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How to Take a Biscuit Apart and Put It Back Just Like It Was
Gerald Holland
September 18, 1961
He used to coach pro football (he was named professional coach of the year in 1948), he was a superb all-round athlete in his youth, he is a piano player, singer and speechmaker extraordinary. He has acted in musical comedies, he is currently the vice-president of a leading advertising agency, and when he sings his song about this great scientific breakthrough you know that if anybody could do it, the irrepressible Jimmy Conzelman is your man
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September 18, 1961

How To Take A Biscuit Apart And Put It Back Just Like It Was

He used to coach pro football (he was named professional coach of the year in 1948), he was a superb all-round athlete in his youth, he is a piano player, singer and speechmaker extraordinary. He has acted in musical comedies, he is currently the vice-president of a leading advertising agency, and when he sings his song about this great scientific breakthrough you know that if anybody could do it, the irrepressible Jimmy Conzelman is your man

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There were flashbacks in the film to sporting scenes: Sam Snead blasting out of a sand trap, a World Series game, a spectacular long pass completed for a touchdown when Conzelman was coaching the Chicago Cardinals. He drew morals from each sport, pointed out the language common to sports and business, phrases like "hit the ball," "get in there and pitch," "roll with the punches."

"One year when I was coaching the Cardinals," Conzelman said in the film, "the Bears finished first, and we finished fourth. Yet our statistics showed that we had averaged one more yard per play than the Bears had. We couldn't understand it. How could we gain more yards per play than the first-place team and still finish fourth? Well, when the complete league statistics were released, we analyzed them and found out why. The Bears had run 120 more plays than we had. By getting in and out of the huddle quickly, by getting the play into motion faster, they had—in effect—done what a good salesman does. They had shown more hustle, they had 120 more calls than we had. It had paid off for them—just as it pays off for a salesman who makes more calls than the other fellow."

When the film was over and the lights were snapped on, I said: "That was quite a pass the fellow caught in the Chicago Cardinals game there."

"That was the key play of the season," said Conzelman. "And I didn't have time in the film to tell the whole story behind it. The success of that pass play was really decided in the maternity ward of a Chicago hospital."

It happened this way: We were scheduled to meet the Chicago Bears for the Western Division championship and the right to play Philadelphia for the national championship. Now the Bears had a strong team. They were stronger than we were. So we thought we'd have to score first to have a chance. The game was played at Wrigley Field, home of the Bears, and we always figured that the score was 7-0 against us before we took the field against the home team. So we studied our scouting reports, and they showed that one of the Bears' linebackers was not as fast as the others. We decided to devise a play that would run our fastest halfback—Babe Dimancheff—at such an angle that this particular linebacker on the Bears would have to cover him. So we designed a pass play, taking into account the defense our scouts said the Bears would use deep in our territory. Now, ideally, we would use this play right at the start—and that meant we were hoping to win the toss and elect to receive.

"Well, we had the play worked out Tuesday afternoon for the big game on the following Sunday. But at practice Babe Dimancheff didn't show up. I asked where he was, and somebody said, 'He's at the hospital. His wife is having a baby.' That was all right. One day's delay in rehearsing the play wouldn't make much difference. But next day Babe failed to show again. However, he did telephone. He said the doctor said the baby might not arrive for two or three days. Babe was in fine spirits, he said the doctor was very optimistic about everything. I asked him if it might be possible for him to drop in at practice and just run through the all-important play that we had built around him. Babe said, 'Oh, Coach, I wouldn't leave my wife for a minute at a time like this.'

"So I said, 'Babe, are you staying at the hospital around the clock?' He said he was, and he promised that he would come to practice when the baby was born and he was absolutely sure that mother and child were doing well. I said, 'Have you got a room out there at the hospital, Babe?' He said he didn't exactly have a room. I asked him if he had a bed in the waiting room or the corridor or what. The Babe said, 'No, Coach, I'm sleeping in a chair.' "

Conzelman shuddered at the memory. "I couldn't help saying," he continued, "that this game Sunday was pretty important to all of us, and although I understood his feelings perfectly, it was rather awkward to have the key man in our key play getting into condition by sleeping in a chair every night. He agreed that it was a shame.

"Thursday came along. No Babe. But he called up with another cheerful bulletin from the doctor and added that he himself was resting well in his chair.

"Friday afternoon we had our final practice before the big game Sunday. It looked like we'd have to get along without Babe Dimancheff. We wouldn't have a regular practice on Saturday. Pro teams rarely do more than hold a meeting, run around and limber up on Saturdays."

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