluedevil and jumped on the fleeing “devil” like you can see in western rodeos. Rod grabbed the megaphone, jumped back on his mule and returned triumphantly to where we were cheering our congratulations.
Army won that game to complete a very good day.
Jay Cook

Ed Leland replied...

Jay, I do believe I was there. As I recall, only part of the Corps made the trip - maybe it was just the 1st Regiment. I remember marching into the stadium. We may have marched through the Duke campus from wherever we got off the train. 

Here is a message Pat Graves ’64 who lives here in Huntsville, AL where I live sent me. This was from his classmate James Beierschmitt reflecting on the Syracuse game of 1960...

Enclosed are some statistics I had collected.
During the Syracuse game I was in the hospital with a torn knee ligament.  Next to me was Ray Paske with a knee injury as well.  Others with us with injuries were Mike Casp and Frank Gibson. Joulwan was from Pottsville Pa, one of my high school foes(,  Mt Carmel Pa) Jack Scotnicki was also from Pottsville.

In 72 I was at a MAAG assignment in Brussels and Joulwan visited our embassy as Al Hague’s aide.  He came out to my house for a visit and tried to telephone Frank Gibson at Leavenworth-  Could not connect - I stayed close with Gibson as he came back to coach and was a recruiter also.  Small world.

And Bob Hampton sent this about the Syracuse game...

Another piece of information on the Army Syracuse game.  Syracuse was nationally ranked and heavily favored to win the game. I put the memorial article on Roger Zailskas, Company L-1.  The following is the last part of an article on the game appearing later in a newspaper.  Bob Hampton.

"Then Syracuse came to life. Ernie Davis (Heisman Trophy winner in 1961 and known as "The Express") ate up 37 yards on two runs and, when Army braced, Dick Easterly passed to Ken Ericson for a touchdown.  Syracuse grabbed the ball again but Army stopped the Orange.  With fourth and 10 on the Syracuse 39, Tom Gilburg dropped back in punt formation.  Army scouts had seen the Orange fake a kick in similar situations and had alerted Coach Dale Hall.  Hall played for the fake and, when Gilburg threw a pathetically wobbly pass, Army was ready. Roger Zailskas intercepted and that was all.  The game ended 9-6 with Army on the Syracuse one and a mob of cadets jumping up and down on the sideline. They swept Hall and their team right off the field and on toward Annapolis."  

Warren Miller sent this report from Colorado.

Hi Jim, in looking at the C-squad program that Mike Hale sent I see my first name is not correct. Number 88 should be Warren Miller. If anyone wants to read a great book about the ’58 team, get the book “When Saturdays Mattered Most”.  

Lastly, an email with a ton of links to things on Army football was sent to Jim. Rather than add it to this article you may see them here.

While researching Dale Hall it was learned that he was from Kansas and was an outstanding basketball player while at West Point. He also played football on Coach Blaik’s championship teams that included Blanchard and Davis. Here is a link to info about Coach Hall

Neil Grigg reminded me that there were others on the Plebe team who were not listed on the Cincinnati program that Mike Hale provided. Here is his message...

There were more “substitutes” on the team, but they may not have been on the selected squad for that game.   I was on the C squad and so was Travis Dyer.  He got hurt sometime during the season, and may already have been sidelined.  Sonny DuBose was on the team.   He got hurt sometime during the season also.  Sonny went on to play for Presbyterian College in SC and later, briefly, on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Attached is a draft memorial article that we were unable to get permission to publish.

Jim Lynch said looking at the Cincinnati program was a “gold mine” for anecdotes and provided these:

1. Whoever selected the starting lineup had a good eye for talent.  Gibby's leadership was obvious from the jump.  No one wanted to tackle John Eielson.

2. #83 Ken Ericson attended Braden's Prep School with several of our teammates. He left during plebe year.  Reappeared as an end on the Syracuse 1959 national championship team.  And of most interest, he scored the only touchdown for Syracuse on a reception in our win against them in 1960.

