January 19, 2018

Happy Anniversary Leatherheads!

Happy 4th of July!  Wow, it has been 36 years since the Bicentennial celebrations of 1976.  The year 1976 is when I began to follow sports.  I made my first wager of $1 with my grandmother that the Cincinnati Reds would defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.  I won and that dollar probably went towards gum or some other candy.  A year later I might have spent that dollar on a pack of Fleer Team Action football cards.  Last year, I spent slightly more than a dollar to launch Leatherheads of the Gridiron with my friend, Mike Lynch of Seamheads.com

The site launched on July 4th with our first post, Welcome to Leatherheads of the Gridiron!, written by yours truly.  In that post, I introduced what our mission was and our outstanding affiliations.  Let me re-introduce those organizations.  Seamheads.com is a leading and ground-breaking baseball site, check-out The Baseball Gauge and the Negro Leagues Database.  The Professional Football Researchers Association is THE organization to be a member of if you love the history of pro football.  PFRA has members worldwide and is growing rapidly.  Last year PFRA published The Early History of Professional Football, a must have for any fan of the game’s early beginnings.  The Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association is headed by Tex Noel, the legendary college football statistics historian.  IFRA membership is free and includes an outstanding monthly newsletter, The College Football Historian.

Since the launch, our affiliations have grown.  Among them is Gridiron Greats Magazine, the leading publication on football history and its memorabilia.  Bob Swick, the editor and publisher of the magazine, hosts a wonderful podcast with co-host Joe Squires on the Leatherheads National Podcasting Network, properly entitled Gridiron Greats: Football History and Its Memorabilia

Speaking of podcasting, we launched the podcasting network on BlogTalkRadio.com on September 22, 2011 with Thursday Night Tailgate and the show’s first guest, former 2-time Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland.  The show is hosted by Chris Mascaro and his long-time friend Angelo Cane.  Since that first show, these two friends have become first-rate interviewers and entertainers, and have had on the show over 70 current and former NFL players, including Blaine Bishop, Rocky Bleier, Conrad Dobler, Jim Everett, L.C. Greenwood, Rodney Hampton, Roy Jefferson, Karl Mecklenburg, Bart Oates, Dan Pastorini, Andy Russell, Fred Taylor and Richmond Webb.

A third podcast that I would like to call special attention to is Three Point Stance: The Leatherheads College Football Hour, hosted by blogger and college football aficionado Pete Sonski.  Each week, Pete chats with some of the most knowledgable bloggers, writers and historians from around the country to discuss the latest happenings in college football.  My favorite show from last season was the January 7, 2012 show when Kris Brauner of Saturday Night Slant and David Luckie of I Bleed Crimson Red joined Pete to discuss Alabama vs. LSU, the BCS National Championship Game.

Alabama won the championship and deservedly so.  I voted Alabama number one most weeks in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16 Poll.  Our poll was created by Dan McCloskey and several Leatherheads participated each week, ranking their top 16 teams.  Among our poll contributors are Bo Carter, a correspondent for the National Football Foundation, and Dr. Robert Stevenson, a college football historian and writer.  The poll is a favorite among our visitors and I look forward to the upcoming college football season so I can cast my vote each week after the action on Saturday.

I like to mention a few of our other contributors who have made significant contributions to Leatherheads.  Ken Crippen, the Executive Director of PFRA, who wrote our first article, Building a Champion: 1920 Akron Pros.  Ken has been supportive from the earliest stages of Leatherheads.  George Kurtz faithfully contributed All Out Blitz: NFL Team News and Notes each week during the NFL season while also co-hosting the weekly Leatherheads Fantasy Football Show with host Chris Mitchell.  David Boyce, the Raider Guy, wrote about the Oakland Raiders after watching each game with a magnifying glass.  If you missed a Raider game, just read David’s account of the game and you will know exactly what happened during the game.  Terry Keshner, what can I say?  He may be our MVP among the writers.  He has contributed the most articles and has written in the offseason while many others, including myself, have contributed elsewhere on baseball.  Besides being prolific, he is one funny guy.  I love each and every piece he has written, always making me laugh at some point while reading.

On a personal note, I have had many great football-related moments.  My team, the New York Giants turned an up and down season into a memorable season for sure.  Eli Manning said he was among the elite and he backed it up.  I quoted myself in Hang Time Outside the Hash Marks that Eli had a free pass the rest of his career if he beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.  He did win.  The rematch took place earlier this year and the results were the same.  Eli is not just elite among active quarterbacks, he is elite among G-Men legends and may have earned a place in Canton. 

Last month, I attended the PFRA meeting at NFL Films in New Jersey.  Not only did I get a chance to tour NFL Films, but I also got a chance to meet in person Leatherhead Chris Garbarino, co-author of The Cookie That Did Not Crumble, and many other PFRA members that I have long admired like Ken Crippen, Chris Willis and new Leatherhead Brian Marshall.  I also had a chance to chat with the son of Lavvie Dilweg, a long overlooked legend of the gridiron who passed away in 1968 and is still waiting to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  PFRA has created a fact sheet to promote his candidacy for election.  He is surely deserving.

Another highlight for me occurred after I posted Ed Sprinkle, a Coffin Corner Classic by the late-great football historian Bob Carroll.  A comment by Lee Bramlett, the son of Navy All-American Leon Bramlett, led to a reunion over the phone between Bramlett and Sprinkle, another overlooked legend of the pro game and a member of the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade Team who played college ball at Navy with Bramlett.  I exchanged a few emails with a woman I discovered on the Internet that new Sprinkle at his retirement community and she sent me his contact information which I relayed to Lee Bramlett.  A great, rewarding story!