3. #84 Pat Fruehan was recruited by the World.  He was my plebe year roommate in the Loose Deuce.  Dropped out during plebe year.  He returned the next year to complete yet another Beast Barracks with the Class of '62.  Left again thereafter.  Beast Barracks twice is a bit much.  Athletic Department really wanted his football skills.

Lynch had copied Dick Knoblock on the above and he had this comment:

Gene Laborne and Jerry Clements went to Chaminade High on Long Island.  My "lowly" high school beat them 24-20 in our last game as seniors.  I was QB and got really bashed by Jerry a few times on fullback belly plays after I pitched to halfback,  Also ran into Gene at the goal line at the end of the half to preserve our tenuous lead.  We both left the game temporarily.  Didn't know either was going to West Point until intros at Plebe screening and Laborne's name was called right after mine.  He was sitting right behind me on a hill during roll call.  Blake was at that screening as I recall.

Bill Esselstein had this to say about the Syracuse game:

The Syracuse game at Yankee Stadium was one of the best I recall seeing at any level if the test is hard fought. Brutal but beautiful. Joulwan’s play, especially, was one for the ages. Great memory.

Joe Shea provided this input to Jack Morrison who had asked about questions he might encounter from our group

I suspect there will be questions about the 50s scandal.  But, doubt we will have Blaik haters. They would be of earlier years of the 50s. I think we aught to concentrate on Blaik’s strengths. He was a demanding task master. I’m attaching a memoir I wrote some years ago about the Michigan 55 game. It’s a bit self aggrandizing but points to Blaik’s strengths. I never saw him lose is cool although he would humiliate the hell out of you for a mistake!

Also, Jack, an interesting item to research is that ( I think) Vince Lombardi was an assistant during the scandal and helped Blaik rebuild.  He was there in 53. It attests to his peer respect that he could place a head coach with a phone call. seems like people either hated him or loved him. Too bad Harry's not around.

That’s it for this morning. I will attach a couple of things mentioned above. Be sure to check out the link to info on Coach Hall.

Jim Oaks

Army Vs Michigan 1955

In the 1950’s the smelly coal mines and steel mills of PA spawned tough kids. Each winter all the best college teams sent scouts to PA to harvest that fall’s football players. West Point harvested me 1953.

West Point (Army) had a recruiting advantage;  Colonel Earl “Red” Blaik was their coach. Every high school football player in America knew “Red” Blake’s name and wanted to play for him. “Red” Blaik could visualize what an athlete might become, then coach him to grow into it. 

Each November I listened to the Army Navy Game on the radio. In those days it was the biggest game of the season, like the Super Bowl is today. Army’s great players “Doc” Blanchard and Glen Davis had been my boyhood idols. I had no idea I would play for Army in 1955.

For the 1955 season Army had no apparent quarter back; no leader around which to build a team.  So, The Colonel converted Don Holleder to quarter back. Holleder had been an All-American End on the 1954 team and all of us younger players idolized him.  Raw boned, 6’4” and fast, he ran with abandon, like “a wild stallion in an open meadow” to quote The Colonel. Holleder always wore a big, confident grin A skeptical media called his move to quarterback “Colonel Blaik’s Great Experiment.” It began badly. Holleder sprained his ankle and missed most of spring practice.

The ’55 season began with an 81 to 0 win over Furman. I played the entire game. I was exhausted. The next week, Penn State upset us 13 to 6 at Michie Stadium, our home field. I missed that game with a shoulder injury. The news media was surprised by the upset and began to doubt The Colonel’s great experiment. The Corps of Cadets began to doubt; so did we.

Then, in early October, under a clear blue sky with the crisp bite of fall in the air, we played Michigan in Ann Arbor at “The Big House”. Michigan ranked 10th in the AP standings and we ranked 6th; Michigan had never beaten Army. The year before Army had beaten them 24 to 7 on this field. Holleder had scored two touchdowns. Michigan wanted revenge.

I was overwhelmed by “The Big House”.  It seemed like all 97,000 Michigan fans watched every move I made.