Looking back over this past year has been enjoyable.  Looking forward, I get excited just thinking about where we are heading.   As the college and NFL seasons start to approach, we will be increasing our posts and adding to our podcasting lineup.  New contributors join Leatherheads each month.  Currently, we are fifty strong.  We continue to add new affiliations like Stitcher Radio, where you can listen to our podcasts on your phone or iPad.  If you go to our Stitcher page at www.stitcher.com/LEATHERHEADS and download the app, enter the promo code LEATHERHEADS and you will be entered in a monthly drawing to win $100 cash.

Another new affiliation is the Canadian Football Research Society.  CFRS is a fairly new organization that has been founded to promote, develop, and encourage the study of the game of Canadian football.  I am proud to be a member and look forward to watching this organization grow.  Look for more CFL coverage on Leatherheads.

So as we kick off another year as a community, I hope that you will keep coming back.  I say community, because that is what I call Leatherheads when I reach out to our fifty and growing community of contributors.  Not every member has written or been on a podcast, but they all have made contributions in one way or another.  Leatherheads continues to seek more contributors.  So if interested in joining our community as a writer, podcaster, guest, poll contributor or in some other capacity, please reach out to me at jwilliams22@snet.net

In closing, thanks again to all the members of the Leatherheads community.  Thanks also to our readers and listeners. 

I hope you had a glorious 4th of July.


Ed Sprinkle

This article was written by Bob Carroll and was originally published in The Coffin Corner in 1990. The Coffin Corner is the official magazine of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Visit PFRA’s website to learn how to become a member today!

Ed Sprinkle, outstanding Chicago Bears defensive end, helped call attention to NFL defensive players during his 12-year career with his no-holds-barred play. Although characterized as “The Meanest Man in Football” in one national magazine article, the controversial Sprinkle was also termed a “fine gentleman” by teammates. In the 1950s, Bears coach George Halas said he was “the greatest pass-rusher I’ve ever seen” and “a rough, tough ballplayer, but not a dirty one.”

The son of a Texas farmer, Sprinkle won three letters in football and two in basketball and was All-Border Conference while at Hardin-Simmons in the early 1940s. While attending the U.S. Naval Academy, he was all-Eastern in 1943.

Star Chicago center Bulldog Turner recommended him to the Bears, and he joined the team as a 188-pound guard in 1944. By 1946, his 6’1″ frame had filled out to 206 pounds and he was moved to end. At first, he played both defense and offense — he caught 32 passes for 451 yards and seven touchdowns during his career — but his ability to rush opponents’ passers soon made him a defensive specialist.

Sprinkle was probably the first player to achieve fame for his pass-rushing ability. During his dozen seasons with the Bears, all NFL teams switched to the T-formation, and a strong pass rush was essential to defend against the improved air attacks. Sprinkle became a feared blitzer because he was determined, extremely quick off the snap, and because, as a left-handed right end, he could handle most blockers with his stronger arm.

However, his notoriety also stemmed from his allegedly “dirty” play. He was accused of using his strong left arm in ways not sanctioned by the rules, of often delivering his best “shots” after the whistle had blown, and of occasionally using his cleats on opponents as though they were part of the turf. On the other hand, he was never suspended and was fined only a few times.

In 1987 he told an interviewer: “I think the article was a bum rap. I was about as aggressive as any football player that walked the field. If I had an opportunity to hit someone I hit them. I had a reputation with my teammates and [George] Halas as being the roughest player the Bears ever had. That doesn’t make me mean or dirty.”

“Every game I played was tough physically because I got hit so much.”

“We were meaner in the 1950s because there were fewer positions and we fought harder for them. It was a different era.”

“Once in a while there would be an isolated case where someone would pull a dirty stunt. But a guy wouldn’t have lasted very long if he were an out-and-out dirty player. The others would take care of him. They would call a play and try to bury him with six or eight guys, or hit him from the blind side. There were so many ways you could do it.”

Sprinkle was selected to play in four Pro Bowls, and named to several all-NFL teams, although the practice of naming offensive and defensive teams was not established until late in his career and such honors for ends usually went to pass catchers.

Following his pro career, Sprinkle entered business in the Chicago area.


Defensive End, Offensive End, Guard
Born: September 3, 1923, Tuscolo, TX
Height: 6'1"   Weight: 207
Colleges: Hardin-Simmons, U.S. Naval Academy
                         PASS RECEIVING
   YEAR  TEAM            LG     GM       NO   YDS    AVG   TD
   ----  -------------   --     --       --   ---   ----   --
   1944  Chicago Bears    N      9        -     -      -    -
   1945  Chicago Bears    N      6        -     -      -    -
   1946  Chicago Bears    N     11        7   124   17.7    2
   1947  Chicago Bears    N     12        4    43   10.8    0
   1948  Chicago Bears    N     10       10   132   13.2    3
   1949  Chicago Bears    N     12        4    69   17.3    0
   1950  Chicago Bears    N     12        4    70   17.5    0
   1951  Chicago Bears    N     12        2    11    5.5    1
   1952  Chicago Bears    N     12        1     2    2.0    1
   1953  Chicago Bears    N     12        -     -      -    -
   1954  Chicago Bears    N     12        -     -      -    -
   1955  Chicago Bears    N     12        -     -      -    -
                               ---       --   ---   ----   --
   12 Years                    132       32   451   14.1    7


1949  All-NFL 1st Team INS-defense; 2nd Team UP, NY News
1950  All-NFL 1st Team NY News-defense.  Pro Bowl
1951  All-NFL 2nd Team UP, NY News-defense.  Pro Bowl
1952  Pro Bowl
1954  Pro Bowl