Michigan was ready for us. By half time they had scored two touchdowns. Army had scored none. Holleder’s ball handling had resulted in 11 fumbles 7 of which Michigan had recovered. I had played badly; missed several blocking assignments. My nose was bleeding and stuffed with cotton and I had injured my shoulder again. Most of us were injured. Michigan had beaten us up badly.                                                                                                                                       

In our locker room at half time no one spoke except the trainers treating injuries. Just before we returned to the game, The Colonel gathered us around him and made eye contact with each of us. Then, he said, “men, the only important thing is to come off this field with respect for yourselves.” He never raised his voice. One of my life's greatest lessons!

During the third quarter both teams blocked and tackled with violence like I had never experienced. Nobody held anything back. The game became a legal brawl. There were no penalties. Substitute players from both teams stood along the sidelines watching and wanting to join the fray. The stadium fell silent as neither team scored nor made long gains. The game became a grunting struggle not really observable or hearable by the 97,000 spectators. In those days football players wore neither face masks nor mouth pieces.

Dick Stephenson, our toughest lineman blocked Ron Kramer, Michigan’s All American end so hard that both were knocked unconscious. While Stephenson staggered and stumbled to regain his feet the Colonel walked out on the field and held him down by his jersey to avoid further injury. Kramer never returned to the game. Stephenson returned in a few minutes. Several players from each team left the game injured. Then, Terry Barr, Michigan’s running back left the game injured. He had scored two touchdowns. We had effectively shut down Michigan’s offense.

In the fourth quarter Michigan began to rotate entire teams. They had more depth at each position. Our players began to wear out. Then, Michigan scored two more touchdowns. Our defense scored two points on a touchback. I stood on the sidelines watching ashamed to be injured; ashamed not to be part of it. Late in the 4th quarter Army regained the ball and Don Holleder began to march the ball toward Michigan’s goal line. Somehow, amid the violence and confusion of that second half, Holleder had regained his confidence. It was as if he decided to be a quarter back instead of an All American End; as if he had left behind him the wild chaos of a wide receiver for the order of quarter back. The Army players sensed the change and began to rally around him. But, it was too late for this game. Michigan won 26-2.

Army won 4 of its remaining 6 games. Holleder’s play improved steadily. Then, in the last game of the season Army upset Navy 14 to 7. Everybody in the stands and on the sidelines knew that Holleder himself had sparked the victory.  He was all over the field. His picture appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week for the second time that season. He had become the most famous football player in America in 1955. Twelve years later he was killed in Vietnam. He took three bullets in the chest attempting to rescue surrounded troops -  running toward them with his usual abandon.

I injured my knee a few weeks after the Michigan Game and never played again. But, I never forgot Col Blaik’s admonition:the only important thing is to come off this field with respect for yourselves.”

While running a zoom test this morning with Joe Shea and Jack Morrison in preparation for next Friday, I was able to enjoy some great stories from both, but mostly by Jack talking about the ‘58 season. I hope he can remember all of them to share again next week.

Jim Mathison, who worked in admissions at West Point for three years, was reminded of a good story by the data I sent about the unusual graduation dates during and after World War I. Here’s what he wrote.


You have once again triggered a memory.  This time it is about Brigadier General Jerry Mickle. 

When I was in the Admissions Office we had an informal group of folks who were our admissions contacts, usually for the area in which they lived.  BG Mickle was from Fairhope, Alabama, down near Mobile.  Unlike some of the folks who liked to be on hand for the presentation of certificates and not much more, General Mickle was a real worker.  Over the course of several years, I learned a fair amount about him. 

General Mickle was a member of the class that you mentioned which graduated on 1 November 1918, and that was recalled to West Point to serve out the class year 1918-19 as lieutenants.  He went off to a unit and served for a few years, and returned to West Point to serve, I believe, as an assistant football coach.  During this period, he would go to NYC on Sunday afternoons in the Fall to play professional football, receiving either $50 or $100 a game.  I don’t recall which team he played for, but that was a lot of money to supplement his lieutenant’s pay. 

He had a variety of jobs after his assignment to West Point, and was promoted to major in 1938.  As he considered the possibility of leaving the Army, along came WWII.  After a number of staff and command jobs, he became the CG of the 101st Airborne Division who brought the division home from Europe.  He had made brigadier in 1943, five years after making major. 

As I mentioned, he was a real worker in admissions.  His biggest project was to organize a visit to West Point of a group of high school guidance  counselors from the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi, and from the panhandle of Florida.  These counselor visits were not easy to put together, but he did it, basically by himself, at what seemed like the ancient age of 70.  It was one of the most successful trips that I hosted in 3 years. 

I found this great summary about football coaches at Army and some other info that may be  helpful in enjoying the zoom meeting on Friday.

Danny Minor and George Joulwan have indicated they will join the meeting on Friday and hope to see many more.



West Point Cemetery  Lytle, Dawkins, Morrison


Over the past two weeks you have probably received more email from me about Army football and coaches than you could possibly read. I am the one who has learned most. For example, just tonight while looking at past team records I realized that LTG Davidson, our Superintendent during cadet days, had served as Army’s coach for five years (33-37).

The plan for the zoom on Friday is to briefly introduce Joe Shea and Jack Morrison and then let them take over. They plan to open the floor to Q and A after telling a few stories and we will also solicit comment from any of you from our class who played with or practiced with the 1958 team under Coach Blaik.

As I have mentioned before, Shea started with the ’58 class so he first came to West Point as a plebe in the summer of 1954 (only three years after the team had been decimated by Honor violations) and played for two years before injuries ended his career. Morrison came in the next summer so these two saw the program through the rebuilding years.

I look forward to seeing some familiar faces and some new faces on Friday. Remember to check in early.

Jim Oaks

 1958 Team

Pat Graves (’64) sent this link to me. I thought it might come up in our zoom on Monday.

Bill Esselstein and Jay McCann were both in B-1, the same company as Jack Morrison who was their Company Commander as a Firstie. They sent me the following recollections from Plebe year.

First, this from Esselstein:

Frank Gibson and I were roommates plebe year and Novogratz, whose roommates were Lytle and Morison, was our squad leader. As Plebes, Frank and I had a sweet deal up on the 3d floor of the division in a 2 man room (yes, that’s true) with those guys just down the hall. The other room housed 3 firsties from Utah who insisted Francis and I serenade them regularly with a vaguely western tune called “Lavender Cowboy.” “He was only a lavender cowboy; the hairs on his chest, there were two … etc.” (If interested you can probably find more of the lyrics on line.) Don’t recall the quality of Francis’ singing voice. Maybe Barbara, who I’ve copied, could offer her assessment.

(I found this link to the song, Jim:

And McCann had this to say:

I, too, was in the Novogratz squad. I had scored low on the entrance physical fitness test, so during Reorganization Week I virtually lived in that room while the trio of Morrison, Lytle and Novogratz determined to get me to hold high scores on the PT test through constant improvement in pushups, squat jumps, etc. in their room, and when that wasn’t enough, through more challenging exercises down in the basement. Thank God that week ended. Actually, Novogratz was a decent squad leader. He had the softest voice and would daily whisper in my ear about the poor quality of my shoe shines. Morrison goes on to be Co Commander the next year.

My comment in yesterday’s email about LTG Davidson having earlier served as Army football coach, prompted Neil Grigg to send the following:

Jim, I don’t have the quote right now, but LTG Davidson also had terrific ratings from Eisenhower about his work in the Sicily and Italy campaigns and Ike wanted him to help plan for D Day.  I might not have all of that right as I don’t have the quote at hand, but I was impressed with that.  The Supe looked so old then to me.  He must have been about 55.  Neil

The picture I sent yesterday of Coach Blaik’s grave marker was made during one of several visits to West Point over the past three years. His grave is near the Old Cadet Chapel, just to the right as you enter the main drive.

While on the subject of graves at West Point, let me share this story.

If you look over the list of Army coaches you will find that the 1901 season was coached by Leon Kromer (Class of 1899 who had been the captain of the ’98 team) with a record of 5-1-2. Kromer’s son, Captain William A, was a member of the class of 1941 and is memorialized on the wall at the entrance to Flirtation Walk.


Captain Kromer was in the 345th Regiment in the 87th Infantry Division, the same regiment that my dad served with in WWII. Kromer was killed in the first few days that the 87th was committed during the Battle of the Bulge. He was later buried in the West Point Cemetery. When his father, a retired Major General, died in 1966 he had chosen to be buried beside his son.

Unlike some of the other grave markers of high ranking officers in the cemetery, his is just the same size as his son’s.

In 2019, while attending an 87th Division Reunion in Danbury, Connecticut, a former member of his company, Eldon Gracy, visited his grave and left flowers. Gracy had been near Kromer the day he was killed in late December, 1944.

Based on data provided by Ed Brown, the attached copy of the Plebe program from a game with Cincinnati has a line through deceased classmates, and (88) is Warren Miller. You may want to make a copy of it. I hope many on that list will be able to join tomorrow.

As we were signing off on Friday, Corky Rittgers was trying to say something. I spoke with him before I closed the zoom and he wanted to remind everyone about the mystery and excitement created by the tombstones that were placed near Washington’s monument after each victory during the 1958 season. I told him that Gene Witherspoon had sent me a story that solved the mystery. I think you will all enjoy it.

I will not be able to join the Zoom today but below is a tale by Tom Leo, ‘59 K-2 who was the Head Mole, a group who purloined the reveille breach block 7 times.  The tale below explains how the tombstones with “death” of our opponents that undefeated year appeared near Washington Hall.  This was part of his script at the “all classes” K-2 Reunion held at Hilton Head in 2008.  I was the MC at our main dinner.

One evening, after football practice, not having anything productive to do, and with a couple of free hours (?) to kill, we were wandering the Post, looking for something to do. (At that point I was the head of the Administrative Section of the Cheerleaders – actually the head Scrounge – (The Rabble Rousers) and so had the Jeep which pulled the Rally Cannon.  Passing the Post Dump, with absolutely nothing in mind, we came upon a standard GI issue ‘headstone’ for a grave.  Again, having absolutely no idea, no plan for anything, and presuming that the family of the deceased had arranged for a more decorative monument, we loaded the discarded tombstone into the jeep, proceeded back to the cadet area, secured the jeep and went in to supper (In TROG Days, the evening meal was ‘Supper’).  Discussing what to do with the tombstone, it was decided that the block of marble - at approximately 300 #s, - would rest comfortably in Rocky Versace’s bed, so several of us departed the Mess Hall via the kitchens, - (again in 'olden days' there were Yearling Mess Hall Corporals stationed at the doors; if you left before your Class light was lit, you had to give an 'all right' – meaning you were on authorized business.) prior to ‘Batts Rise’, went back to the jeep, retrieved the tombstone, took it up to Rocky’s room, deposited it in his bed.

Nothing happened during ‘call to quarters’ – we were required to remain in our rooms, studying, or in the library, or at officially sanctioned meetings – until ‘release from quarters’, when we decided that we would remove the stone from Rocky’s rack – (He was beginning to wonder where he was going to sleep) - it ended up in the ‘soap drum’, the garbage receptacle of the division BP – the ‘Barracks Policeman’ or Janitor – in this instance “Ed” who had no idea what he would be facing on the following morning. 

Needless to say, ‘Ed‘ was not able to move his receptacle in the morning, we had to retrieve the stone – it ultimately ended up as the first ‘tombstone’ in a mock graveyard at the base of the Clock tower, where subsequent excess gravestones were implanted,

This happened I believe between our 1st and 2nd FB games - you will recall that we were undefeated that year (1 tie, Pitt, 21-21). Anyway, we took the tombstone over to the base of the Clock tower, turned the stone upside down, reversed it in order to hide the original name, planted it at the base of the Clock tower & painted the name of Army's opponent(s) and the score on the stone.  During the ’58 season we were undefeated, an accomplishment matched by no Army Team in the last 50 years.

I do not remember whether or not any photos were taken – we couldn’t find any, and if not, it's a shame; I presume the engineers just scarfed up all of the 'stones' at the end of the season and took them back to the dump . . .